When I decided to do this year of service in Wilmington, I looked at it as a chance to get away and get my life together so that I could pursue my real dreams when I returned to Philly. The plan was this: save up money for an apartment, build up my writing portfolio by writing things other than poetry, and start applying for publishing/editing/writing jobs four months before the end of my service year in June. I’ve done a pretty great job so far. My savings account is looking nice and I started writing consistently on this blog plus I started an interview series on Apiary Magazine. March marks the fourth month before my year of service is up and since the beginning of this month, I’ve been applying to jobs like my life depends on it.
Here’s why I decided to stop.
After I graduated from college I promised myself that I was going to stop compromising my happiness for stability. I spent four years pursuing a degree that neither excited nor inspired me because I felt that was what I was supposed to do. I spent more time worrying about how I was going afford rent and groceries than enjoying what should've been the best years of my life. I suffered through it though because I just knew that the compromising would end after I walked across that stage.
And then I got this job and made yet another compromise.
Last week during an interview for the aforementioned series, the interviewee and I started discussing what I wanted to do when I got back to Philly. I told her about all the editing jobs I had been applying and she pointed out how disinterested I sounded in pursuing what was supposed to be my “dream career.” She was right. The more jobs I applied to, the less interested I was becoming in working in this field. I just kept on applying though. What other stable job is a writer with an English degree supposed to get? Here I am, doing a service year in education, which I know I don’t want to work in, and applying for editing jobs because I think that’s what I’m supposed to be doing. Compromising again.
So then the conversation became, why not try to be a full time artist?
As a poet and spoken word artist, that’s supposed to be the ultimate dream, right?
As much as I love writing and performing poetry, that’s also not what I truly want to do with my life. On the one hand there’s that fear of instability again, but, on the other hand, the thought of booking shows and popping out books and maybe doing teaching artist gigs enough to make a living doesn’t excite me either. I don’t think I want to feel forced to produce art or to be producing art to the point where it feels like work. It would be great if I could get someone to consistently pay me for how inconsistently I feel like actually being an artist, but that would be absurd.
For the first time, I realized that I don’t actually know what my passion is. Or rather, all this time I had been making my true passion a bullet point on the list instead of the title. The thing that I’m really passionate about is being of service to the other poets and writers in Philadelphia. I believe that my city should be even more of an art mecca than it is, specifically for writers. So many artists here feel like they need to move to New York in order to find the resources and financial support to create, and that’s not how it should be. I want to be a force of change in that area, to create the type of programs that I’d want to attend or find useful.
SO I decided that’s what I’m going to focus on pursuing from now on. Instead of spending my final months here applying for jobs that barely interest me, I’m going to work on developing the ideas I have for different projects and how to make a steady income doing that. I’m deciding that I want to create a career that’s fulfilling and I know I’ll look forward to everyday. The thought of working for myself and the uncertainty of it all terrifies me. I just have to remember that money will come, but I can’t continue through life compromising my joy for it.