Monday, June 10, 2013

Against the Flow

I left my job in downtown Chicago last week for a job in Lincoln Park. I went from alighting the Brown Line train at Adams & Wabash - one of the last stops in the Loop, after almost everyone working downtown has left the train - to alighting at Diversey. I now exit the train going against a stream of commuters headed downtown, past workers headed the other way - them in business attire, me in my black athletic pants and polo. They are going to the office. I am going to the massage clinic.

I left a job where I was easily making the most money I had ever made in my life (but still a very modest income by most standards), teaching at a massage school. I now work a job where the money is good when the work is there, but the work is inconsistent, especially during daytime hours. I work the daytime hours to accommodate my art at night, art that is rewarding in many ways, one of which is not financial. 

I could give you a laundry list of reasons I left my decent-paying job, but it boils down to this: I woke almost every day dreading going to work. Many days started at four or five a.m. because that's when I woke up, already stressed about the day, unable to fall back asleep. 

"Dude. You were teaching at a massage school. How stressful could it be?"

It was. And it was simply my time to go. Let's leave it at that. I gave my notice at an awkward time, in a meeting the president of the school had called to offer me a full-time position. (I was contracted from month-to-month.)

Do I question my decision? Every day, especially the ones when business is very slow, when I spend most of my day sitting at the Dunkin Donuts next to the clinic, sipping my coffee, reading, or jotting notes in my iPad. This week, I have made in three days what it took me one day to make at the school. 

I do miss the students - from the ones you only have to chat with or watch them work for five minutes to know they are going to be great in this field, (probably better than me), to the ones that aren't even really sure why they enrolled, but are still fun nonetheless. I miss my colleagues at the school. 

But most of my regretful feelings come from a place of fearing for my financial well-being, not my spiritual, emotional well-being. The stress on that front, while certainly not gone, has abated a great deal in the last week. 

Work is slow today, but other good things are beginning to happen. My private clients are picking up. I was hired yesterday by a chiropractor who is expanding his business next month. 

And I'm more free now to practice my art. The reason I moved to Chicago to begin with, the very thing getting a massage license was supposed to complement. 

Somebody once said - the Internet seems unclear on who, "Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive."

I often think the biggest the problem with the world is all too often, people do what they think is expected of them, and not what they actually want to do - and the thing that is expected of most of us is to be financially-secure, stable consumers with sensible jobs. 

We are expected to go with the flow. 

Me going against the flow in the past has cost me colleagues, friends, and in one case, a marriage. 

But it's been those times that I have been - if not the happiest - the most alive. Most of the times I've been unhappy and stagnant are when I went along with what I thought I was supposed to be doing, what was expected of me.  

Every day, I go to work going against the stream of people headed to their probably stable, decent-paying downtown jobs. My near future is uncertain. But I feel more alive now than I have the last few months. 

Here's to going against the flow. 

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