Running and Improv
You can probably guess where I’m going with this.
For some reason the mere thought of running or improv would give me a headache. In high school when we had to run the mile, I walked it. Looking back, I’m not sure why I did this. It wasn’t like I had any physical ailments preventing me from picking up the pace. And when it came to booking auditions, if there was any mention of improv anywhere, I put a big fat NO next to it.
I didn’t feel like I was missing out on something great by not having running or improv in my life. I figured I could have a pretty satisfying life without these things. But there I was going about the business of my life, and suddenly being convinced to “just try running and see what happens,” and “just take an improv class and get back to me.”
Oh, alright, but I’m not going to like it one bit!
But then I did. I liked it one hundred bits over. I ended up training for a 5K run in Central Park and went through two years of improv classes. These things that I got sick just thinking about have become some of the most rewarding experiences in my life so far.
And, so, now that I carefully examine another thing I’ve been opposed to, I wonder if just trying it could lead me down an equally enriching path. When I was teaching yoga, the one thing I decidedly did not want to do was teach kids. And when I filled out the 400-question survey for the career counselor, all questions regarding working with children were not even in the running. Dave (who just so happens to be a wonderful music teacher to 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders) has told me many times that the kids would love me if I were their teacher. He might be a little biased, but I’ll take it! At first, when he would say this, I would just say “no, absolutely not.”
But now I wonder, what if I “just tried teaching kids and see what happens…?”
Is there anything you’re adamantly oppposed to doing?
I strolled into my neighborhood Starbucks recently to get my regular iced chai and the guy taking my order was uber-friendly. He was open and relaxed and completely present. He was laughing and making jokes and when he asked me, “Got any big plans today?” I knew that he was really interested in what I, a complete stranger, had to say. And, since there was no one else in line, I decided to ask him the same thing.
Turns out he was an artist and that working at Starbucks was his day job. But to him, it was more than that. “I love working here,” he said. “It’s a beautiful neighborhood and I get to network with the customers, and sometimes even sell my stuff.” Just standing there talking to him, I could tell how genuine he was.
In Walking in this World, Julia Cameron says that day jobs can actually be very positive things for artists. So many artists have to have some other kind of job to pay the bills…and, most likely, so many artists dread these “have to” jobs because it takes them away from what they really want to be doing.
What gives us the idea that people with ‘day jobs’ can’t be real artists? Very often our day jobs feed our consciousness. They bring us people and ideas, stories and subjects, opportunities as much as obstacles….We talk about self-expression, but we must develop a self to express. A self is developed not only alone, but in community….Day jobs help not only to pay the rent but also to build stamina and structure….Our life is supposed to be our life and our art is supposed to be something we do in it and with it. Our life must be larger than our art. It must be the container that holds it….That day job may not be a millstone after all. It might be a life-support system.
The key to a successful day job is having the ability to carve out time and energy in your life for your art. If your day job zaps your energy, then it’s not doing it’s job as a “life-support system.” It must be able to feed you more than it drains you. A job is more than just the thing you do. It’s the location and environment, the people you work with, and the ability to experience a sense of flow. So whether it’s making coffee or making copies, the whole of it must work for you.
And just knowing that a day job is a sum of its parts, makes me think that the perfect career is that as well. You may be doing exactly what feeds your soul, but if the environment you work in or the people you work with leave much to be desired, then that will ultimately affect your happiness.
In taking a step back and trying to look at my career questions objectively, I see that I not only want to find a career to feed my soul, but one that also supports my life in all its many parts…friends, family, health, playtime, and personal and spiritual growth.