Tried and True Ways to Live Your Passion
Compiled by Arthuer Stamoulis
How do you afford to “live your passion”? Being an activist, an organizer, an artist, a musician, a stay-at-home parent—or otherwise living one’s passion—doesn’t always pay so well. Clamor readers share their strategies for doing what they want to do, while keeping a roof over their heads and food in their bellies.
Cooperative, simple living has carried me through two decades of freelance radicalism. I’ve lived in cooperative rental housing throughout, sharing food and resources with my housemates and mostly working from home. I haven’t owned a car or had health insurance in almost 20 years, but, except for my stint canvassing, haven’t had a boss in that period either. I’ve lived the last dozen years in a great co-op house in a neighborhood that my peers could never afford to own in. I can walk, bike, or bus to anywhere I need to go. I’ve always done exactly what I was passionate about, and not much else. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend my career/lifestyle path to everyone, but it’s worked pretty well for me.
Seattle, Pacific Cascadia
I’m a music maker. I love to create it, to be created by it, and to find myself satisfied by the final product. I decided to do it full time this February after my second album got back from the manufacturer. I took a huge risk considering that I had no money saved up, and no guaranteed income. I chickened out a couple times since then, but spending any less than all my time on music is wasted time.
Now I survive by playing cover gigs at nearby restaurants and bars. It pays the bills in a lot less time than the daily grind. I’m working on a new project. It’s a bit more daunting than before, as I have less money than before. Regardless, I have to find a way to make it work, and having nothing to fall back on only pushes me further.
RELY ON FAMILY
My passion is twofold: Being an animal rights activist and a stay-at-home mom. I am married and my husband works full-time in the gaming industry. My parents are retired, so they babysit quite a bit for me. I am so lucky to have family support, so I can spend time at home with my daughter and also pursue my activism as well.
I sort of have an “allowance.” My husband budgets in for my activist donations, travel, conferences, printing costs, etc. When my daughter is a few years older, I plan on bringing her with me to speak up for animals. She is already a BIG animal lover!
MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR FREE TIME
It’s not that complicated. I have a fulltime job editing textbooks at a large corporate publisher, where I ply my craft for a steady paycheck. Evenings and weekends I have free to pursue a spiritual/physical practice of taijiquan (t’ai chi ch’uan) that gives meaning to my ordinary, middle-class life.
FIND YOUR DREAM JOB
My passion is Animal Liberation and I am able to work for that by being an employee at PETA. Working at PETA is a dream job because I am able to pay for rent and take care of my cat companions while working for a cause that I feel so passionately about. I share an apartment with my girlfriend and our two cats and we ride our bikes to work and do demonstrations on the weekend.
My job mostly consists of corresponding with our youth activists. I help them organize demonstrations, make sure they get their materials, answer any questions they have about going vegan and just about any other Animal Rights related questions you can imagine. I love my job/life, to say the least.
Chris Garnett (a.k.a. KentuckyFriedCruelty.com, I legally changed my name)
CREATE YOUR DREAM JOB
In order to subsidize my addiction to publishing and distribution of books and literature, I worked for 3 1/2 years as a food delivery person and restaurant manager. I saved my pennies and put about $100 per week into a project called Microcosm. I stopped owning a car, cut my expenses, stopped buying everything, and moved into a house with numerous revolving roommates.
After awhile, I was able to quit the job and focus on the “hobby”/passion for 100 hours per week or so. I worked up from about $1.50 per hour up to reasonable wages and now have 6 other paid staff people besides myself. It’s been said that we are the only small press that makes money outside of grants or having independently wealthy backing. After 9.75 years of doing this project, I’ve seen what applied activism and practice of ethics can accomplish and much of the time there isn’t anything else I’d rather be doing.
FORGET YOUR DREAM JOB
I tried to live my passion. Really, I did! But I’m in one of the most expensive, conservative cities in the U.S.—San Diego. The weather is lovely, but...so what?
My lifelong vehemence for activism and progressivism manifested itself in working with homeless women downtown. The hours sucked, the pay sucked, and I learned more about drugs and mental illness than I ever needed. For the record, it was the most rewarding job ever, though I came home exhausted and a little frightened by the stories and daily lives I witnessed in these sometimes lost and often just-plain-tired women. But paying rent and car insurance and occasionally ordering pizza took its toll so I moved on. Temping paid better but sucked, and lead to the oath that I would never become an attorney or work for any.
Finally, I discovered a job that allowed for a reasonable balance of my true passion mixed with better pay, insurance benefits, and job security. Perhaps you could say I’ve sold out. I think I’m just making the best of things. I cross the border daily to Tijuana, where I am executive assistant to the Vice-President of a Japanese company. I use three languages, which truly are my passion, every day. (Spanish, Japanese, and English.) It is, yes, a large maquiladora that produces remote controls. But honestly, it doesn’t feel quite like raping and pillaging.
San Diego, CA
Today I picked up a check for an article I wrote for Spare Change News. $50. Not much but today I also received notice that an article I wrote was being published in a magazine from Australia called User’s News. $81.64. It is a magazine for heroin addicts that features articles about the safest ways to inject drugs, options for users, and adventures of users. I write about what I know, what I care about, and what my imagination can concoct…
I have a passion for opiates. Unfortunately, it is a costly passion and my pay for wordly goods cannot cover a habit. Which is why I no longer have one. It is even a rush to find out that some universities and some prisons use my writing on addictions for their classes and groups…
But how do I survive? What keeps me going? Well, for one, I do Substance Use counseling. Most of the people in the field called it Substance Abuse counseling but my take on it is a bit different. I also work as a poetry editor and do poetry shows. Sometimes I get paid; sometimes not.
Marc D. Goldfinger
GO BACK TO YOUR ROOTS
The land I live on has been in my family for four generations. It was first a homestead farm for my great-grandparents and later a dairy business for my Grandpa and Gramma. When the farming industry took some hard hits in the late ‘60s early ‘70s they had to sell some of their 360 arces off and move to town. They held onto the old farmhouse and about 20 acres, which my parents bought after they got hitched.
Five years ago my father and I built an A-frame cabin on the property for me to live in and I started organic gardening. I started to sell my extra produce at the local Farmers Market. Each year I got a little bigger and gained a few more regular customers. In 2003 I was able to farm full-time through the growing season and was asked to be VP of our market. In 2004 my partner, Samuel, moved to the farm and encouraged me to expand yet again.
We now have dairy goats, honeybees, and laying hens. We are starting a CSA next year and have started to sell to local restaurants. By next year I hope to be able to be self-employed on the farm year round. The goal is to eventually have Samuel working solely on the farm as well.
It’s not all work though. Sometimes we take a brake and invite friends and travelers to stay with us on the farm. Old Time Religion (Olympia, WA) took a pit stop at Kitty Ridge in the midst of their tour. We helped them relax and heal-up for the next long leg of their journey. Southern Kate from the Anarcha project (www.anarch.org) stopped by the farm a year ago to do some probing into the life of a midwest daughter. Even Clamor’s very own Jason Kucsma dropped in…
What good is paradise if you can’t share it with the people you love?