Pursuing Passions, Paying Bills, and Thinking Far Too Much

For the past year and a half I’ve had the pleasure of working at HireArt, as the company’s senior Customer Service representative.  It’s an ideal situation for me, because in addition to my part-time work at HireArt, I’m also pursuing a music career.

I’m often asked how I juggle a “day job” and my passion, and I thought I’d take some time to address my thoughts on the matter in case I can provide useful insight to anybody considering a similar path.

As a kid, my ideas about what I wanted to be when I grew up were constantly evolving.  My first love was Paleontology (Jurassic Park changed my life).  My mother heard this and informed me that Paleontology doesn’t pay well, which was surprisingly important to me as an eight year old who didn’t exactly see the value in money.  From there, I considered careers as a doctor and fireman, but moved on fairly quickly from those.

As I got a little older, and the idea of a career began to feel more real, I gave serious thought to pursuing art or learning programming, but I’d already fallen in love with music, and knew I wanted to be involved with it more than anything else (sorry, Mom).

Eventually, I decided to leave California, move to New York, and get a degree in Jazz Performance.  Since graduating, I’ve been pursuing a musical career in New York, one of the most expensive cities in the country, and one of the toughest places to “make it” in music.  And so, like many artists in New York City and elsewhere in the world, I’ve had to work  jobs in other fields in order to support myself and my art.

 

Find a Fit

In my seven years in New York, I’ve done a number of things.  I’ve worked at a grocery store, waited tables, handled customer service and sales at a company that sold tickets for off-Broadway shows and, most recently, I’ve worked at HireArt.  My wide variety of experience has taught me a lot about what artists might want to look for in a job:

 

  1.  It’s important to me that it be part-time, and come with a flexible schedule.  This can vary depending on the individual, but knowing my time management skills, and my need to unwind before I can dive into my music, it’s important for me to have the balance that a part-time job creates between my day job and my craft.
  1.  If you can’t find a part-time job in your field, it’s always good to find something that challenges you to grow and learn.
  1.  Finding a job you enjoy is a worthwhile priority, as you’re going to spend a lot of time there (hating your life might give you some artistic inspiration, but it’s probably better to be happy).  In my case, I enjoy helping people, so Customer Service is a natural fit.
  1. Just as important is ensuring that you work with awesome people; you’re going to spend a lot of time with your co-workers–part-time or not–so you’ll be a lot happier every day if you find a job with people you get along with.

 

Staying the Course

The hardest part is staying happy with your choices by managing your own psychology.

Let’s say you got the job you wanted, and you’ve been working it for a few months now.  You’re feeling good about the security, and then it hits you like a cold New York City wind in the middle of the winter: is my job an indication that I’m failing at, or not giving enough time to my passion?  Am I beginning to give too much time and attention to my day job?

There’s a temptation to think about your passion as Plan A, and your day-job as Plan B.  But thinking of the two as diverting paths misses the point.  My day job isn’t Plan B, it’s part of the only plan I have: to pursue my passion.  Too often I hear other artists speaking about their day jobs as if they create a conflict of interest, but I believe that’s the wrong way to look at it.  Your day job exists to enable you to pursue your passion; it’s an instrument to your happiness, and thinking about things in these terms has made a huge difference for me in how I approach my work–both at HireArt, and with my band(s).

It’s natural to have nagging concerns that you’re not giving your passion the time you wish you could.  Such concerns are perfectly normal.  The important thing is to respond with self-assessment: remind yourself that there are good reasons for doing what you’re doing, and ask if there are any concrete steps you’d take to alleviate your worries.  In my experience, the biggest part of the journey has been getting into the right frame of mind. Accomplish that, and the rest will follow.

Derek Nelson is a HireArt Customer Service Associate. When he’s not in our office answering your questions, he can be found on stages throughout New York City playing with his band, Rexford. Check them out on Twitter @FromRexford.

32 Comments

  1. Leslie Stockton said:

    Great insight! Thank you.

    January 27, 2016
    Reply
  2. Quedy lantigua said:

    I really enjoyed your post. You have a great perspective on things.

    January 27, 2016
    Reply
  3. rocky-o said:

    very cool derek…a life without music is a life without breathing…

    peace and passion always…
    rocky-o

    January 27, 2016
    Reply
  4. Zach said:

    Nice work. Short, simple, and to the point.

