Monday, January 09, 2023

eggs and baskets: on jobs, art, and love

I've been thinking about this Parker quote in regard to jobs and hobbies, but also maybe personal things.   The great thing about polyamory traditionally is that you have the option for multiple relationships, multiple support structures, multiple relationship types.  The negatives were of course, that sometimes they could all be imploding or dwindling at the same time, but that was extremely rare. I suppose now, these past 7 years,  I am probably as close to a monogam-ish relationship as I have ever been (ie, we're open by definition/philosophy, but closed mostly in practice and by circumstances ) But I think the way this translates into the greater world of work and art is that, even still, I have always had my hands in many things. Writing, art, publishing, social media. Have always moved back and forth between things as my interest and attention spans desired. Some things, like writing and art, were lifelong, others, like making soap and jewelry and selling vintage were momentary interests. Even in creative projects, I like to be able to move around.  To set something down, to pick something up. People are obviously more complicated, but still my relationship practices were always similar.

Today, I read an e-mail from one of my freelance positions where the editor was remarking on the departure of the other person in her department, who I dealt more directly with in my finalizations. This person, very good at her job, had been cut in a slew of layoffs.  This would happen sometimes in the library, sometimes justified (ie poor performers) and sometimes not at all so. Academic budgets are tight and unlike other area universities, tighter at Columbia than anywhere else (and partially the reason I am no longer there.) Still, there was a relative cushiness to academic jobs where you did not expect to be let go on market whims like you might in a corporate environment.  In 20 years, I think they laid off like 2 or 3 people I didn't understand why, the rest, I would have booted if I had the power immediately. 

Moving into the freelance market, you know its all kind of tenuous. Freelance work is never guaranteed and sometimes hard to find. It's a nice thing to have for a company, but not often where they strive to keep hands on deck.  Some are just temporary. This was the tragedy of my real estate site neighborhood guide gig..they were intent on the eventual hire of full-timers for their office in Richmond, VA. Great company, overly generous pay for fun work, and actual merit raises, but only about 7 months of employment total. But luckily, it was only one of the things I'd taken on, with the other sources able to close the gaps that left when it wrapped up in early December. 

Even if you discount the benefit of being able to move between various projects daily and not get bored, there is also the benefit of not having those eggs in a possible leaky or tippy basket.  More importantly, not only is there security in knowing you have a number of different avenues that can be dialed up or down as needed, but that also no one job can treat you shittily and expect you to still work for them. Whether its low pay or understaffing or just general disrespect, you can bounce.  More importantly, you have something to bounce TO....

Part of my hesitancy to leave full time work was fear. I'd had the same job for 21 years.  I was never really entirely sure how I'd been lucky enough to land that job in the first place.  At least in the beginning.  Because I was scared to try something new, I stayed longer than I should have.  In fact, under different circumstances I may still have hesitant to leave.  I've heard friends say this about bad relationships. It wasn't working. or he was abusive, controlling, but they were afraid of making their way in the world alone. And while I admit I stayed in bad relationships for a number of reasons (usually impulse control, masochism,  or thinking I could change things) this wasn't one of them. I've had entirely single spans, most of my 20's, in fact. But then, later, when a relationship was in the death grip, there were other people and things to occupy my time. I was okay with alone, but rarely was I actually without something going on in that arena, even if it was just a crush I wanted to become something more. 

And this is true of art and writing.  The years where the words were more fallow were some of the best years for art, and maybe vice versa. Even now, I don't get much time to spend with collage or painting, but I do spend a lot of time making video poems and designing covers.   I like having many options, especially when some options are more fleeting than others.  Other things have to earn their way into your daily practice. Or seem like a good thing for awhile but then you move on. 

There's a lot of talk these days on the potential harm of the gig economy and people working multiple jobs to make ends meet--driving uber or deliveries--and actually not getting the sort of stability of things like paid sick days, insurance, etc that traditional employers provide. But then again, you have a certain amount of freedom and discretion you don't get being beholden to one workplace, so I totally get it.   Everyone, coming out of covid lockdowns, wondered where all the workers went.  Could it be that many of them were willing to trade certain securities for lower pay, but more freedom and more eggs in many baskets. That when you decide you're getting screwed, you can find somethings else. When the alternative was sometimes tyrannical bosses, unweildy shifts, unsafe workplaces, and toxic corporate culture. Could be. 

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