I have an overwhelming desire to go "off the grid." To leave the life of corporate America and make my living off freelance things until I (god-willing) make it as a full-time writer. It's a desire I've been toying with for oohhh six plus years.
And yet for the past six plus years I have moved from job to job without so much as a one week break. One time I actually stopped one job and started a new one on the same day (1/2 day morning at one, 1/2 day afternoon at the other). This is in part because I'm one of those Millennial grads with negative life savings, a healthy pile of student loans and a degree for the industry that pays its entry-level work force in experiences. I haven't technically had the luxury of going boho.
But that's mostly an excuse. Plenty of people get by without corporate jobs, and some of them even make more money than I have over the past six years. Plenty of people are waitresses, bartenders, tutors, or nannies. Some people work part time as a receptionist and cover the rest of their living costs by writing articles for blogs or magazines. I used to know a guy in Brooklyn who was a personal trainer so he could afford to be an actor. Those people pay their rent, contribute to their student loans, and manage all the other life expenses that have had me tied to a 9-7 since I graduated from college. That's because those people can handle the life of a bohemian (a word I'm falsely using as a catch-all to describe people who do not make a living inside a traditional corporate or business structure. Please just go with it).
I'm not entirely sure that I can.
I've been thinking a lot about this idea of leading an alternative lifestyle as I struggle to find enough time to pursue my writing projects. Every non-desk-job prospect seems like the smarter path to finding more time for creative pursuits. Plus, I've worked many a make-money job in my time - the hostess/waitress/Banana Republic employee type. It's nothing I can't handle, and I'd go so far as to say I was a better waitress than I've ever been Microsoft Office Suite user.
And yet no matter how much I long for the bounce-around lifestyle so many Angeleno slashies (i.e. actress/waitress/shopgirl) have successfully mastered, I'm terrified to take that leap. I think there's a chance I'd make a crappy bohemian. Insane, I know!! My Pinterest Boards are super eclectic, and I can make no fewer than five other accessories out of a vintage scarf (including a handbag!!). I've never had a ton of money, don't need much to be happy and actually think Ramen noddles are delicious. Plus I'm really excellent at structuring my extra-curricular time (barring re-runs of So You Think You Can Dance popping up).
So then what's my hang up? Why am I so sure I'll fail if I attempt to make it without a real business card? Here's what I can come up with, fully un-aided by a self help book!
- I'm uncomfortable in a world without titles. My mother is a Director of Curriculum. My father is a Creative Director. My friends are accountants, doctors, lawyers, teachers, directors of development, urban planners. Right now I'm a something too - I'm a director of branded entertainment - something that has cultural capital in a world where people "get" what you do by the title of your job. If I become a writer-who-hasn't-sold-anything-and-gets-by-on-several-odd-jobs, where does that leave me in the eyes of the world? I have an expensive education. Shouldn't I have a job title to match?
- I don't think I'd feel stable without salaried income. This one's somewhat legit, somewhat neurotic. I've never not known exactly where my next paycheck is coming from and how much money it will contain. The thought of getting by on a series of jobs - waitress?, script reader?, freelance writer? - is scary because I have real bills to pay and don't have the luxury of a benefactor on speed dial. My friend Erica owns her own publicity firm - a move she bravely made after years working for other PR companies. "You can't fathom how motivated you'll be to make money once you're fully responsible for the money coming in," she told me the last time I went through this same freak out. Maybe she's right. Maybe she's wrong. I may or may not ever know.
- I wonder if it will actually be as glorious as it is in my head. What if the bohemian life is actually more frustrating than corporate life? What if you think you'll have more time to write, but you actually work far more hours trying to pay the bills? What if being disconnected from colleagues at a company is actually really lonely? What if you never wear another blazer again because bohemians don't have a need to wear blazers??
If your life is like the vague catch-all term I'm using to describe non-traditional, please share your feelings on the matter. And if your life is like mine, please contact me so we can hang out and complain about the desire to have a less stable life during this country's least stable economic period in recent history. I'll pick the bar.