My Real Job
For years, I was haunted by a man with a briefcase who followed me everywhere I went. He wore a suit and a hat and he was always popping his head around corners, wondering if I was ready to accept My Real Job. He was kind of creepy and very persistent and, of course, a figment of my imagination. Picture Mr. Slugworth in the Willy Wonka movie from 1971, sneaking around alleys.
He hadn’t always been personified. Before I put a face to him, he was just a concept, a fear that hung around, making me feel really bad about myself, making myself feel doomed, somehow. I think it wasn’t long after I identified him that he finally gave up. I might have told him to get lost or maybe he just ceased to have power over me — but he hasn’t troubled me in a good long while now.
I tell you about him now because I’d told a fellow artist about My Real Job at one point and it seemed a useful and resonant concept for them, too. When you know who you’re haunted by, you can deal with it a little more clearly.
In choosing to make a life in the arts, it’s rare that even the most committed artist knows, for sure, that they’re making the right call. No one recommends going into the arts in this country (except Kurt Vonnegut, bless him) and it is not a choice that is likely to yield big rewards. It is nearly impossible to avoid questioning one’s choices over and over again — especially when you’re not receiving a lot of reinforcement from the world around you.
My Real Job was waiting for me to give up. He was patiently following me everywhere I went, hoping I would fail enough to finally surrender and accept him. Before I was conscious of him, I was plagued by him.
What’s funny is that I don’t know WHAT that real job was — and he surely didn’t either. I think it was in an office somewhere? Maybe?
But the day I really looked at him, the day I examined this belief that giving up and surrendering to him was inevitable, I think that’s the day he started to lose his power. I had some support for that process, as I recall. My therapist asked if I was ever going to take that “real job” and I said NO, with a great deal of force. Not a chance. He could follow me around the rest of my life, laugh at my struggles and all my artistic plans that failed to ignite, sniff at my losses, sneer at my finances. He could do his worst and I would never ever take his job. There was nothing he could do that would make me take his job. It was liberating to say so.
I would love to tell you that getting that clear about all this was the magic spell that cleared the way for mountains of success and good fortune. It didn’t. It didn’t change any of the practical details of my life. It wasn’t an enchantment that I broke. The struggle was intense before and it remained intense after. What vanquishing My Real Job did do, though, was give me a kind of peace about my choices. Even when things have gone badly, when there’s been little to hope for, when I’m up against the wall with how my life is going, I never even look over my shoulder anymore. If My Real Job is there, I don’t see him or pay him any mind. I’m never going to take that job. Not ever. I’m guessing he gave up and started following someone else. If it was you, I’m sorry. But take a good look at him and ask yourself if you’re ever going to take his real job. If the answer’s no, he might just leave you alone, too.
Photo by Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock (1637635a) Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory, Gunter Meisner, Peter Ostrum Film and Television
This post was brought to you by my patrons on Patreon.
They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.
It’s also called Songs for the Struggling Artist
Want to help me keep My Real Job off my back? Like, for real?
Become my patron on Patreon.
Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page
If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist
Or buy me a “coffee” (or several!) on Kofi — ko-fi.com/emilyrainbowdavis
Leave a Comment so far
Leave a comment
Originally published at http://artiststruggle.wordpress.com on May 20, 2022.