Tim Wu's recent New York Times article, "In Praise of Mediocrity," kinda' hit home for me. In it, he praises the practice of having a hobby, of doing something for the joy of it. I can appreciate that.
I may have a list of things on my profiles that describe the different things I do "Teacher, Musician, Photographer, etc...," but am I really good at any of them? Not really. And do I make money from any of them but being a teacher? Nope. Do I do any of them to the degree that people seek em out to hire me to do them? Nope.
[T]here’s a deeper reason, I’ve come to think, that so many people don’t have hobbies: We’re afraid of being bad at them. Or rather, we are intimidated by the expectation — itself a hallmark of our intensely public, performative age — that we must actually be skilled at what we do in our free time. Our “hobbies,” if that’s even the word for them anymore, have become too serious, too demanding, too much an occasion to become anxious about whether you are really the person you claim to be.
I've experienced this before. Many people seem to expect me to be a super-professional of sorts with my music and photography. They ask when I'm going to put together a gallery show, finish my album, or start a band.
And, to a point, that makes sense. I should get a band going and I'm sure I'd find joy in it; I should learn how to do all the darkroom stuff in order to justify all my darkroom equipment; I've written a bunch of songs, so I should release them to the public. And I feel that sort of pressure... to publicize my skills in a way that I can gain acknowledgement and deserve the titles I put on my business card, or in the right column of this website, or on all of my social media profiles.
However, I don't seem to have that drive. I've tried making the music more professional before, but I keep putting it off and I'm kinda' ok with it. The older I get, the less I feel like I need to share my emotions with people; my drive to share my music in a professional context has faded with that. I've been enjoying making photographs as of late, but I'm not out there hiring models in order to show off my skills. I'm quite happy to keep my photos "in-house." The article mentions running. I like running, enough that I push myself to run kinda' far now and then, but I'm not "in training." Lately I've been going down to the weight room and trying to stay fit, but I'm not really bodybuilding.
In all these things, I'm a hobbyist. I don't do any of them with a passion that creates cash for myself, and cash is the only real currency of capitalism. I don't have much desire to mix Capitalism with my hobbies. So I keep them with myself.
It makes me wonder how I'd even jump on anything if I had the chance. How would I jump on a bona fide music career? Or photography gig? I have no idea. And with the need to pay for child support, lawyers, and all that separation-related stuff, I can't really abandon my job these days.
So I'll keep up with my hobbying and maybe I can bring in a few bucks as some hobbyist side hustle.
And I'll take more pride in keeping "Musician" and "Photographer" in my profiles, even if they are just a hobby, and even if Capital doesn't recognize my accomplishments.
Last Friday, I visited the open mic night at the Tractorgrease Cafe down on the Chilliwack River Road. It was a good night. I played my first two songs from my New Year's resolution to write a song a week. They seemed to go over well; I got some good feedback.
I happened to sit down next to a party of three who had shown up to Tractorgrease for the first time. We got to talking pretty easily. The most outgoing of the bunch had the gift of the gab and told stories about his past, his good business dealings, his satisfied life, and his aspirations for the future. It was nice to hear a bunch of stories from someone who seemed so confident about their values and place in the world.
He talked about money. He described various accomplishments and said, "Most people don't know what serenity you can find when you stop worrying about money. I hope you find that sort of serenity yourself." And I agreed that I'd like to have that sort of serenity.
I totally get it. I worry about money. I think about money a lot. Too much.
To me, there's a money spectrum of sorts. On the one end, there's the reality that money is just a human construct that has no real bearing on our inner lives; if a meteor hit the earth and vaporized everything, the next society wouldn't naturally evolve a money-based system. There are almost always ways to gather enough money to get by, no matter what challenges there might be in the world.
On the other end, money is a reality that has real consequences in our society. Although it's not worth worrying about, it's also such an integral aspect of our lives that we need to take it into consideration. And sometimes, oftentimes, we have to do things we don't really want to do in order to get some of the money necessary to do the things we actually want to do.
Back to the cafe last Friday: this is all Captain Obvious stuff, but it seemed like this guy next to me was advocating for the one side of the spectrum: don't worry about money; breaking free from the shackles of money brings "solace" (his words). Simultaneously, he described a lifestyle well beyond my ability in any way: lavishing loved ones with gifts, owning a boat, and various hedonistic pleasures.
So it seems like, at least in this case, if you have enough money... you don't have to worry so much about money.
I'd like to think I don't worry as much about money as I used to, and that might be the case. I've kinda' settled for my lot in life these days, considering that I've topped-out on my pay scale for this position. Apart from incremental salary increases over the next few years, the only ways I can make a few extra bucks here and there are through side hustles of sorts. I can handle that. And I'll be OK as long as I can generally hold myself together and keep my job. And perhaps a good, consistent job would be the best way to be kind to future-self anyhow.
But I'm going to keep my eye out for those ways that I can build a better income for myself. I'm admittedly jealous/envious of people who can be a little more free with the stuff. Not envious enough to take a big risk at the moment, but enough to keep an eye on the horizon.
ON ANOTHER NOTE: A couple days ago, Facebook brought it to my attention that it was my 3rd anniversary of playing at the Tractorgrease Cafe. Here's a clip from that little set:
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