The End to Adventures in Unemployment – The Beginning to Adventures in Self Employment

Feb 18, 2016Studio Notebook

The End to Adventures in Unemployment

The Beginning to Adventures in Self Employment

Recently I’ve learned a few things about the way that I think about money and jobs. I learned that if I have a day job that gives me no pleasure, doesn’t value my skills, and gives me a small wage for showing up every day, and I lose that job, then I am labeled ‘Unemployed’. When you are labeled unemployed, there are certain things that need to be done to fulfill the obligations of one who has joined those ranks. Each one of those things that I had to do reinforced that label that was place upon me. It felt like shit. Being labeled unemployed brings with it a sense of shame and assumptions: People like me are not unemployed, therefore, there must be something fundamentally wrong with me.

Here’s a thing that threw a monkey wrench into my line of thinking and self-shaming: nearly every person I told my story to congratulated me. People that I trust and respect were happy for me. My parents took me out to dinner. We had drinks and clinked our glasses celebration. Even the form letter that I received from the unemployment office said, ‘Congratulations’ at the top of the page. Yet, my mind still wanted to hold onto the idea that there must be something wrong with me, that I must have done something wrong to be in this position.

I believed that what I need to do is to spend my days going to a job that I didn’t want to got to so I could be given a small paycheck at the end of the month. I believed that if I don’t go to a job, then I’m being irresponsible. And if I’m unemployed, I must be a failure. Why? Well, that’s a large sociological issue that I can’t really address now. But if what I believed is actually true, then why have so many people congratulated me? What were they seeing that I couldn’t, or wouldn’t?

In all the cases, I’m still not entirely sure, but here’s my take on it: How in the world can I possibly be unemployed if I am an artist? I’m perpetually employed by myself. I’d be the first to tell you that I will never retire because if I did, I’d be retiring from myself, and that is absurd. And if I can’t retire, then how can I be unemployed? That’s equally absurd.

After a day of catharsis and some heavy cry sessions last weekend, the beliefs just fell away like an unneeded scab.

This is great and all, but it still doesn’t solve the very real problem that I face. At the moment, nobody is writing me a check for anything I’ve made or done. I happen to like having a roof over my head. And I happen to like eating. I’m going to eventually run out of money if I continue on this way.

But it does shift the conversation in my head to a new place. I’m not unemployed, I’m just financially challenged at the moment. Better. And I certainly don’t need an employer to be a productive, responsible member of this society. Even better.

Now, I firmly believe that it is not my art’s responsibility to bring in a steady paycheck. I know, another belief, but hear me out. What happens in my studio needs to happen freely, without the pressure that it must be made in exchange for money. I can’t do that to it. If it happens to bring with it some financial success, great! I’m all for it. But I’m not going to require it from my art.

So, what am I going to do? I’d like to teach, and I do hope that happens someday, but that is not going to solve my short-term problem. I’m not going to return to a day job with an employer if I can help it. My art is demanding more flexibility these days than that type of an easy solution could provide.

So it’s up to me to figure out how to become less financially challenged. Nobody is going to come to my rescue.

One of the things that I have learned over the years because of my art is how to build websites. The ready-made options out there didn’t do what I wanted them to do, so I learned to code. I’ve been doing this for years and I rather like it in the same way that I like running. Sometimes it hurts and often it is frustrating, but I always feel good when I’ve done it. I happen to be pretty good at it too.

I’ve got another set of business cards that give me the title of owner/web designer/developer. I’d give you one if you were here.

So ends, in less than a month, my adventures in unemployment. It’s now adventures in self employment.

Anyone need a kick-ass website?

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