A long time ago, when I first started listening to the indie-folk-womyn's music I love so much, I listened to one particular album until I about wore it out. The album was Eugene band Babes with Axes' W.O.W. Live Babes. I highly recommend it to interested parties, it's a great CD. One of my favorite songs on it was one by T.R. Kelley called "Downwardly Mobile (aka Government Cheese)". In the song, Kelley warns of the lures of a materially-based life and preaches the value of a life based on doing what you love, rather than on money. At 16, I listened to this song and thought that there had to be another way, a way where you didn't have to choose between doing something you loved and having enough money. I grew up poor enough to think her romanticization of "living in a shack with a bike out back/eating Top Ramen and goverment cheese" was a bit ridiculous, but I also understood the appeal of dropping out of material society and making your own way.
What I didn't get a 16, though; what I didn't get until just recently, was the warning about getting trapped up in your money-driven life. There is one refrain that repeats "you gotta pay somebody money to do things you ain't got time to do because you are too busy earning money" over and over again. The point she was making, I now realize, is not that people miss out on making all their food from scratch when they're too busy earning money, but that earning money traps you in a cycle where you pay for things you didn't used to pay for, and then you can't stop earning money, because you can't stop paying for those things. Once you're caught up like that, dependent on all of the things your money can buy, you lose the option of dropping out, or quitting your job, or even of staying employed, but taking something with a lower pay rate and a higher satisfaction quotient.
And, sadly, that's where I seem to be. Over the course of the last year, I have managed to trap myself in a lifestyle that's expensive enough that quitting my current mindnumbing in job in favor of taking something with more intellectual vigor and more possibility, but smaller paychecks, doesn't seem like an option.
And it's not a situation where I can just stop drinking lattes and getting my hair cut at Aveda and then have enough extra to take a lower paying job. That would all help, of course, but the constraints aren't all that elastic. I have a mortgage now. I will soon have a car payment. I have significant medical expenses, both for myself and for my dog. I have finances that are inextricably linked to those of someone else, and I can't just not do my share because I don't feel like working here anymore.
I still, deep down, believe T.R. Kelley is wrong and there is a way to do both, to make enough money to meet the obligations you set for yourself and still do something that you find fufilling. I'm not talking about having a job that is your passion--like many people my age, I'm more and more convinced that jobs and passions come seperately more often than they come together. What I'm talking about is something that doesn't feel like it's making you dumber every day. Something with some room to grow and move. Something that doesn't build walls so close around you that you can't breathe. There has to be a way to find a job like that and still keep your house and keep yourself and your dog healthy. I'm ready to give up the lattes and expensive haircuts. They aren't worth the price I'm paying. But where's the middle ground?