When You Feel Alone On Your Non-Traditional Career Path, Read This


I was out with some friends the other night when someone told me that I didn’t have a real job. My immediate thought was “But I go to the same building routinely, put on a uniform, and get paid to do what I do. Doesn’t that make it real?” Apparently to some people it doesn’t.

I was taken aback at first. Then I was upset. Then I went through my weekly stage of self-doubt and pity because the voice inside my head told me that I should be doing better. And then I was just plain angry. I was angry because I do have a real job. And no one has the right to tell me that I don’t.

I know I can’t be the only one who doesn’t have a 9-5 job or a “full-time” job. Although I have to say that considering the exhaustion I feel after a shift sometimes, it certainly feels like it’s full-time. I can say that I work in customer service or guest relations or some kind of phrase that makes it more appealing but let’s be real here: I’m an usher at a musical. Every night, I go to the same theatre, Ideal with people, and I watch the same show. Most nights, it doesn’t feel that important or necessary. And the nights when a guest is screaming in my face or telling me that I’m incompetent, it definitely makes me question why I do what I do. But when that one woman thanks you for helping her out or that one kid smiles at you when the show is over, your day can feel a bit more complete. It certainly makes the job feel real. But some people will still argue with me on that. Some people will still look down on you. To those people, I have something to say.

I’m twenty-three years old with a Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing. I grew up in a family of 9-5 workers. I was told to have a back-up plan. Back then, I didn’t understand why. But I do now. When loans hit and your parents aren’t buying your food or clothes anymore, you begin to understand why people settle for jobs they may not love. Money isn’t everything, but it’s damn important. I could go out and find a 9-5 job to make my life a little easier but at what cost? So you people can find me more socially acceptable or worthy? My life is about the arts. It’s not about cubicles or “normal” hours or the number on the check each week. I’m not in love with my job. I hardly like it, to be honest. But the hours work well with my writing schedule. My coworkers make me smile. The check pays the loans and the cute cardigan that I had to have. All of that considering, I actually have it pretty good.

And to anyone who has been told that they don’t have a real job, anyone who is going to graduate and not immediately start off the dream career, and anyone in the arts who is just trying to make it work: it’s going to be okay.

Some days, most days, are going to be very difficult. That image you have of yourself getting published or booking a show or opening an exhibit is going to fade when you put on that uniform or get talked down to by your boss. Don’t let it fade out completely. Put in the hours that you need and use the rest of the time to chase that passion that put you here in the first place. I hope to see you on the other side when it all comes together.

My job is part-time and frustrating. My work is my writing. I live a life where I can do both. And both are very real to me.