Should I pursue my passion or follow the money?

Illustration: Nadia Snopek

@AskPeaches: As musicians go, I think I’m good. I’ve been singing before an audience practically since middle school. I’m a recent graduate from Oberlin College, which has a pretty serious music arts program, as a classically trained singer. But I’m my mother’s only son, and she’s had recent health battles and has needed my financial help. While she doesn’t want me to quit music, I feel an obligation to work in a higher paying field to help out. Should I continue with my art or make a more rational choice so that I can be there for my mom? 

@Jamie: You deserve a standing ovation for being such an upstanding young man and son. In an ideal world, you shouldn’t need to make such a choice. 

My recommendation is that if you don’t have any other alternative and need to make steady or additional income, you can try to find a part-time job so that you can balance the time between caring and providing for your mother, while focusing on your art. Also check out our recent post for other ideas. Should you have to work full-time, however, do so with a clear objective in mind, whether that is a financial goal, a desired outcome for your mother’s health, or setting an expiration date for that 9 to 5. But I would encourage you to work in an adjacent field within the music business, because the skills you learn there can be an asset to your passion in the future. If not, find a non-paid outlet that can allow you to keep your skills fresh and nurture your creativity while you work a job to pay the bills. 

You’ve spent a considerable amount of time mastering your artistic skills, and I know from personal experience that if you give them up you will feel unfulfilled, especially if you don’t find a way to express them. Although I achieved personal success as a marketer, nothing I did allowed me to tap into a state of flow as I do when writing good prose, or to experience that momentary joy when I come up with a clever turn of phrase. Artists create art for the love of it, not necessarily because it pays the bills. So, do what you must to assist your mother now, because she needs your support, and that is important. But don’t do so at the expense of feeding your spirit. You will regret it.

I find these powerful words from Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged always come in handy when I need that extra push:

“Don’t let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark in the hopeless swamps of the not-quite, the not-yet, and the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved and have never been able to reach. The world you desire can be won. It exists…it is real…it is possible…it’s yours.”

The @AskPeacheas column is prepared by committee but written from one person’s experience. Send emails to askpeaches [at] freshfruitinc [dot] com with “@AskPeaches” in the subject line. Be sure to give enough background, so the advice can be more specific and relevant.

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