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Live, Love, Work and Play

January 23, 2011

A big theme for me recently has been growing up. Growing up in a lot of different ways. Taking responsibility. Deciding what I want. Blah blah. Right now I’m having a bit of a struggle with the concept of work and how that fits into my life.

A friend posted this article to their facebook and it made it clear that many of the different strands that I’m wrestling with right now are connected to work, my work and what that is, how it should be. I’ve never really been happy working for other people, at least not for long. I value my freedom too much to be told what kinds of shoes to wear, how to interact with people or even what time to get up in the morning. I also don’t like spending my days pretending to be someone I’m not, wearing the corporate makeup and playing like I’m just another clown here to serve you. I feel like I have something more important and unique to offer the world than that.

Being Regional Contact for Burning Man has been an enjoyable role for me. Creating community and encouraging collaboration and artistic expression is something that comes naturally to me. It is what I would do if nobody paid me. Oh wait. I don’t get paid. But here’s the thing. You can’t live off of good vibes, it just doesn’t work that way. So what do I want?

Its a tough question. Let me show you why. I applied for an got an art grant for Toronto’s decompression party. I finished the art project just in time, and yet here I am blogging from home instead of dancing in Toronto. Why? Because it tapped me out. I got called in to work on Wednesday unexpectedly so I fell behind on building my art. I finished it last night only to realize that it was going to be a royal pain to get on the plane. Then I thought about the time and troubleshooting that would be involved in setting it up at the venue and again on teardown the next morning. (They wanted us out by noon?! Really?!) All of this ran through my head at 4am as I contemplated what to pack for my flight in three hours time. Gads, there’s no way I’m getting any sleep.

In the end it just didn’t seem like it was worth it. How can I enjoy myself at a party when instead of sleeping I’ll be installing and tearing down my art. I’d be a zombie on the dance floor. I’d be passed out at breakfast with friends. What’s the point? But then what’s the point of the art? I built it, and now its sitting lifeless in my room instead of dazzling people at the event. Something went badly wrong here.

Some of it was just bad planning. I should have had this finished days ago, sent it on the train with a friend. I could have gotten a good night’s sleep and hopped a flight Friday instead of early in the morning today. Sure I’d still end up spending a lot of time installing and uninstalling. Sure I’d be tired Sunday, but I’d at least have started with a full tank of sleep and could get back on track Sunday night for my job Monday morning. I didn’t do that. But, when work comes up I have to take it.

As things stand right now that’s how my life works. I do my thing, the phone rings, I drop everything and I go work. If I don’t I don’t have enough money to pay the bills.

Now things will change. Or will they?

I’m working to get more film and video contracts. It will happen. I have full confidence that finally I’ve got my shit together enough to make this self-employed thing happen. But does that really change anything? The phone rings, its a client, I go to work. Now maybe I get paid more so I don’t need as many of these, but at the end of the day how different is it really? Are my dreams of more freedom from self-employment really justified? What do I have to do now, as I prepare for this journey to ensure that I get that freedom instead of just trading one harness for another?

I’m work averse. I don’t like work, and yet I do. I enjoyed making that art, I enjoy what I do as a Burning Man RC, but I don’t get paid for those things. So is the business I’m proposing for myself any better?

Yeah shooting promo videos and the like will be more enjoyable than airline ticketing or building tradeshow booths, but is it really my dream? My passion?

I want to make movies and TV shows. I want to make music videos. I want to make interactive installation art and events. But how do I monetize those things without feeling icky? Without compromising my values and beliefs? At what point do I have to admit that nothing in life is free and that there is some gruelling and distasteful work that needs to get done and there’s no getting around it?

I guess that’s growing up. But I’m not buying the whole 40 hour 9-5 workweek bullshit. There’s something between my innocent youthful dreams and the mechanized horror of the workaday world. Finding that island of contentment in this sea of possibilities is my task right now. Today it hasn’t been easy, but part of it is respecting my own limits. I could do the work to make the money, and do the work to make the art, but after all that it didn’t feel worth it to do yet more work to bring it and me to Toronto then back again and working at 8am the next day. I used to do stuff like that, but I don’t feel like it anymore. There have to be limits. There has to be a day of rest. What point is there in living outside of the 9-5 model if you just burn a different candle on both ends?

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