By: Joe Feldman of Ask Men
Ever thought of turning off your work laptop, crouching into a stress-induced ball of muscles and launching that laptop straight out of your office window? You would then don your cape and ride your dragon into the sunset, slink into your castle, drink your mead and bask in the joy of funemployment while following your true calling (can you tell I’ve been watching Game of Thrones?). I made the decision to do just that.
I left my cushy full-time job, switched my status to part-time and became a working actor. Although I knew what initial sacrifices I was making, I could not have been less prepared for the breadth of changes to come. I did, however, attempt to mitigate those changes. I took the full-time job I had thinking that it could act as a financial cushion. I knew that at one point I would need to make a decision and wanted to be ready. In the meantime, I auditioned for all the acting jobs I had time for, took as many classes as I could afford and ran myself into the ground.
When in the midst of my juggling I became incapable of doing anything well, I asked myself: Will I forever wonder what my life could have been? Will I hit 50 and wish I’d done things differently? Who will I be in 10 years?
So I pulled the plug. This is what happens when you abandon a conventional lifestyle to follow your dream.
First, expect your social life to be the first thing that’s shattered. Maintaining social connections when most of the people you know are 9-to-5ers is more of a challenge than you might think. Most people spend every weekday staring at their computers, meeting their sales numbers, going to business meetings and plugging away at their daily routines. Meeting up after work and on weekends is an obvious extension of everyone’s office life. Taking away the one constant — daily work — drastically changes your ability to see these people.
Socializing becomes very difficult when a random call at 6 p.m. means you will be unavailable for the next three days because you have just been asked to audition in New York City, and you aren’t sure where your next paycheck will come from. Put this all together, and there are whole months when you, the adventurous artist, see no one outside your fellow artists and significant other, leaving your corporate friends and college buddies to wonder if you even exist.
But when you are lucky enough to see them, you will notice they will actually want to know about your life. Everyone dreams about following their less financially rewarding interests, but most are often unwilling to let go of the amenities constant paychecks and upward advancement bring about. Many of your closest friends will want to live vicariously through you. It is both baffling and admirable to them that you chose to put your stable career in flux for a mere possibility.
It is that piqued interest that may be the savior of your relationships. Your schedule and life interests will continue to differentiate and that one bridge can hold your friends to you. Their interest in you and your career will be genuine and in many instances will manifest itself through social assistance. This might mean they offer you room and board when you travel to a new city, attend all your shows or celebrate with you your most recent role.
On the flipside, money will be tight, and it’s important not to get too carried away. Every social outing will need to be measured in terms of your upcoming needs. Each will need to be weighed against your pending bills, what the costs of your artistic trade will run you and if there are other more important events coming up — such as a wedding you can’t miss. It is by far the toughest part to adjust to. This is also the hardest part for your friends to understand. They will wonder why you have been canceling out on them. It’s hard for them to see how busy you are. They don’t see how hard it is to keep in touch when you spend half your week struggling to meet your basic needs.
The best way to counter this is to keep the people you know involved in your life. Invite them to your shows, premieres and events. They will feel honored you chose them and they will feel invested in your “alternate” career. At the same time, they will see the final result of all the work you put in. They will finally understand why you have fallen off the face of the world. It is an appreciation that can lead to untold immeasurable benefits. After all, you never know where someone’s career will go. Today’s young corporate analyst could end up becoming a famous broadcaster with hundreds of industry connects.
When making such a life-changing career choice, it is nigh on impossible for you to keep up with everyone you know. No matter what, the danger exists that you will lose some of your friends entirely. This is an unfortunate and inevitable side effect of having vastly different lives. Most people will still be there for you. Those people may mind that they have not seen you in weeks, but they will understand that it is all part of the journey. It may be a haphazard journey you have chosen for yourself, but one day, you will repay them handsomely for their trust.