putting in the work

Today is the one-year anniversary of the day I transitioned from part-time vendor to full-time employee at my current day job. When the possibility of going full-time came up in the fall of 2020, right around the one-year anniversary of when I took on the then part-time role, I already felt like I was working full-time because of the pandemic (working 24-30 hours a week stretched out to 8, 9, or even 10 hour days when interrupted so often by kids not in school or summer camp). The transition was gradual, but even so, when my supervisor at the time encouraged me to complete a growth map or sign up for a "reach your potential" workshop, all I could do was respond honestly that I was barely staying afloat.

Now that the kids have been back at school since August, and my days are more focused on work, at least until about 3 pm, when it gets a little choppy, I will say I'm starting to feel just a tad restless. I eventually did sign up for that reach your potential workshop (I mention it briefly in my latest pandemic diaries update) and finally completed the first phase of a growth map. I find myself looking at things like program management certification and, who knows, maybe even data visualization. I do feel like where I work is the kind of place where day jobs can turn into careers. It's pretty swell in many ways. I remember after my second kid was born and I was debating whether or not to revive my Etsy business, continue to be a default stay-at-home parent or, y'know, get a "real" job, my husband mentioned something about feedback. Being a parent is really hard from a feedback perspective. When it's rewarding it's amazingly so, but there are days—weeks, months, entire phases!—when you're not really getting a lot of constructive or positive feedback, if you will. Or the feedback you get makes you feel, well, like a shitty parent. Couple that with the relentless rejection one faces as a creative person and it can really wreak havoc on your mental health. I've encountered this more than once in my thirteen plus years as a parent. I dare say I'm always dealing with this on some level.

The job I got at that juncture in my life didn't ever really provide me with the kind of feedback or outlet I was craving to balance out the demands and difficulties of other areas of my life. It was a great job in many ways, but not a great fit for where I was in my life at that moment. My current day job, while a bit farther removed from my creative interests (this relationship between the work we do for pay and our creative practice is exactly what I explore in my podcast), has been a much better fit in other ways. I've found that I'm the kind of person that does better creatively when my paid work is pretty different than what I'm doing in the studio. Call me jaded and resentful, but it was really hard for me to work at a college of art and design, but in an administrative capacity (I wanted to teach!). At my current day job, I guess you could say my ego is less of an issue since I'll never be the one doing the sexy stuff, nor do I really have the desire to. I'm a little more okay with being the person who organizes the mess behind the scenes. If you want to read more, I've written a little bit about the transition and what I do at my day job here and here.

All that said, I must also acknowledge that what I need as a creative person and what I have less of now is time. I had a pretty good thing going pre-pandemic, getting most of my work done Monday-Thursday while the kids were at school, and saving Fridays for, initially, training for the Oakland Running Festival, and longer-term, once the race was over, for studio time. If only the pandemic had never happened. If only part-time jobs came with things like: benefits, paid time off, saving for retirement, pathways to promotions and job growth, etc. If only. For now, I celebrate another year at a pretty decent gig and approach this new year with an open mind about things like "professional development" and "my career" balanced with a continued commitment to my creative practice and identity as an artist, even if it's only 15 minutes in the studio here, 20 minutes there, even if I never show this current body of work (but I'd really like to so if you have a space in the Bay Area, feel free to give me a show!).

P.S. I've had, to date, well over 15 jobs over the past 25 years, depending on whether or not you count things like TA-ships and Etsy shops (honestly I've kind of lost count). I've written about most of them right here on this blog as part of my ongoing "burning bridges" series.

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