When I came to Austin a few years ago I had nothing, at least relative to what I “have” now. I’ve achieved much and gained a lot in a short amount of time, which are all good things. Well, mostly good. There’s one thing that’s grown from an afterthought that pops into my head before I fall asleep, to an elephant in the corner of the room, to a lead backpack inexorably attached to my back: my “career.”
I didn’t have one of those a few years ago. I knew I was supposed to. We’re all supposed to have one, like a government-issued ID or an anus. Butt I didn’t. And, in hindsight, I didn’t miss it. I spent most of my days creating, most of my nights creating, and the rest of the time living. I put so many creations out into the world that year I can’t even recall many of them now, nor did I document it particularly well. I didn’t spend any time thinking about the creations, or managing them, bolstering them, advertising them — those are all things a person with a career does; they’re some of the main side effects of catching career — I just created.
Then I came down with career.
Career is what gets in your way of trying to do work that is meaningful and enjoyable to you. It starts as an unplanned pitstop on your way to some project you’re excited to work on. Next you find yourself scheduling regular check-ups in advance. And before you know it you’re doing full tune-ups with a certified tuner-upper every time you try to get out of the garage. Career is “risk mitigation” and “goal setting” and “trajectory” and “email” — so much email.
It’s tough to create when you’ve been afflicted with career. Creation requires a lot of empty mind space, room that you can fill with new ideas, a place for them to bounce, to grow, to take shape. Creation requires a relaxed mind, a peaceful mind, a calm to set the stage for the forthcoming storm. Career is want to fill the mind and keep it agitated, ever turning, ever grinding, ever aware. Aware of the things you should be doing, the tasks that need completing, how you should be spending your time right now. Creation doesn’t well abide shoulds and needs and nows.
The past couple days, since writing about remembering what you do, I’ve been trying to turn career off, or at least down, just to see what would happen. Beyond the simple peace I allowed myself to experience (which was great), one huge thing happened. Around midnight I put my guitar down, put a kettle on, studied French for a while, then decided to have a workout. During my post-shower workout at about 2am (a time I never shower, because career is usually at high volume at 2am) I finally had a breakthrough on a human sexuality model that I’ve been working on for almost a year now. A model that I’ve sent a few dozen ideas directly to the trash, but kept forcing out new ideas because I know that I need to create this model for this book for this publication date for my career.
As Mickey Smith says in my favorite video (almost) ever, “I never set out to become anything in particular, only to live creatively and push the scope of my experience for adventure and for passion.” That’s how I feel most of the time about my career.
I love what I do. I really do. Genuinely, with all my heart, never want to give it up love. I just want to be able to do that more again, and worry about doing it less. So it’s clear I don’t like something, now I just have to figure out how I’m going to change it.