Article printed in our debut Issue
words by Abby Wolpert
In high school, I was unable to imagine what my life would look like in five years. I knew I was creative, but I did not know what that meant for my future career. I also did not know that creative careers existed (which they do, believe it or not). My classmates, on the other hand, seemed to have it all figured out. They planned to graduate college as engineers, nurses, lawyers, businessmen, and other well-respected positions. And in fact, they did become these things. I wouldn’t have admitted it then, but to some degree, I envied them. I envied them, not because I wanted to be them, but because they did not have the same fire that burned inside me—a fire that only creating could cease.
Some of my college years were spent in New York City. After growing up in a small town, being in a large community of creatives was inspiring. Many I knew were working as bartenders, servers, and baristas, but by night they were actors, musicians, comedians, and slam poets. While older generations may consider the lack of a high-paying, secure job after graduation (or skipping college altogether) a failure, I looked up to them. Creatives often begin their careers working multiple jobs that provide them time and money to pursue creative pursuits outside of work. Their end goal is almost always for their passion and their career to collide, and they are willing to work round the clock to make that happen.
Being creative is both a blessing and a curse, especially when navigating adulthood. The inner battle between pursuing my passions and pursuing something “practical” caused me great confusion in college. Something creatives hear a lot is, “Many secure career paths want creative employees,” but they often feel that creating without complete creative freedom is not fulfilling. This is something that varies person to person, and if you have a “practical” job you enjoy, that’s fantastic. I have creative friends working in advertising who are miserable, and I have creative friends bartending and creating on the side who are content. Ultimately, there is no one right way to go about it.
People pursuing artistic careers are frequently spoken of in a negative manner, and often by those who believe artists are frivolous and perhaps simple-minded. Contrarily, the artists, musicians, writers, and actors in my life are some of the most intelligent, deep-thinking, and passionate people I know. In fact, this statement applies to creatives everywhere. Nobody is more passionate than those who work countless hours on projects to which money is not the main motivator. While artists should be payed for their work, it is very unlikely that they begin their creative journey thinking “I’m going to get rich off this.” Artists create because they love to create, and that alone is admirable.
The Covid-19 pandemic has been a tragedy for all, but it has also emphasized the importance of the arts. While artists may have trouble creating during this time, there is a slight win for them when it comes to arts appreciation. The pandemic is bringing us together through movies, television, and online performances. We are sharing playlists on social media, playing video games, reading, and singing from balconies. The arts are becoming central to our lives more than ever. While we are not completely there yet, we are taking a step in the right direction towards full respect of artists and creative careers.
While I am still navigating this for myself, my advice to you—though your friends, parents, or teachers may disagree—is to prioritize your passion. If you are driven to make things, you will not be satisfied unless you do. I am not advising you to go into tremendous debt, or to spend your rent money on the new guitar that will help you follow your dreams. I am advising you to work whatever job provides you with enough money to live and create. Do not let anyone make you feel like you are behind for not having one high-paying soul-sucking job straight after graduation. At times, you will feel envious of those who do, but in the end, you are not them, and you would not be happy doing what they do. If you are an artist, you will always be an artist, and there is no practical job that will rid you of your desire to create. Bio: Abby Wolpert is an emerging writer and student from the US. She is also an editorial intern at Blackbird Literary Magazine. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Cardiff Review, The Dewdrop, Levee Magazine, Pwatem Literary Journal, and Soft Punk Magazine.