    January 27, 2016
    Reply
  5. Janos Jakus said:

    Very inspiring,thank you so much for sharing it. Janos

    January 27, 2016
    Reply
  6. Amreet said:

    Derek, this was really nice to read as someone who has also struggled with trying to find the right balance between the two. I’m glad things are seeming to work out for you and wish the best of luck in your future endeavors!
    Warmly,
    Amreet

    January 27, 2016
    Reply
  7. Arshak said:

    Well said everything is a balance, Your passion and work can cohabitate without compromising the quality of the others value. Keep doing what your doing and you will accomplish your goal.

    January 27, 2016
    Reply
  8. A.O said:

    BRAVO!

    Derek Nelson. I feel I could not have stated this feeling any better. I am in 100% of agreement with you. I’ve held so many titles and been darn good at each and every one of the positions I’ve held. In doing so I feel i have robbed only myself by not dedicating if not but a fraction to desires of my heart. I’m surely certain I would be somewhere spectacular as you are now. Kudos to you 100%. I love your story it is spot on to my with my current experience wow. I am a fanatically GRAND Customer Service Rep, and attempting to be hired on with HireArt except i don’t photograph well so I can’t get passed that infraction. I am hoping sending this message get’s me to possibly come in to meet on a personal level first.

    Audra

    January 27, 2016
    Reply
  9. said:

    “My day job isn’t Plan B, it’s part of the only plan I have: to pursue my passion. ”

    Great insight. That’s a positive way to look at it. Thanks for sharing.

    January 27, 2016
    Reply
  10. said:

    Hey Derek:
    I enjoyed your article very much! It is quite comforting to know I’m not alone in this artistic journey, although it’s not been a breeze. Thankfully I’ve matured past the stage of seeing my passion as a conflict with a “day job,” or vice-versa.
    The difficulty has been to get hired into a position I can handle while still continuing in artistic practices. I’m in Visual Arts as I have been since early childhood. No, it’s not easy in the city! After having lived in numerous other places, I do still love New York for all of its incredible opportunities in the Arts.
    I wish you continued success in this juggling act we recognize as our lives!
    Please do keep in touch 😊
    ~Adriana

    January 27, 2016
    Reply
  11. Kathleen said:

    I wish I had this luxury, but as a single mom with no support, I have to find something that pays the bills. But with as many skills as I have I can’t even find a job.

    Thanks for sharing.

    January 27, 2016
    Reply
  12. Ramona said:

    Wow this is truly inspirational . I not where I want to be but I’m no way gonna give up I have to take heed and be comfortable with my choices.
    Great article!!!!
    Thanks!

    January 27, 2016
    Reply
  13. Daniel Pham said:

    I have had to start over from ground zero. I worked for a company for 18 years and was laid off. Derek’s blog was motivating. I like the part about finding a job that will help me grow and learn. I will continue to pursue my dreams.

    January 27, 2016
    Reply
  14. Matthew said:

    Your balance is key, and I am pleased you have found it.
    That seems to be my problem, one of them at least, finding that “food on the table” job and still being able to pursue my dream and passion.

    Thank you Derek!

    Matthew

    January 27, 2016
    Reply
  15. Justin said:

    Your blog is amazing and it’s something that I can relate to. Aa far as the music and going through different jobs, I have felt the same pressures and you have jotted down an inspirational passage. I just wanted to personally thank you for the email that brought me here. To be honest, reading this makes me want to be a part of the HireArt team! Have a good one!

    – Justin C.

    January 27, 2016
    Reply
  16. said:

    I agree. No reason to resent your day job especially since it’s what’s financially allowing you to do what you enjoy doing. Also, do you have a YouTube channel?

    January 27, 2016
    Reply
  17. Daniel povedano said:

    Really interested in the job

    January 27, 2016
    Reply
  18. Jeffrey R Faris said:

    Hi Derek,
    I am presently going through that same thing. I’m a classically trained actor and yes I see the value of a part-time. The only obstacle for me is how to isolate that goal and make it a reality. I hope you don’t give up that plan A because I am living it almost as a psychological verbatim.
    Regards and Respect,
    Jeffrey R Faris

