I Choose Having Fun Over Having a Career
I may not have a lot of money or job stability, but I'm not tied down to something I hate.
When I turned 16, my mom told me, “I'm not giving you money anymore. If you want money, go get a job.” This guy that I liked worked at Panera Bread, so I was like, “Alright, I'll go work at Panera Bread.” Quickly, I started realizing my passions lay elsewhere, and this job was just what I had to do to make the money to be able to go to concerts and buy records and do the things that I actually wanted to do.
Since then, I've been a professional dogsitter/animal caretaker and whisperer for hundreds of clients. I’ve worked in nightlife. I've been a club promoter and booker for my own party and also a hostess. (I can't say I was ever great at that, but it was fun.) And from there, I started working with bands as a tour manager, driver, merch person, make-up artist, booker—every job on a tour, I’ve done it. After I moved to L.A., that opened up a whole door of other side hustles and gigs because L.A. is just very much a gig town. I think that’s what attracted me to moving here. I've been a production assistant, a set builder, a florist and a background actor. I've worked in fashion, from screen printing to shipping to tie-dyeing to working retail. And I’m always kind of bartending in between and doing things like that. (Although I think I’ve actually moved past bartending, finally, even though it’s a good fallback to make quick money.)
At no point have I ever thought I'm going to dedicate my life to just one thing. I've always been doing some sort of hustle or juggling a few different things so that I can maintain my lifestyle and go out of town if I need to or jump on a tour or be in this production or whatever. Because that's how I've always set my life up for myself. I'm never tied down to one thing.
Doing One Thing Forever Doesn’t Make Sense to Me
I don't make a lot of money. It's just that I've realized that I can’t do the daily grind. Going to a nine-to-five gig for me is like fighting gravity. Even just knowing that I had to be in the same place at the same time, every single day, five days a week, that I was always going to have to do my shopping and hiking or whatever on the weekends because I was never going to have a weekday afternoon off, I just could not handle that at all.
There can be overlaps between my work life and what I do for fun. I work in fields I like, where I actually enjoy the gigs—in music and TV and fashion and merchandising and things like that. But I always reach a point with things where if it becomes the only way I’m making money, then I totally lose interest. That happened to me with tie-dyeing, where I really liked to tie-dye as a hobby, but then during the pandemic, selling tie-dye masks became my only way of making any money. As soon as it became like, “Oh fuck, I have to do this batch or I'm not paying my rent this month,” I was immediately so disenchanted that I didn’t want to tie-dye anything ever again.
I know some people who do what they love for work. But the concept of doing only one thing that I love for the rest of my life, and that's also the only way that I make money, is terrifying and weird to me. I’ve always seen a real distinction between the things I like to do and the things that make me money. I understand that commitment to the craft is how you can also make a lot more money than I make now. But I guess at a certain point, I just had to let that go and realize that it'll come and go when it comes and goes, and if I at least am finding some kind of joy and satisfaction in what I'm doing, that’s a lot better to me any day of the week.
I’ve been working this way since around 2011, when I started dogsitting and got hired at a music venue in Chicago. Up until that point, I had really only worked regular jobs. I didn't graduate college. My mom was like, “If you're not going to go to school, we're not giving you money or health insurance, so you’d better find something that gives those to you.” So I started working at Starbucks part-time because you can work 20 hours a week there and get full health benefits. I was 20 years old, and just like, “I guess this is what you're supposed to do: have healthcare and go to your job and make money so you can do other things on the weekend. That's what normal people do.”
I was obviously miserable working at Starbucks. But some people who worked at this venue in Chicago were regulars there, and one day they said, “Hey, we have an opening for a cocktail waitress. You don't even have to interview; just show up on Friday night.” I showed up for a sold-out show, and they threw me on the floor, and I realized maybe I don't need the Starbucks job anymore. I started going to shows every night, making a bunch of tip money, and then I also found this crazy dogsitting gig through a friend. That’s when I was like, “Oh, maybe I don't need a real job.” I started going out and becoming involved in queer nightlife and realized that I can pursue the things I want to be doing and also kind of turn it into a hustle so that I can just keep living and being me and not have to worry about going to a nine-to-five job every day. I knew I just didn’t have that in me.
