work; career; occupation; job; labour; vocation

are but one and the same, and not at all.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt this discouraged, or demoralised. I’ve been having trouble finding a day job, quite simply to pay the rent. I’m happy to put in a couple of days a week, even more if I’m not working on any creative projects. Yes, I’d like time off during the projects’ run, but I’m fully committed to one and both at the same time. I’ve sent in heaps of resumes, to temp agencies, retail outlets, cafes…and nothing. It’s been three weeks now, and I am getting very restless, and perhaps, anxiety too, is building up. But frustration, because I don’t understand.

Every “job” requires skills – some of these are natural things inherent in some people, and some of these skills are technical, and require training. Today, every “job” listing is asking for a certificate in xxx, or years of experience, and this and that. Sometimes, they list “on-the-job training provided,” but still want to see a relevant degree behind the application.

I suppose I am confused. I’m not discounting the “work” retail assistants and consultants put in – I’ve been there, and the “labour” is significant. But for all the phone calls and replies that I have not been getting, I seriously feel supremely unqualified for this “casual retail assistant” position.” How am I not good enough for at least ONE, just one of them to say yes?

And I wished this didn’t come off like I think I’m better than a retail “job.” It’s the opposite! I want a retail job. I love meeting people. I actually enjoy being of service, especially if the product is something I am personally curious about. (Which I have of course, sent resumes to such companies and not just any ones that I would have to be fake about.) I actually genuinely, really enjoy the interaction with customers, discovering who they are, and what they are looking for, and attending to those needs with my knowledge within the “job.” Fruitful “labour,” that’s how I see it. 

But it raises questions, and perhaps the frustration comes from these questions. Art school has taught me a lot, and in so many ways. Not just art school, but since I quit college, and went out to work, and all the things that happened leading up to art school, and then now – being an Artist – and an artist like me – where I have no tangible “skill,” except being really personable, and intuitive and responsive to space/time/context, how do I work? What do I have to show for the years of “labour?”

I don’t have a degree in Business administration, but I am certain I could be a great receptionist. I don’t have a certificate in retail management, but I am certain that I could have your customers coming back. I don’t have a journalism background, but I can write. I am not a certified counsellor, but I would love to be a support worker in an NGO. I do not have a Masters in Education, but I am passionate about youth, and I am creative with how I facilitate their learning. And, I am left stranded.

And then the question of, if Artists should work day “jobs” – endless!

I don’t make artistic objects – so I can’t sell them.
I am not a working actor, chasing auditions, scoring voice-over work, or advertisements, before the big break.
I am not a musician, with a skill I can teach with, or get booked for gigs.
But I “work” for and in the art I make. It’s research, it’s discussions, it’s planning, it’s pitching…

I have no trade within this craft I’ve started honing. So until it discovers itself, I need a day job. And I accept that. I can live with that. In fact I want that, because I know myself, and I know I like the different environments and the diversity of the people I would meet.

Being an Artist, happened. I didn’t dream this up as a kid. I didn’t just wake up one day and felt like it would be a good career move. Nor did I see a successful artist, and felt like I wanted to be like him/her.

It just happened. Pardon the Christianity, but it is very much a vocation.

But I am happy for it to be an “occupation,” along with a part-time “job.” I’m happy to play the networking and schmoozing game, and develop this “career.” I’m happy to put in the “labour” in and around being an artist – spending hours in a studio/rehearsal space, writing grant applications late into the night, or quite simply working that day “job” in order that I could do this.

Now, where do I go from here?

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