One of the most important things in artistic recovery is learning to call things- and ourselves- by the right names. Most of us have spent years using the wrong names for our behaviors. We have wanted to create and we have been unable to create and we have called that inability ‘laziness’. This is not merely inaccurate. It is cruel. Accuracy and compassion serve us far better… Do not call the inability to start laziness. Call it fear… Do not call procrastination laziness. Call it fear… our artist child can best be enticed to work by treating work as play.
-Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way
I know I’m not the only one who’s ever got a job they can’t do.
Less than three months ago I got a job putting on events at a tea shop. I thought it would be a lot of fun at first. However, it’s been a constant anxiety for me coming up with ideas for events, promoting and implementing them. My natural tendency is to avoid making a fool of myself in public, which is what happens when nobody comes to an event. The reverse is true: I don’t want the events to go well, because that means I have to keep going.
At first, I just pushed through the anxiety and did the events anyway. There were some duds, like game night, where nobody came. But there were some successes, like when I had a Macy’s Santa visit the tea shop and kids and families came to visit and drink hot chocolate. My attitude toward the events was founded on the Serenity Prayer: God, grant me the serenity, to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. I would do some preparation to make the event a success, but wouldn’t worry if it didn’t.
For example, for Santa Night, I went the extra yard to get a coloring book and some crayons. Didn’t seem necessary, but toward the end of the night a little girl came. She was somewhat anti-social, neither interacting with Santa or the other children. I brought her the coloring book. Boom. ‘Coloring books are her jam’, said her mother. In other situations, however, there’s not much I can do. My resources for promotion are practically nonexistent. The tea shop itself isn’t that sexy. There have been events where nobody comes or, if they do, they’re only friends of mine who came to help me out. To create an actual following in the community would take a lot more work.
Now, there’s one voice in my head that says keep going. Work harder. You can do it. There’s another part of me that says No thanks. I’m really not deriving any lasting happiness from this. I know lasting happiness is pretty elusive in every situation, but I really don’t think it’s here. Putting on events is not my jam.
For the past two weeks I’ve been considering quitting my job. The dialogue I’ve had with others and myself has driven me half-crazy. The conversations have revolved around the externals: my boss, my career, the tea shop’s own inadequacies… and between the sense of Duty on the one hand and Freedom on the other. But all that is beside the point.
My goal today isn’t to explain why I should or should not quit, but to be honest with myself about the reason I want to quit. The reason I want to quit is fear.
And anxiety and stress. I know a lot of people who would suck it up and do the job anyway. I know a lot of people who are sucking it up and doing jobs they’re unqualified for, terrified of, or simply struggling to do.
But am I one of those people? The facts on the ground are I’m 25, don’t have any one to take care of, and can find a different job. I’m also willing to admit I’m emotionally sensitive. I’d rather have a calm and peaceful environment where I can tinker rather than perform. My supply of courage is limited and if I’m going to use it, it has to be something I believe in.