    January 27, 2016
    Reply
  19. Very nice, Derek. I really enjoyed your insight as we are in the peer group of musical performance artists. One of my hang-ups is the arrogance through anger which I’ve developed due to a real life censorship of my music ( Apple08 King of Fuh/Brute Force) which at the time kept me from acceptance worldwide, and for years just delayed me. Well at this moment I know that I accept me and that there will be people to come to venues or festivals to see me. Until such a time as the money from show biz supports me without a “day” job then I keep seaching for some position to make money with my talents in sales and communication, or creative.Have a couple of books almost finished. Work sporadically in films, I’m in SAG-AFTRA. Working on a compilation with a co. Since I’m getting SS I simply seek to supplement that income. That’s not exactly what a potential employer would care about, altho 25K per yr will bring me out of the poverty level lifestyle. $520 a wk. 13 an hr can be appealing to an employer. The constant appeal of the labor mkt for “career minded” people is not for me.

    An inside sales position where I call people for a task, to sell registrations for an event, or to placate customers, to get new customers, cold or warm calls, or something not concerned with sales, without the pressure…

    Thanks again for your perceptive blog which touches our mutual existences.

    January 27, 2016
    Reply
  20. Jeffrey R Faris said:

    Hi Derek,
    I am presently going through that same thing. I’m a classically trained actor and yes I see the value of a part-time. The only obstacle for me is how to isolate that goal and make it a reality.
    Regards and Respect,
    Jeffrey R Faris

    January 27, 2016
    Reply
  21. said:

    Thanks Derek, I swear you had a conversation with me right before I was sent this. Just some thoughts I was thinking of.

    January 27, 2016
    Reply
  22. Fulvia said:

    Thank you Derek for sharing your experience. It reminded me that our passions have to be constantly nurtured. It is for our emotional (and phisical) wellbeing. All the best.

    January 27, 2016
    Reply
  23. said:

    Thank you so much for sharing these thoughts. I fall into the trap of Plan A / Plan B thinking very frequently, and this was a great encouragement to remember that they are both part of my story.

    January 27, 2016
    Reply
  24. said:

    Thank you Derek , I needed to hear that today, you must’ve read my mind.

    January 27, 2016
    Reply
  25. Jeffrey R. Faris said:

    Good Stuff Derek:
    You and I are on the same page…Thanks for your qualification.
    Regards and Respect,

    Jeffrey R. Faris

    January 27, 2016
    Reply
  26. A E said:

    Dear Mr. Nelson,
    It is inspiring to read your post. Several years ago, I took the LSAT exam — which is a logical puzzler that was clearly created by MENSA intended to evaluate our readiness for law school. The essay portion of the exam asked those tested to choose whether the writer should go to work or focus on his music. I refused to choose one or the other and instead explained the possibility to do both. Had I have had more time, I would have expanded on the psychological benefits of having a passion and the means of supporting that passion with a job that one performs well. In essence, they are two passions. Glad to hear you are living the dream, sir.

    January 28, 2016
    Reply
  27. Mark A. Schoedl said:

    Dear Derek,

    I agree only to “staying the course” if I can afford it and I still have the passion to pursue my writing novels and to paint wonderful panoramas of the human being struggling to be at peace with his own maladies imposed on by others as he/she remains comfortable within his own skin as the environs (mountains, trees, pastoral homes, household pets, etc.) welcome him regardless of his own mortal fate. Yes, I need to do something to get out of my employment doldrums; but, haven’t figured it out. Have any advice for a struggling writer/visual artisan?

    January 28, 2016
    Reply
  28. Mark A. Schoedl said:

    Staying the course is fine if I can see an end of the tunnel, but just hanging on year after year becomes a disheartening proposition. There has to be a way to mix full employment with my writing and visually artistic pursuits. I am older but have not been able to obtain full employment since my warehouse years have caught up with me. I believe that I can take my written and artistic skills to mold them into a new career: I simply do not know what that is at this time. Might you know someone who may be able to assist me in obtaining that “niche” in this ever-changing world of commerce?

    January 28, 2016
    Reply
  29. Sultan Ali said:

    Hey Derek,

    Very insightful perspective. We all lose focus at times and can feel trapped in a mundane world, so your words actually extend to a broader audience than artists alone. I’m sure your words will help many people, artists and others, remember to appreciation the value that their paths play in achieving their goals. It’s a good wake up call. Great job!

    January 29, 2016
    Reply
  30. Karen Kratenstein said:

    Inspiring and great article. You pinpointed a means to an end and a great way to be productive in both your part time position and your dreams.

    February 1, 2016
    Reply

Leave a Reply