Sep 6, 2009


I've been doing some heavy thinking about happiness lately. You see I am somewhat successful at a day job where I am in a position of authority - an Art Director at a multimedia company, and I create some pretty cool stuff. I'm not even lying when I say that I'm good at what I do.

I'm one of those people you probably knew and despised in grade school. I loved to learn and work hard and prove it to the teachers. I thought that my value as a human being was based on how I performed and wanted tangible grades to show that I was Good Enough even if I was just a girl with artistic talent. I knew I wanted to be an artist but always felt that I had to show I was smart too.

So I started out as an illustrator, but quickly moved into animation and digital art, then multimedia and Actionscript programming. I love the way you can plan and create and make something start to finish that is both beautiful and functional. There's so much about Flash development that is satisfying - it's challenging and it blends an artistic sense with practical knowledge and usability. It allows me to use both parts of my brain. Awesome.

But there's all the other stuff that comes with the day job. You will have to compromise yourself and work past your disagreements and you won't always get satisfaction from this job no matter how hard you work. You can really burn out if this job is diametrically opposed to your core beliefs and needs.

I think one problem for me is that for years I have invested myself personally in the job I have been doing. Not just in that I want to be there fully and do great work, but that I am expecting a sense of fulfillment creatively from these projects. And maybe that's asking too much from the day job. There's a whole life full of things I want to experience. Over time I've become a person who values people and relationships, art and music, freedom and time to myself, being with friends and family well over that accomplishment from the day job. I don't think I ever really valued the day job more than these things, but have become more honest with myself about how much I want them, and how pursuing career benchmarks distract me from what brings me happiness.

I have been in a state of self-examination for quite a while, during which I've been practicing more fine art. It's very, very hard to separate my value (perceived value) from how much I make and my title at the day job. But I know that there's other aspects of my life that make me happy. That I want to focus on and enjoy while I'm here.

Penelope Trunk has a great blog on career advice, and I recently found this post on building a career as an artist. It's a bit of tough love on being an artist in general, but I really identify with her thoughts on work/life balance. If I'm lucky enough to create a name for myself as an artist, I'll feel much more freedom in my life in general. But if I do need to balance the fine art with the day job, I will not look for the job to provide my happiness. I'm looking for ways to open my life up to the joys of friends and family and taking time for the arts. This will mean valuing myself for the other things I am good at. Loving people. Being compassionate. Laughing and being silly with my husband. My goofball self-depreciating humor. Being this crazy person is more important than how many hours I spend at work. I don't want to wake up panicked in the middle of the night thinking I haven't lived my life the way I should have.


  1. This is so true. There are so many times when I am stressed from work that I have to stop myself and think. Work should not run my life. Work, for me atleast, is a part of my life that supplements my adventures. It provides finance for living and leisure activities and that is all. It should not become what you dedicate your life for, unless of course you are one of the lucky ones who have found their ultimate passion for a job. Then that is truly not a job, but living out their passion.

    I wish I were so lucky.

  2. It's hard for us over-achievers to realize that work and happiness are not always completely related, and maybe shouldn't be. I hope you are able to find a balance :)