Friday, May 20, 2011

... and, We're Off and Running ...

If you're one of the 2.3 regular readers of this blog, you'll already be possibly nauseatingly familiar with my ongoing narrative of being jobless. Well, I'm pleased to announce that the narrative has changed. Not only do I have a job, I have a great full-time job that pays real money and has fantastic benefits, at an organization that isn't going anywhere anytime soon. My sincere apologies to my Tar Heel and Wolfpack friends (and most of the rest of the Atlantic Coast Conference), but I have accepted a position at Duke University. I are a Blue Devil now. (To the friend who asked if I could feel myself starting to hate UNC's basketball team yet, the answer is "I don't have to." During the offseason I am permitted merely to be dismissive of them, elevating that stance to rooting against them during the regular season. I am not required to hate them as a condition of my employment until the ACC tournament.)

I'm posting this on my art blog not just because it means I will be able to afford art materials again (and there IS an enormous deeply-cradled wooden panel and about 80 pounds of encaustic medium in my future), but because of how people responded to me during what is a fairly normal part of the interview process ... the musical question "why did you move to North Carolina?"

I've answered this question a bunch of times in a bunch of different ways, but it was only when I was talking with my friend from the Triangle Land Conservancy that I really figured it out. I knew it had something to do with money and with California starting to disappoint me in a lot of ways. I had thought about it from the perspective of what the move allowed me to move away from, but not ever about what it allowed me to go toward. A kind of perfect storm of events seem to have occurred over the past few months that made it all make sense. To make a very long story a little bit shorter, those developments are these:

* The idea for the Free Atelier, and the personal commitment to make it happen.

* My involvement with Local Color, the gallery co-op in Raleigh.

* My small web updating project with Triangle Land Conservancy, that turned into a separate special project creating a video for them, and that hopefully will turn into the larger art project I've envisioned.

* The understanding that I am an artist, that artmaking and helping other artists is an enormous part of what the counselors call "life satisfaction" for me.

* The understanding that I need--on a lot of different levels--to make my own money and enough of it to do an effective job of supporting myself and that having job security is an important part of my creative verve.

A lot of these things are outside the "artist" stereotype. I don't want to live in a garret and starve, I'm not made more creative by suffering or insecurity. I don't regard money as a necessary evil, or as any kind of evil at all. But I've never been the super-ambitious, money-motivated go-getter they liked to see in Silicon Valley. And finally when the first person at Duke asked me why I moved to North Carolina, I knew the answer and said it straight out: work-life balance.

I lived for 18 years in a place where many organizations really thought you weren't committed if you weren't having dinner at the office at least twice a week. I worked for organizations where some of the employees (programmers, usually) actually slept under their desks from time to time. I had the distinct feeling in job interviews there that, when asked "where do you want to be in five years," if I didn't tell the hiring manager I was gunning for his or her job (or better yet, his or her supervisor's job) I was losing points in the hiring race.
As expenses rose in California and my pay shrank, I knew that to stay I would have to either have the kind of job that eats you alive and consumes you entirely without leaving room for anything else, or (possibly AND) work for a company that did things I was not proud of, didn't agree with, and couldn't embrace. And I didn't want to have to be a broke artist, or dependant on someone else, or a person who only had work and no room for anything else in their lives. Just. Not. Me.

I don't know if it's just different times we live in, or that it is such a different place, but every time the words "work-life balance" came out of my mouth, everyone at the table nodded sagely and not only looked like they understood but frequently actually said something to assure me that This Job Was Not Like That. This means the Free Atelier can go forward and I don't have to worry about making it pay. I can continue to experiment with encaustic and work big and work often and not have to worry about how much money I'm spending on "learning." I can sign up for pole-dancing class and go out for drinks with friends and meet new people and do goofy things (like dance all night in ridiculously high heels on the uneven outdoor patio at Tony's Bourbon Street Oyster Bar) and know that no one will be angry that I'm not spending Friday night at the office.

It's not just a job, it's a release into all the things I wanted, all the things I need to keep doing. I don't have to give up anything that I've come to love. It's a beautiful perfect wonderful situation, and I damn well deserve it. We all do. And I think the trick is finding that point of view that lets you see what you're moving toward that opens the doors and lets it all pour in.

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