I’ve swung both ways on the pendulum with this issue. Years ago, it was full-time musician or bust! Subsist on ramen noodles, Red Bull, beef jerky and Led Zeppelin! Live off credit cards and pay the rent with a cash advance! We’re out to SAVE THE WORLD and witness the rise of the patchouli-soaked hippie-planet once again because the corporate world is DEFUNCT!…
Yeah, that lasted about….nine months. I hit bottom–nearly homeless, in debt, and chronically depressed. And so I swung to the other side, where I achieved enlightenment in the world of real work: Let’s get a handle on this credit debt, wake up and go to sleep at a regular hour, balance the checkbook, take the pills, smooth everything out. Wow! I have a boyfriend now, and a place to live, and checks that don’t go “boing.” And I’m still making music, but now it’s simply for the LOVE of it, and I don’t have to be obsessed with proving something to the world…
And that’s when I coined “Starving-Artist Syndrome” for myself. That mentality had taken a real toll on me, and I was bound to make up for time lost to endless artistic reverie. I looked down on people who were hell-bent on not getting a real job, glorying in poverty and taking advantage of their able family and friends, because I had been that person. I was sincerely thankful that I could pay my bills and keep on top of things. It was more than just the ego talking; I was truly lifted by this. I paid off thousands of dollars of debt and had a steady relationship with the man I would eventually marry.
It was the stuff of holiness.
Then my integrity woke up again as life in the financial services industry went toxic during the recession. Downsizing, restructuring, layoffs and people quitting–it was like a meteor shower. And this used to be Boomtown, I thought, remembering the goal-busting profits from a couple years earlier. What happened here? And what happened to me?
Am I going to swing back the other way?
I fought it and fought it and fought it for months, trying to stay in my job because I couldn’t bear the thought of ever being a starving artist again. I had to be true to my word. But also, I was too scared to take the plunge into a different arena. The job-hunting world was a thicker and nastier jungle than it had ever been in my lifetime, and I felt like an extinct dinosaur bumbling around in it. If you can’t program your Facebook page to heal a wounded swan, they won’t even look at you.
But then the moment came— I asked myself, “Do I seriously want to work in an office where my supervisor begins a meeting with, ‘this meeting never happened?'” (Honest to Mama true story.)
The result: I’m an artist, but determined not to starve. I’d like to think I’m in the zone of the Middle Path–building a business as a musician without the holier-than-thou attitude that comes with making a vow of poverty. But what does that look like? Who can share?