I was going to write this two days ago, but I was too busy devoting time to one of my “money” jobs. As the house manager for an acting and dance studio in Manhattan, I’m in the process of booking people for fall and winter classes, workshops, performances, and shoots. Happily deluged, one might say, since getting back from vacation.
But here’s the real point:
Yes, I work “money” jobs. You know, the kind that people were shaming former Cosby Show actor Geoffrey Owens for when he was “outed” recently at a local Trader Joe’s.
Funny thing is, last year when I was going crazy trying to secure some paying gigs while I figured out my next creative venture, several people suggested Trader Joe’s to me. We have a fairly new one here in Hoboken and, hey, they give a nice discount. I looked into it and ultimately decided I couldn’t do it because of the physical requirements (I have some knee issues that I’m working on).
The more I digest the Owens story, the more I’m filled with rage. Not the kind some have expressed regarding the disparagement of hard work. It’s way deeper. How dare you put your judgment on those of us who are actually paying attention to our creative calling while you toil away at a job you hate so you can eke out two weeks of pleasure a year.
Oops, I just made the same kind of generalization, didn’t I?
It was to make a point.
Listen, I earned a degree in journalism and professional writing on my own dime, worked hard, and honed my craft for decades. Then technology shifted everything and my dream track of writing a human interest column a few times a week for a daily newspaper became an ancient-sounding fantasy. I have worked just as hard to figure out other ways to use my gifts of writing, listening, interviewing, and teaching and I’m proud of being an independent contractor since 2002.
Society has not made it easy for my fellow artists (writers, photographers, actors, painters, etc.) to stay true to why they were put here while still paying the bills, but I’m surrounded by people who impress me in this regard every day. Social media actually amplifies just how many of us there are. So does my life coaching practice because my clients are almost all in their 50s and diligently working to overcome some kind of professional/creative challenge that calls for them re-evaluating all they were taught for half a century. They buoy me.
You know what else does? The month of September. I haven’t gone to school in years, but this time of year still serves to inspire me to pause for renewal and reflection. And this particular September is already chock full of built-in motivators.
I bring you Nike and Colin Kaepernick and a new campaign. The print/digital ad says, “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.” Then there’s the TV commercial that says: Dream Crazy. It features LeBron James and Serena Williams and other athletes going after it hard. Kaepernick’s narration begins, “If people say your dreams are crazy, if they laugh at what they think you can do, good. Stay that way. Because what non-believers fail to understand is that calling a dream crazy is not an insult. It’s a compliment.”
As a former sports writer and now a life coach, I’ve talked to people in-depth about their dreams. I’ve watched some of them go for it, awestruck, even when it doesn’t come to fruition. The best ones let those tries become fuel for … something.
What people so often miss about the Kaepernick situation is how insulting it is to be told you’re protesting what you say you are not. What the detractors are saying is you don’t have the credibility or the intelligence to decide why you’re protesting. Pervasive police brutality gets buried beneath the noise of people deciding they know better than he does why he takes a knee. Mind blowing.
Yet the dream lives. Shine a spotlight on this. Keep shining it, even when you’re getting kicked in the teeth.
As the Nike commercial concludes, “Don’t ask if your dreams are crazy. Ask if they’re crazy enough.”
Maybe some of our politicians are getting a hit of Nike messaging and September magic, too. Perhaps the Brett Kavanaugh appointment to the Supreme Court is a foregone conclusion, but dammit, some of our representatives seem to get that we want them to go down fighting. Show some gumption. Take a risk. Be confrontational, with flair.
Citizens, raise your voices and get dragged out of the room. Don a Handmaid’s Tale robe and send a silent message.
Stand for something. Live on your terms. Rise to the challenges of our times.
Get a money job if you want one so it makes possible your expression, your activism, your joy. To the people who look down on you for it, let them figure out their own deal. I wrote a memoir detailing my experiences as a receptionist in New York from 2005-07 and admitting my own shame at answering phones at a point in my life where I thought I’d be riding high.
Funny thing is, I am, just not in the way I’d always envisioned.