A fellow creative said, “I was asked about my hopes and dreams recently. My response? I haven’t had hopes and dreams since I graduated college… I’d like to get them back.”
I said, “I’d like for you to get them back, too! Where do you think the decline of those aspirations happened or what came between you and those dreams?”
“I got overwhelmed and lost focus on what I truly want from my career. I’m still in the same job I took after graduation. The job I was desperate for because I had no money and didn’t care what the salary was. My company isn’t a good place for creative types, so I just feel like they sucked out my soul and left behind a jaded mess…”
Being a creative person in a creatively stifling professional environment is manageable… at first. Inevitably, it becomes damaging to your professional and personal goals.
We’ve all been there. At least, I know I’ve been there, especially in this world of student loan debt, limited job availability in particular areas, and limited resources to move where jobs are available. We tend to take what we can to survive. The horrific problem with that is the “it’s a paycheck” goes from being a temporary reality to a lifelong mantra all too easily. Somewhere along the way, without meaning to, we lose sight of what we want to achieve or how to even begin reaching for it. We get a little too comfortable with simply existing, even if that comfort doesn’t bring us much fulfillment past making ends meet.
No matter what stage you are in professionally and creatively, whether you’ve only been there for a little while or if you’ve been creatively and professionally stagnate for a lengthy period of time, the first step to rekindling your passions is recognize that in order to move forward and grow in both areas, there will need to be change. Be aware that, even if you haven’t got a single concrete goal, if you are not being creatively and professionally fulfilled in the slightest way, there still needs to be change.
Repeat after me: I was not born to simply pay bills and die…
(A distant voice echoes: But those bills still gotta get paid.)
Yeah, that voice is right, but there isn’t any reason you can’t be fulfilled doing it. It may just take a bit of work to get there. Sometimes that work seems impossible or frightening. Sometimes it requires a leap of faith to remove yourself from stifling environments or negative influences. Sometimes it means quitting that job you hate. With that comment, I always recommend not doing that before you’ve got another opportunity lined up unless you can transition into freelance and survive. Sometimes it means moving 1800 miles away from home with three months of savings. That’s what it took for me. With great risk comes great reward and sometimes great failure. But, we use that failure as a lesson. Use it as fuel.
Staying stationary will get you absolutely nowhere. You have three choices in life. Forward, frozen, or backward. Only one of those leads to another opportunity, creative freedom, and a chance at something more. In the words of Pop from Luke Cage: Forward, always. You have to move either way and, while forward is scary and different and unpredictable, it is a lot better than backward and a lot more productive than frozen.
So, my inspirational and philosophical comment for the day: Jumping is hard. Falling is easy.
Parts of life are a lot like skydiving. You’re at the edge of the plane door looking down at the earth so small beneath you. It is frightening. You’re leaping out of a perfectly good, comfortable plane, after all. To jump, you’ve got to talk yourself up to it. You’ve got to convince yourself that everything will be fine. But, sometimes that doesn’t really work, does it? Sometimes the fear and anxiety can be a lot louder than your own voice and rationalizations.
Sometimes you’ve got to throw yourself out the damn door, for your own good, inhibitions aside. Because once you’re past the threshold, once you’ve jumped, falling is the easy part.
When you’re falling, you’re willing to do whatever it takes to land. You’re going to pull that cord. You’re going to launch that parachute. You’re going to land and you’re going to be fine, albeit maybe a bit banged up and sore in the knees. But, you’ll dust off and walk forward into your purpose because you jumped (or flung yourself from the plane, whatever works for you).
But, until you jump, you’ll never get from where you are to where you want to be.
Even the smallest jump, the smallest change, can start a chain reaction, a snowball leading to your creative and professional light. That change could be as small as decluttering your apartment/house, getting rid of the old to make way for the new. It could be choosing to read more, to adopting audiobooks for the long commute to fill that void of wasted time with productivity and knowledge. It could mean speaking up in meetings where you usually keep your ideas to yourself. Baby jumps, if you must, but jump. Move. Forward.
I tell this to people who I meet when they are confronted by indecision and fear. It isn’t some self-help mumbo-jumbo that I got out of a book, though you will find it in abundance in those books. It is my philosophy, my practice, my truth. I did it. I continuously do it. I’m always confronted by fear, to the point I feel like a walking ball of anxiety, but inevitably I find the push, the inspiration, and I jump. Each time, I land for the better. When I didn’t jump, all those years ago when the opportunity presented itself and fear won out, I regretted it. I still regret it sometimes.
That regret taught me one beautiful thing: Life is short. Choose the fall.