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Art of Living : This Is Just My Day Job

'This Is Just My Day Job'

By S.C. Giles

As an artist, or anything else for that matter, you are not your work whether it be your day job or your art. Culturally, we like to identify ourselves with our endeavors. Labeling is a huge societal obsession: "I am a dancer. I am a writer. I am an actor. I am a painter." It's as if we don't exist without the label. We're invisible. Everyone breathes a collective sigh of relief when they can attach you to an accepted endeavor and goes kind of cross-eyed when you change that endeavor. Yet, in reality, you are not the label. You DO these things. You EXPERIENCE these things. You INTERACT and PARTICIPATE with these things, but you are not these things.

What You Really Mean

When an artist says to someone, "This is just my day job," it's a loaded statement. Hidden within that phrase is: "I'd rather be doing something else. I don't believe I can do what I want and pay my bills. People in authority have all the power. I don't have the ability to create the kind of life I want." And yet, this is really putting off happiness, waiting for some elusive event that you believe will make you happy. If you talk to people who make a living at their art, you'll find that they're not much happier than you with your day job. "I'd be the exception," you say to yourself, wanting your art to be the answer, but you are not the activities you engage in nor the events that happen to you. You are the experiencer. You are your state of being.

I'll Be Happy When . . .

You can't do much about your state of being until you turn your attention to it, but most people don't know it exists on its own. They think their state of being is what they feel in reaction to what's happening around them. Therefore, most people feel vulnerable all the time. "I'll be happy when I get . . . the money, the show, the house, the relationship, the body, the attention" and so on. You could have all of those things and be unhappy purely because the things you experience don't make you happy. You make you happy. This is why some people experience times of happiness at little things and others feel times of happiness with a large event. Each individual is setting the parameters: "I am happy when . . . my boyfriend is nice, when I get the part, when I eat at that one restaurant, after a few martinis on a Friday night." You allow certain events to make you feel good when it's not the events at all; You are allowing yourself to feel good when you get the cue that you've set up, that certain events say it's okay. This is cultural training.

We have a lot of rules about when it's not appropriate to be happy: when you're not doing the "thing" you were born to do, when someone holds an opinion that's different than your own, when you're in debt, when someone dies, when you're going bankrupt, when you eat certain foods, when you're unemployed (there are a lot related to money), when you're in jail, when your spouse cheats on you or when you cheat on your spouse, when you're ill, when you're not famous, when you don't know anyone. The list goes on and on, and people are quite creative at making up their own rules just in case there's too much fun time. This leaves a tiny window when, whew, it's okay to be happy.

A State of Being is A Place

Let's face it, one of our strongest cultural beliefs is: YOU HAVE TO PAY FOR HAPPINESS. It just ain't so. Happiness is a state of being, and you can choose to go there like you choose to go to the theater, but you have to know where it is. Every time you feel anything, it's like you've traveled to a specific location titled "excited" or "depressed" or "interesting." Those locations are as real (much more real) as any place you will ever visit only they don't exist outside yourself. They are not dependent on anything that's happening around you, and when you look for these inner places, you have experiences in you everyday life that you never thought possible.

So, you're at your day job right now, and you really want to be doing something else. What do you do?

First, stop letting your day job dictate your happiness. Don't give it any power. Next, start hanging out in those activities and places that you love within your mind. Tell yourself, that no matter what is happening, no matter what anyone is yammering on about to you, you're going to be happy; You're going to hang out in your own la la land. At the same time, all the things that depress or annoy you, make them your cue to go to that fun state of being. Be humorously subversive. If your mother is complaining about all the medical procedures she's having to endure, imagine her totally well parachuting out of a plane naked. Try being irritated with that image. If you dislike your work, pretend you don't need it, that you're Thirsten Howell the Third, working there for sport. Then live the secret life you want in your imagination NOW. From that state of being, everything is different, and that's what you really want. You want to feel good now. You can always choose new activities, new work, but your state of being is the point, and your state of being isn't dependent on anything you do, anyone around you, or anything you experience.

Culture is changing because people are finding very different ways of experiencing life. Ride the wave of possibilities. You are not your job. You are not your art. These are just activities. Let go of the labels, and focus on what you want to experience by thinking what you want to think no matter what the situation. You're going to find a whole lot of good stuff to be happy about. •

Copyright © 2005 Arctic Mouse, Inc. All rights reserved.

S.C. Giles is a contributing author of The ARTrepreneur E-Zine and newsletter. More »