A tiny wave of panic hits me every time someone asks what I do for a living. I try to speak as neutrally as possible, but I can’t avoid stirring some interest when I say, “Oh, I work at [insert local TV news station],” much to my chagrin. It’s not completely truthful, but I’m being as brief as I can. Yes, I work part time in TV news, and it’s as cool as it sounds. I also work at a bookstore in order to pay the bills. Working two jobs is chaotic and exhausting, but I feel confident in my career choices. Following your dreams involves more under eye circles and overdraft fees than I imagined, though.
Unfortunately, early, vague dreams of career ambition such as mine cannot be condensed into a job description. In this sense, it’s about the journey, not the destination. The underlying theme throughout the journey is purpose. Without purpose in your work, you begin to lose your sense of identity. I experienced this, and it was a spur in my foot that hinted I’d strayed off the path of my goals, dreams, and aspirations. I was working in finance, yet I yearned to do something important, something that had a tangible effect on my community. Finance marketing was the opposite of all the words that I’d use to describe what I’d hoped my future would be. So I decided to change things.
I took extended lunch breaks while working at the finance firm in order to interview for writing and media positions. This made me feel like a cheating lover. In my final affair, I interviewed for a part-time editorial position at the news station and got offered the job on the spot. I accepted, but I immediately noted that the money wasn’t going to be enough. Above minimum wage jobs, I at first decided to create an Etsy shop in order to cover the gap in my income. This money source also agreed with my sense of self, but making $100 dollars a month on paintings and vintage findings wasn’t enough to fund my post-college lifestyle. My lease would be up in two weeks. I had student loans. My parents persuaded me to try to find another job; I reluctantly agreed.
The Side Hustle
I got another part time job at a brick and mortar bookstore, hoping there would be minimal retail trauma. It seemed like a goal achieved; I could support myself by working at this dreamy bookstore while devoting most of my energy to my news job. Actually living this schedule for more than a week is a less of a romantic story, though. Sometimes I work 1-8 p.m. at the bookstore followed by a 3:30-11:30 a.m. daybreak shift at the news. On average, I work 50 hours a week, switching roles and schedules like a busy highway under construction. I could crash anytime and anywhere. I’m an underfunded construction project, too: yesterday, I woke up with 27 cents in my checking account. Luckily, I got paid today.
The incremental achievements
In spite of the unpredictable schedule and the underpaid work, I know where I’m going career-wise, and I don’t need Google Maps for reassurance. Playing the role of part-time journalist, part-time bookseller supports my sense of self, and it provides a vision of who I could be: a staff writer, a producer, a journalism professor. The journey may be exhausting, but it feels authentic, which is enough for me.