work: expectation vs. reality

work: expectation vs. reality

[disclosure: English is not my first language. if you're Portuguese, go ahead and read it in the original version.] 

following the hardest January and February I can remember, I’m going to talk about an issue I have been reflecting on a lot, I’m going to talk about professional achievement.

in my country, that constantly fights for survival and lives in a permanent state of economic fragility, the notion of professional success is still directly linked to the number of zeros you have in your bank account, or rather, the income you make from it. for that reason, even if you’re doing exactly what you are passionate about, if you haven’t achieved financial stability, you didn’t thrive nor did you get anywhere worth mentioning.
deliberately choosing to work part-time, staying at home with your kids or investing in what makes you really happy is, unfortunately, still not something regular folks understand, even if you have gathered the proper conditions to support your decision. and if we talk about the artistic world, it’s even worse. a real job is, first and foremost, a job that pays your bills and, secondly, a job accepted by the general society. sculptor? performer? blogger?
therefore, it’s almost unthinkable for one to quit his more or less safe job [even though you feel miserable] to dedicate himself to theatre, art, literature, music or some kind of craft without feeling judged by others or being perceived as 'lazy'.

- at this point it’s of the utmost importance to clarify that I’m talking about deliberate choice, I’m talking about those people that, for some reason, could choose to change the course of their professional lives. -

I would say that whoever makes a choice like this – I repeat, choice – has considered all the pros and cons and is aware of the consequences but this disapproval mentality is so much under our skin that the first time it reveals itself is precisely inside ourselves.
in my particular situation, which is, in fact, the only one I can talk about, although our lives have changed for much better because we moved countries, my head didn’t follow this change at the same pace.
after many years of professional unsatisfaction, I have decided, together with the unconditional support of my husband, to focus solely on my personal project which is, as you know, Julieta.
well, everyone that has ever tried to start a business, no matter its size, knows it takes time to build and grow it and that there are a lot of dimensions involved in the process but, not contributing financially in an active and regular way to our familiar budget for the first time in my professional and adult life, had a much bigger psychological toll on me than I had ever expected.
in the last 2 months, and with the help of less sunlight, crappy weather and a sprained ankle, I have let myself fall in a deep frustration and unsatisfaction feeling, with direct consequences on both my physical and mental health, our daily lives and my productivity. I didn’t manage to finish one single piece, I stopped going to the gym on a regular basis, spent entire days at home doing, basically, nothing, and felt pretty much useless and lost. my anxiety struck harder than ever in the last 10 years. and I let myself be invaded by this overwhelming feeling of guilt like I’ve never felt before. I felt guilty for not having 'a real job'. guilty for not being able to pay the bills. guilty for seeing my husband coming home exhausted from work and having to cook dinner because I was wearing crutches at the time.
[and when you’re feeling like this, the deeper you dive in, the harder it is to come back up.]
I now realise that, for the most part, I have felt all of this because my behaviour is totally conditioned by this mentality that if I’m not getting a paycheck at the end of each month than I don’t have a real job. planning and taking care of groceries shopping, cleaning the house, doing the laundry and taking care of all the other household chores is as important as contributing with money and, immersed in this catholic guilt, I decided that if I wasn’t contributing financially, at least the responsibility for this chores was totally mine. it didn’t take long before I felt miserable.

also, there is, nowadays – partly through social media – this ‘new order’ for one to be happy all the time, searching constant satisfaction in every day’s details, in life’s good moments. carpe diem, hygge, slow living, slow parenting, inspiration everywhere, hashtagemotionalblackmailwithoutnoticingit.
I must admit that using social media like Instagram to advertise my project made me more aware of the beautiful details of my own life but the other side of this coin can be actually crushing because the constant search for the perfect image to convey a certain lifestyle or a particular feeling can result in a sort of emotional prison without one noticing it. suddenly, all days must be bright, inspiring, filled with ideas and even the goddamn tea you drink in the middle of the afternoon has something of magical in it. and, for crying out loud, sometimes that’s just pure bulls**t. [pardon my french]
everyone has days of greasy hear, hairy legs and trainers, McDonald's meals and tv series marathons. grey days with no inspiration, new ideas, hope or productivity.
it’s impossible to live in a permanent state of contentment and bad days are absolutely necessary for the natural balance of life. without contrast, how can we truly appreciate all that makes us feel good? sadness helps us recognise happiness. dark days enjoying the sun. the "no's", appreciating the "yes's".
[I think the important is recognising this balance up and down and learning how to surf it with ease. but that, I’m afraid, is another story...]

let’s focus now on what motivated me to write about this: the definition of what is and what is not work.

when I or any of my fellow Portuguese emigrants go on vacations to our country and someone asks us what are we doing, if by any chance we answer something like “I quit my job to...” followed by a “pursue acting”, “be a freelance writer”, “be a craftsman”, “be a performer”, “start my sewing business”, we know that we’re getting at least a sort of eyebrow frown, a brief moment of silence and maybe a “and what about a real job, are you thinking about it?” at the end.
because when we grow up with by this mentality, it’s very hard to understand that, for instance, what I’m doing to spread the word about my project IS, in fact, work.
working pictures, learn how to manipulate them, investigate, doing research on new trends, reading articles about photography, about types of yarn, about fiber crafts or new ways to increase my business, reading interviews or spreads about makers that paved the way for people like me, writing articles [like this one that, for instance, took me 4 days to finish – and even after being published can be altered] and translating it into English, drawing prototypes and planning new pieces, making them, trying out new ideas, throw everything in the trash and only being satisfied with the result the 10th time around, opening an online store, updating it regularly, advertise my pieces, dealing with orders, packing and sending them through post, IS working.
building a project, no matter what it is, from scratch, is a hard and real job. thus, I don’t know how to deal with questions such as “so, what have you been up to?” or “what about a part-time job, have you considered it?”. because I already have a job: mine, the one I’m creating and building and every single thing I do, from meeting new people in the same community to daily updating my Instagram feed is a part of it.
it's true that I still don’t earn enough with it to pay my bills or at least my expenses from it, but what I’m doing goes by the name of investment. time, money, learning skills.
and I do hope one day I can earn a little bit from this investment. that will take time and until then no, I don’t want to work in a store’s basement nor do I want to work as a translator. I want to focus entirely on this and concentrate all my energy on what gives me pleasure. and if in a few months this doesn’t work out, whether because it became financially impossible to sustain it, whether because it no longer gives me pleasure, then I will move on to the next challenge and that’s it.
of course it helps [a whole lot] to live in a country that allows me this choice and it’s precisely for that reason that here, when someone asks you what you’re doing and you answer you’re a stay-at-home-mom [especially in the cities, I reckon the rural environments still need a little mind-opening] no one looks at you like you’re some poor, uneducated woman whose days are spent making soup and changing diapers. on the contrary, being with your kids in their first years of their lives is something to be encouraged. being a craftsman is as valued as being a designer in a fancy hipster studio, working part-time as normal as working full-time.

living in a society like this is freeing.
but first, you must free yourself from the cultural locks you bring along.
and for that, the arrival of Spring helps wonders. days are bigger, the sun says ‘hello’ more often and the Vitamin D supplements start kicking in.
you see what’s around you much clearer and your head starts feeling organised.

now there’s inspiration everywhere.

P.S. now why is it that after 4 days working on this article I still feel like I haven't done "anything"? ADN is a b*tch, man.