I had to quit my job to continue my work

Growing up on a farm in Central Illinois, art was not a career choice. It was risky. Something people in cities and on TV and magazines could do. An after school job was necessary and more important than extracurriculars. My identity was the work I did, so I should be responsible and build stability.

So when I started college in 2001, I opted for journalism over creative writing. You know, because I wanted to make some money and understood nothing outside of the southern Midwest. By busting my ass and cultivating my fondness for communication, I built a pretty solid career in college at the school newspaper. But working 1–2 part-time jobs in addition to an editorial position and summer internships left me little time to play music with my friends, write, collage or sew. I found work that was definitely going to pay me and allowed for a modicum of creativity. On that model, I overextended myself throughout my 20s, using my energy to make money for other people while trying to live another life — my own life — in my free time. I convinced myself it was ok. Everyone does this, I told myself. It’s just late capitalism!

All the while, I became more enthralled by what I think of as “the shadow side.” The mystery. That which we can’t grasp completely, but that we can learn from if we try to. Things like meditation, yoga, massage, astrology. Non-rational things. Non-profitable things. The things that helped balance out my over-stimulating, analytic, imposter lifestyle. During the financial crisis, in a railroad apartment in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, I practiced yoga in a dim space before going in to work as a reporter at Dow Jones Newswires. Gazing down in dancer’s pose at the heavy faux-rugged rope carpet, I thought, at age 24, I want to own a yoga studio someday.

Someday.

I recently turned 35. If someday doesn’t start today, when will it?

Someday started just short of my Aug. 10 anniversary of moving to Madison. I was in the first class of a two-year craniosacral therapy training in Evanston. My head hurt, my chest was pounding — as it had been off and on for the last 6 months or so. I couldn’t muster my attention toward the subtle body work that helped save my sanity a year and a half before and has contributed to my well-being ever since. I was anxious about work at an organization that had been in a tumult since I got there 2 years ago. My current job was presently and directly preventing the future I wanted. So, at lunch, I called my partner, emailed a resignation to my boss and thanked the college friend I was staying with in Logan Square for reminding me that I’m a badass and I don’t need this bullshit.

I was terrified for about 3 minutes afterwards. I’m thisclose to to paying off a credit card that’s been with me since New York. I’m about to break even. I had tried so hard to wait just a few more months. But it wasn’t worth it. My life had to start right. freaking. now.

Since I can remember, I’d been operating as a variation on a theme, trying to fit myself into a socially acceptable mold. It was taking all of my energy — energy I could be expending on art, fighting the revolution and just generally being happy and healthy. I need people, things to learn and to share. I cannot sit at a computer all day. Now I have more time to explore what that looks like for me.

I’m starting a communications consulting business that works with non-profits in the education, public service and research spaces. I just got a job editing a book (my third), which I love. I’m writing for local publications. Everything’s comin’ up Holly!

So here I am. Regrouping. Playing guitar, writing, collaging a birthday card for a friend, spending time in nature, getting back into a yoga and meditation routine. Because I only get one life and it’s not getting any longer. From the data I’ve gathered, the best contribution I can make to society is to be authentic myself. I can find ways to pay the bills. But my real “work” is an ongoing magnum opus. My life is my masterpiece. And it’s not for sale.