The Juggling Act
My Facebook feed just threw this Wall Street Journal article at me about millenials pursuing both professional and artistic careers. Although the Journal presents this as another one of those weird things these tech savvy youngsters came up with, they are but the next generation in a long line of artists who've had ambitions beyond their artistic endeavors.
We are brought up with the idea that everybody and everything should have a single goal. From ancient legends to modern day sci-fi sagas, our heroes follow a path to fulfill a specific fate. We are trained to do one job, getting ever more specialized as we go along, striving for perfection in a very narrow field. It's like wearing a straight-jacket, and we end up believing that any activity is a privilege of those who are the very best at it, that we have no place in having a go ourselves.
The thing is, though, that we are all way too complex as individuals to find fulfillment in just one aspect of our lives. We have an inherent need to step out of these roles, like donning a ghoulish costume for Halloween. The many sides to our personalities need to have an outlet. Staying focused on just one of them for most of our lives is just unnatural, even if we can't achieve perfection in all our fields of interest.
I'm a legal translator and I play guitar player writing and recording my own songs. I feel that having more than one pursuit in my life, rather than these being a burden on each other, only broadens my perspective. They allow me to get to know people from very different walks of life, with different experiences and points of view, and this provides me with a deeper understanding of the world around me. My professional and artistic activities also reinforce each other. Having a secure "day job" gives me a lot of creative freedom that would be difficult to achieve if I had to work my way through the music business exclusively. On the other hand, making music gives me an outlet to deal with stress or frustration in my professional career. It's not always easy to find the time for both activities but it's well worth it.
The much maligned gig economy of our post-financial crisis world may just have a positive aspect in making us realize that we all have many talents and that our different aspirations are not necessarily exclusive of each other.