Man interwebs, the past few weeks have been so very hard. I am trying to keep so many different things in the air.
Hold on, let me back up and provide some context. I’ve seen quite a few posts floating around lately that basically say, in many words, give your whole-self to what you are perusing. Chase your dreams all the time and never give up. Basically, give 110% all the time toward the one thing you want and you will be successful.
I’m not entirely sure is true. And it hits very close to home with me because I’m trying to get into actuary work. For reference, to actually be an actuary you have to pass 6 exams and four modules – just to be an “Associate.” To be a full fellow there’s a lot more on top of that. And these exams… they’re hard. It is estimated that the best students spend 100 hours studying for each exam; in reality your typical student studies about 200 – 400 HOURS. It’s a process that you start months out and that you have to grind out constantly.
Why do that? After all Mike, don’t you want to be a writer? Shouldn’t you just be writing those hundreds of hours instead of studying for those exams? Aren’t you just giving up on your dreams? Are you SELLING OUT? Do you want to SELL OUT? DON’T GIVE UP ON YOUR DREAMS MIKE, DON’T.
It has taken me a long time to realize that going down this path, it isn’t selling out. Would I love to write full time? HELL YEAH I would. I actually spent one summer in college doing free-lance writing for a professor and it was literally one of the most productive times of my life.
But here’s the thing. I’m not in college anymore, I have bills to pay, and right now writing ain’t payin em. Barring some tremendous windfall, I’m not going to be writing full-time for many years yet in the future – in the best case, of course. That means in the interim there WILL be a day-job. And you know what? I’m going to do my damndest to make sure I actually LIKE my day-job. Like, sure, if I can somehow make a living writing flavor-text for Magic: the Gathering and / or Dungeons and Dragons modules, I’m all over it. But that’s not the path I’m on. And while I will continue exploring for options closer to that dream, the path I’m on now is Actuary work. I’m not going to pre-emptively slam doors to interesting advancements because 10 years down the road I want to be writing full-time.
On top of that, I taught for four years. Being in adjunctland we were surrounded by rhetoric to just chase your dreams, work with passion, etc etc. The work was hard, the pay was shit, but we did it because we cared about students and you MAKE A DIFFERENCE dammit. I spent four YEARS being broke, carrying a tremendous amount of stress on me. Turns out when your broke, all the passion in the world can’t pay your bills. And it’s damn hard to be creative when you are white-knuckle-terrified that something just broke on your car.
As a consequence of this, I’m juggling multiple things now. I’m juggling writing the third draft of my novel (goal: finish it by the end of the year), studying for actuary exam (test date, December), oh yeah also working out (because I’m tired of being out of shape). It’s so hard.
I guess if there’s anything you take away from this post, it’s that: don’t let anyone convince you to throw away stability just to chase your passion. I’ve seen a lot of people put themselves through hell and walk out ultimately unrewarded because they got pressured into something, and the pressure to chase your passion is very real. And even when those people finally said “screw this, I’m just after some stability” they got branded as not passionate enough, called a quitter, and shamed for “caving in.” It’s part of the American Myth, after all, that if you work HARD ENOUGH, you will accomplish your goals.
If you remember anything from this post, that myth is Bullshit. Yes, there is a time to take risks, take chances, and gamble. But there’s a difference between taking a chance and jumping off a cliff. There’s nothing wrong or dishonorable with living in the reality you have now – it’s not selling out on your dream if you are making time for it around your day job.