Money seeking doesn’t exist on one end of a continuum with creativity seeking on the other end. This seems obvious to me as an adult, but there are different levels of knowing something, and when I was a teenager looking through professions, I told myself some pretty bogus stories about why I was going to be broke.
- All I want to do is write or teach. Writers die young and they’re poor.
- I love music. I know I can handle pursuing it because I’m good at depriving myself. I don’t even want a partner or a kid (I have both now by the way).
- I’m good at saving money because I like cheap activities like sitting around with books. I’ll survive on very little and make the most of it.
- Look at all the adult things I'm not excited to do. I’m not made for this world...
My sour attitude even showed up in some of my early songs (like this one written at 18).
“Better buy me a big box and put it beneath a bridge. Did my diagnosis read self-inflicted deafness?” Well, if that doesn’t make you want to throw your graduation cap in the air and party all night!
While the above video doesn’t represent what I’m like over ten years later, there’s still a strong part of me who believes life is way too short to fake my way through anything. I like to keep that girl tucked in my back pocket.
A few years after this video, I was a full-time singer-songwriter in a $350 a month apartment above a Radio Shack right next to a library.
I didn’t have TV or the internet (insanely frugal, I know), but I would go to the library every day from about 10:00 to 11:00 a.m. to go online, book some music shows, struggle with the idea of promoting myself, and then grab some books and read throughout the afternoon until a show or practice later that night.
Along with a morning dog walk, this was my daily groove for about three years - resulting in a book a day at some points and an average of about a book a week. I read everything from interests I had as a kid but never had time to explore (like bird feathers, Wyatt Erp, and holograms) to autobiographies of rappers whose music I didn’t even listen to…. (Who is this 50 Cent)?
Your Librarian Knows You Best
During the end of this lifestyle stint (while I was starting to go back to school and my husband was busy remodeling our house), I had a revealing experience with an eccentric librarian.
I took my books up to the check-out counter and with a caustic smile, he said, “You used to be interested in science, alternative medicine, and the secrets of the universe. Now you’re interested in money, real estate, and baby-making.”
Well, well. I guess my internal self had been shifting and changing. This evolution (or regression based on his tone) was apparent in my choice of books.
This librarian is basically harmless. Regardless of his reputation (he’s also known for sketching people in public while they don’t realize it), I was left contemplating his words.
Why Was I Suddenly Obsessed With “Material Things” Instead of Philosophy?
The main question wasn’t whether my thoughts had become boring or not, but whether my nature to systemize had become hyper-focused on something else (something boring to some people but not others - hello appreciation rates). As long as you find systemizing exciting (and you are even slightly flexible in your ability to fixate on different subjects) - you’ll be in your element.
It wasn’t that I wasn't interested in translating the abstract and esoteric into lyrics anymore, it was that I felt too different living the way I was living, and I wanted to set up my life in order to explore abstract ideas at a later date with less financial anxiety.
If could find a theory where creativity existed in the brain on a continuum with money skills, maybe my curiosity on this matter could finally be assuaged. I could consult the theory, make some excuses for myself, and close this up in a box and never think about it again. I would tell myself, “Oh, you’re either going to be good with one or the other, but no one really gets to be good at both, especially not both at the same time...”
However, I don’t think the struggle between creativity and business is a simple matter of brain biology. It’s also a conglomeration of cultural stories we tell ourselves. For me, there were also specific lies I told myself for some reason or another. This belief system caused me to feel guilty about being paid well for what I did. I’m now setting out to rewrite these stories by breaking them down and throwing in my own interpretation.
This journey started out with me rotating my narrow interests, but now I’m trying to learn to live in both extremes (the extreme of a mind obsessed with creativity and a mind obsessed with maximizing financial choice).
If wisdom is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in your mind without freaking out, I suppose I’m trying to gain a little wisdom, and it’s not boring at all.