Day Job of the Dead

After a week of nearly around-the-clock parenting, I finally got the chance to escape the house for nine glorious hours today.  The downside is that I escaped to work, but at this point, I’ll take what I can get.

Actually, the truth is, I kind of enjoy my job — it’s not too taxing, my boss is very pleasant and, most importantly, the paycheck clears every week.  Of course, after being out of work for a couple of months, I’d probably enjoy getting kicked in the head for a decent hourly wage plus benefits, but things could definitely be worse.  (I just thought that “Day Job of the Dead” was a snappy title for this post, though we’ll see if we can tie it all together thematically in the end.  No promises.)

But still — It’s a day job, the IED of the creative life.  I’ve always been a little spooked by this Onion article, and not just because of the Geddy Lee reference at the end that hit a little too close to home. Sure, it’s a joke… but it’s not. That’s what makes it so hilarious.  And scary.  And why for years I had a hard copy of it tacked to the wall of my cubicle at my former job, until I realized I was actually turning into the fictional subject of that article and couldn’t bear to look at it anymore.

My friend Dave recently wrote a great post about surviving your day job.  I have nothing to add in terms of advice — he pretty much nails it.  (This is why he and I are collaborating on a script: he does all the hard work and I get to ride on his coattails.  Hooray for the far side of the ampersand!)  But on the drive home from work today, while listening to some tuneage from my misspent youth, I found myself thinking about how the choices that seem so clear when you’re a kid become considerably cloudier the older you get.

It’s one thing to be 16 years old, fired up by repeated readings of THE FOUNTAINHEAD and/or ON THE ROAD and vowing that you’re going to follow your dreams, come hell or high water — no compromise, man, no surrender.  No listening to your guidance counselor or your parents about choosing a “practical” major in college, either.  It’s quite another to be that same 16-year-old, only it’s 20 years later and you’re still keeping the fire alive, though your boss/girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse/kids/landlord/whoever are doing their damnedest to blow it out.  Or so it seems, anyway.  And what you do to pay the rent is not exactly what you thought you’d be doing — unless your dream was to crunch numbers, drive a big brown truck or put on the sandwich costume and dance around in front of your local Subway while you train to attain the rank of “sandwich artist.” 

Of course, nobody put a gun to your head and sent you down this path in life.  You knew what you were getting into when you signed on.  Except that you didn’t, really.  Who does?  You just wanted to spend your life painting.  Or writing.  Or shredding on the guitar.  Or dressing up in a tutu and singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” between two burning TVs for an audience of bored-looking art gallery patrons.  Whatever.  You just thought it would work out somehow as long as you held on long enough.  And maybe it will… but life keeps getting in the way.  Enter the day job.

I guess the trick is to keep the “day” part of “day job” in the equation.  As Dave says in his post, you are not a teacher — or an accountant or secretary.  You are an unemployed screenwriter.  You are not how you pay the rent unless you let yourself be.  In the end, nobody can kill your dreams but you, just like the title of this post implies.

Look at that — I pulled it together in the end after all. Sort of.  🙂

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2 Comments on “Day Job of the Dead”

  1. “he does all the hard work and I get to ride on his coattails”

    Wait a minute…that was MY plan!

    If we’re standing on each other’s coattails, does that mean we’re going in circles?

  2. writerdad303 Says:

    Good question. Ask me again in a few months when we’re slogging through the first draft!

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