Juggling two careers can be fun, especially when you ask your friends to describe what you do.
By Bob Simpson (Writer)
It’s happened countless times, usually after a performance in a play or a reading or some other artistic, theatrical event. A stranger asks me what I do for a day job, since artists tend to have these.
Stranger: “So do you have a second job?”
Stranger: “What do you do?”
Me: “I work for Warner Bros.”
Stranger: “Oh, neato. What do you do there?”
Me: “I’m the manager of the Project Management Office for Corporate Projects.”
Stranger: “So, you have a REAL job.”
At this point, the stranger usually walks away, confused, wondering if I just made up that title, or what a “Corporate Project” is, or if the bar is still serving spritzers. However, they sometimes stick around to throw up one, final comment.
Stranger: "Then, you must have gotten a REAL degree."
At this point, I usually shut down and Kenny G's "Breathless" starts playing in my head, because this is the only surefire way that I don't roll my eyes or shoots barbs from my beard at the stranger's face.
Let’s dismantle that now, please. This conception of what is a real job or degree versus what is not. First of all, everyone that has a job, has a REAL JOB. I don’t care if you’re a plumber or an actor or a mime. Your job…is REAL. I don’t know anybody that has a job where they enter an induced dream cycle and perform light filing, okay? We all have jobs, they are real, unless we are unemployed.
Secondly, there is no such thing as a REAL degree, because this insinuates that some degrees are not real. Yes, I got a Communications degree from The University of Texas (Hook 'Em), but that doesn't make my degree more legit than a Theater degree, or Literature, or Physics, or Clowning. They're all real, know why? Cause they were printed on pieces of paper. That makes stuff real - just ask Joe Paterno.
- Boredom – they hear me mention words like “process” or “efficiency” and tune out.
- Confusion – they can’t understand why someone who dabbles in the creative arts also spends eight to ten hours a day doing something generally viewed as “non-creative”.
- Disgust – similar reaction as confusion, but instead of not understanding why I do what I do, they react with revulsion or pity, thanking their lucky stars that they don’t have to wear a tie because “it’s so confining, man!”
It’s especially fun to listen to other people describe what it is I do. My wife, in particular, likes to describe my job by saying, “he works with spreadsheets”, which is like calling Paul Newman “that salad dressing guy”. There’s a lot more to my career, but I understand if people can’t remember what the heck it is.
Sure, I may not be a “true artist” because I don’t serve plates of fried organisms to unhappy clientele or hustle from one cattle-call audition to the next . It may be uncool that I spend the majority of my weekdays working on status reports and project plans, but here’s the kicker: my job isn’t boring, it isn’t uncreative, and it is, more often than not, rewarding. The added bonus is that, at the end of the day, I can step out of office, get in my car, and turn into an artist. I usually do this by putting on eyeliner.
I have a lot of respect for artists that work really hard and have to take a second job in a restaurant or in retail, because I know those jobs are thankless and tough (I will never work in a restaurant again, for the record). I empathize with artists that struggle to make ends meet, cause I’ve been there, too, and while my career has removed some major problems that artists tend to have (i.e., when will I eat next?), it doesn’t mean I’m free from concern. In this day and age, there’s no such thing as “job security”, and I’m well aware that, without warning, my job could vanish like Nick Stahl on a skid row binge (I can make this joke because he’s not dead). In the meantime, though, I remain thankful for the opportunities I’ve been given, and grateful for the work/life balance that I have.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to rehearse the choreography for my 3:00 status meeting.
 I realize I just defeated the entire purpose of the sentence in my author’s blurb below. Let’s move past this.
BOB SIMPSON is a writer and lives in Los Angeles, where he works for an entertainment company that he'd prefer to keep anonymous, should he accidentally diss something they made. www.bobsimpsonblog.blogspot.com
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