Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Struggling at the intersection of Happiness and Careers

Cindy and I call our project and this blog "Project Happy Life."  But this project has no deadline.  We have no schedule.  We have no specific picture of a happy life that we aren't already living; thus, no end goal.

We treat it like we treat yoga: willful determination with non-concern for results.

That's nice, but that's not entirely true.  It's only partly true.  It's a fact that we're generally happy, and we love our life.  We love our family and friends, and many of our friends are family enough.

But Cindy wants to be a full-time, paid actress (the difficulty there being that your ability to work is almost always in someone else's hands).  And I want to work for myself.

There, I've said it: I want to work for myself.

I just don't know what that means yet.  I think I could make furniture... sometimes.  I really love working on my green roof, and I would be happy to help with other green roofs.  I like teaching.  I am surprised by how much I like writing this blog.  Sometimes I like directing plays.  I like designing (the Lanikai Elementary School stage I designed is being built right now - I'll write a post about that when it's finished).  I would love to collaborate with someone on a book about native plant gardening for New York City.  (Any takers?)  The list goes on...

So many things to like.  So many possibilities.

The other thing is, as I said, I'm happy.  I have a great full-time job as the production stage manager for Blue Man Group in New York.  I work with people I genuinely love, and we have a lot of fun.  Sometimes the work can be tedious, and sometimes it can be hard, but I usually feel like I'm being helpful and productive, and that feels nice.

It's difficult to imagine changing your life when you're generally happy.

But, as I like to say, I carry the burden of too many ideas for projects I'd like to do and not enough time to do them.  I keep thinking, "If only I didn't need my 40-hour/week job!"  I do, though - I'm not asking Fate (or my boss, Colin) to fire me because I write this.  There is a growing tension between the stuff that I'm working on at home, and the stuff that I'm working on at work.

The tension increases because I'm not getting any younger.  I'm 43.  I can see how long it takes me to do my personal projects on weekends, and I can see quite clearly that my body will give out long before I've done and built a fraction of what I'd like to do.  Life is short.  Weekends are even shorter.

And then there's money.  That's always a thing, isn't it?  My first profession, theatre, isn't something one does if one is terribly focused on earning a steady paycheck.  But, I clutzed into a job at Blue Man Group when I was in Boston for college, and I've stuck with the company for 18 years now.  I've never experienced a prolonged period of freelance work in my life.  I was thinking about transitioning to the film industry back in 2008, but then the economy collapsed, and I decided it was too risky to switch careers at that time.  So, as I like to say, I've gratefully clung to my job and thought of our show as a little life raft in the big, blue sea of this economic storm.

This brings me back to Project Happy Life.  Cindy and I are in this project together - working to guide our lives in the direction we want them to go.  On the issue of our careers, there seem to be no easy answers.  I only know that writing about things as we make our way forward is helpful for me.  And I hope it's helpful for you to read.

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