Money can buy you a lot of things…
We spend more and more time connecting virtually, through wires and cords, screens and “apps.” While this creates a closer global community in some ways, nothing can replace good old-fashioned face-to-face contact. Humans connect over food, drink, music that moves and art that asks questions. When’s the last time you sat down over dinner and talked about the intricacies of your cell phone plan or your computer’s hardware—or, perhaps more importantly, just how long did that conversation last? We use the arts to express something that we may not be able to voice ourselves, and art gives us the courage to try.
I grew up in a rural Missouri town, the daughter of a fine furniture maker. I was an anomaly among my classmates. My parents’ friends were art glass designers and mosaic artists, writers and blacksmiths from all corners of the world. I grew up knowing that art was as essential as food or shelter; it was what made life good.
I was lucky to be exposed to such a varied and magical world of galleries, museums, studios; all things I could touch and breathe and hide away in. Most of my friends couldn’t identify—and I felt alien. My sister and I enrolled in writing workshops, puppetry and pottery classes while our friends signed up for tee ball or Girl Scouts. Our vacations consisted of trips across the country to meet other furniture makers, to visit galleries and workspaces—not to Disneyland.
Ultimately, isn’t art all about connecting? Isn’t that why we create—to express something within ourselves, to provide a voice? We paint/write/cook/compose to communicate a thought or feeling or idea to the rest of the world. We throw the bottle into the ocean and hope to find a connection.
To say I’m passionate about the arts would be inaccurate. It is ingrained in my cellular make up, much like being of German decent or left-handed. It is not something I can separate from. I am passionate about connection. I find great satisfaction in facilitating the bridge between two entities that might not have existed otherwise. I am excited when I see a kid experience the power of creating something for the first time. I thrive on the creative charge in the air at the local film festival—so many people connecting in so many ways.
I’ve had this conversation with a number of my friends over the last few months. Our generation, Gen X-ish, those of us in our late twenties and early thirties, have been told to follow our hearts. Get those pretty little liberal arts degrees, the masters degrees, and hell, money grows on trees, why not go ahead and get a doctorate as well? Because, well, if you love it enough, you’ll find a job, and the money will follow.
Well, folks, the economy is in the toilet, we’ve all got boatloads of student loans to pay and no one has a lick of savings or retirement—so suddenly chasing the dream of being a playwright or a filmmaker or an expert in medieval literature begins to seem less and less pragmatic. So, as we are now real adults as opposed to fresh-faced college grads with big on plans and short of debts, we begin to rationalize. I don’t really need a job that I’m absolutely in love with, I just need a job that pays the bills and allows me to have fun hobbies. I don’t need to be ultimately fulfilled by the thing I do 40 hours a week, I just need to be compensated decently, so that I can go home at night and do the real things I love.
I really, really, really have been trying to jump on this bandwagon. Really hard. I mean, I’ve been mulling it over and chewing on it and talking about it for the last few months as I’ve been job hunting. And let me tell you, as Mr. B and I continue to plan to relocate to a city that is far more expensive than Columbia, MO, this idea becomes more and more ideal. Just get a job that pays the bills.
I can’t do it, people. When the rubber meets the road, I just can’t make myself get excited about metrics and databases and research and analysis. Even for an extra whole lot of money, I can’t do it. And so I’m going back to my cushy idealistic view that I want to be fulfilled everyday—or a least 51% of my days—by my work. And I also want to have the space to do the things I love. And if they can all happen at the same time, well, that would be perfect. And I’m not going to give up hope that this is all not mutually exclusive.
Sometimes I need to be reminded, both by the people that know me best, and by my own gut, that this is what drives me, what really melts my butter. As much as I sometimes wish it were the contrary, money and security just aren’t everything. If I learned anything from that family of mine, it’s that.