How I Figured Out How to Live Off of What Makes Me Happy
I always try to have at least one thing that's a little bit steady. Right now, I work at a clothing brand a few days a week. It’s nice to have that, knowing that I have at least a little bit of a paycheck coming in every couple of weeks, but it’s also part-time, so it allows me to fill the rest of my time with being a merch person for local shows or production assistant on a set for a few days and then be done with it. Then, I'll do background acting in between, on off days. None of these things pay the bills on their own, so it's kind of the fun struggle I have every month, filling in each day of like, “Okay, which job can I do? What hustle can I do these days to keep it all in motion?” Because, you know, jobs are the same as anything else, where if you let it sit for too long, you forget how to use it. It becomes stagnant, and then you don't have new opportunities coming in. I guess this also applies to my general life philosophy, where it's like with your thoughts, with your space, with everything, if you don't consistently use it and keep things moving, the energy becomes stagnant, and then you close the doors to new opportunities.
You never know when the next thing’s coming. I've had to quit jobs before I knew what my next gig was going to be, which is always super scary. You want to have that stability. But I knew that if I didn't get rid of this thing that was sucking up all my emotional energy, I was never going to have the energy open or the space open for the next thing to come in.
Like, for example, the merch company I was working for ended up letting me go really abruptly, although I had kind of already been thinking of quitting. And I had nothing lined up, so it was super scary. I had two weeks of severance, and right on the day that it was going to run out, I got a call for a tour that was leaving literally the next day, and I was the only person who could do it because I didn't have a fucking job. And that ended up being a tour where I met some people who to this day are some of my very closest friends.
That's been a common theme as well, where I trust my instincts because they usually lead to way bigger rewards and results down the line. It’s important to me to keep myself open to the possibilities of the universe. That's when I find that most of these things come my way. I get interviews, I get offered jobs, people think of me for things because I've left that space open in my life for them. I definitely enjoy the fluidity of having one thing lead to the next, where I can just hop in this van with these people at the last minute.
That's literally how I started touring. This band that I had never met before pulled up in Chicago. I had a kind of a psychic vision telling me, “You have to go meet these people.” So they were kind of joking around and were like, “You want to come on tour with us?” I looked at my calendar, and I had eight days in a row off from the club where I was cocktail waitressing and I was like, “Yeah, I’ll come with you in your van with four strange men I've never met before.” And that ended up being the actual reason that I'm now on my path of touring and doing all these things—because I got on the road with them and instantly found a space where all of my talents were utilized. It was something that I'd literally never thought about doing, and it’s led to a whole bunch of other opportunities since then.
Not Having a “Real Job” Can Be Scary, but It’s Worth It
Sometimes, I have to push myself out of my comfort zone and maybe just quit all my jobs and say, “Okay, I don't know what the next step is.” Which is super scary, but what’s scarier to me is getting stuck in the same routine, where I don’t feel like I'm progressing in my life or I’m not changing anything about myself or my viewpoints or perspectives. And so, at a certain point, I always have to go do something that allows me to open that up.
I feel like “what do you want to do when you grow up?” has become a very antiquated concept. I'll always be evolving and shape-shifting and changing throughout my life. And so my career, or whatever you want to call it, is going to always change along with me. I think a lot more people these days are embracing that and realizing that we all can be kind of fluid within anything. It's like our jobs can be that way too and be constantly changing with what we like to do and who we become.
People always ask, “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?” But if you told me 10 years ago what I’ve done by now, I never would have even believed it because it's actually been bigger than what I could even have imagined. So I think that even the concept of saying, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” limits you to just one thing, and I think that closes a lot of doors for you to find other things that you might like or be good at. If you leave those options open for yourself, the possibilities are limitless.