The catalyst for my shifted plans was the realization that I couldn’t foreseeably afford to live solo in California without sacrificing ‘work-life balance.’ The housing is really outrageous here, and the new buildings that crop up are designed to perpetuate the existing housing culture: twenty-seven roommates or a six-figure income. A lot of new constructions primarily offer studios or 2+ bedroom units, and the studios – as most folks who pay attention to comparative housing markets know – go for as much as a three-bedroom mortgage in other parts of the country, and require hefty deposits.
Realistically, the concerted effort it would take for me to find and stick with a job that could truly pay my solo housing bills didn’t seem sustainable. Aside from that, the Bay Area in particular is very congested with few signs of voluntarily thinning out.
Since my aunt and uncle have so generously offered their hospitality to me in this transition [real MVPs], I’ve been perusing job postings in The Triangle and thinking through what approach to take moving forward…
The idea of trying to capitalize off of my gifts and personal interests has always been cringy to me. It’s too much pressure. [Probably because I’m a perfectionist.] My default has been to find something ‘sustainable’ that leaves me with enough energy at either end of the day to work on the things I enjoy, and enough cash to cover the cost of kale and other living expenses. I honestly don’t think I have extravagant lifestyle expectations, which is why I have felt so frustrated with the struggle I have as a college graduate with a full-time operations management position. You’d think I could at least afford a studio apartment.
So I’ve been thinking. About narratives and expectations and exceptions that come to be perceived as the norm.
I’d venture to say that for much of human history, most people have just lived from year to year; season to season; daily bread. Yet I assume that barns and storehouses should fall into my lap from me doing something that started out as a hobby in my free time… The ideas of ‘insurance’ and ‘retirement’ seem hollow to me. In part because of my skepticism, but also just the unfolding of what’s already happened. None of us are immune to the kinds of things that destroy and depress a nation.
The future is always uncertain. And the things that we are seeking from retirement funds and jobs we enjoy going to, or otherwise being self-employed, are not reserved for the elite or the hustling few who attain the heralded status and aesthetic we celebrate in tiny little cyber squares. That depth of satisfaction, that degree of security, that proximity to beauty are all found in Jesus. And God bestows as a blessing the ability to enjoy and be generous with the fruits of our labors. He orchestrates and arranges relationships to make our tiny little cyber squares more meaningful.
When my plan was still Southern California, I stumbled upon what I thought was THE perfect next job for me – operations manager at Bing Surfboards!! Swoon. Who knows if they’ll even get back to me, but it had felt like the perfect way to integrate my passion, desired lifestyle, and transferable work experience without having to let part of myself die. As John Mark McMillan penned,
sell our love for the paycheck or spend the night on the freight deck –
That is the tension, and a sacrifice must be made. If I am unwilling to prioritize Career and productivity and compulsively checking my email over margin and surrender and ruthlessly eliminating hurry from my life, maybe I can’t live next to the West Coast ocean… At least not now. Maybe not ever. Who knows…
And for me, specifically, personally, in the season of my life, it feels like that’s what this is about – if I am going to cling and strive and accumulate, or let go and rest and follow. If there are multiple lanes on the narrow road, I have been assigned to the Sell Everything You Have route… it’s that easy for my soul to get caught in nets of covetousness and control. I may not have much to show for myself, but my heart is made of Rich Young Ruler material.*
It’s hard living the hybrid life, but perspective is key. I am not entitled to make a ‘liveable wage’ let alone a fortune from my words or my melodies or my talent of taking pictures of impermanent things.
I can’t serve God and money. By grace, money [and status and material possessions] mean far less to me. I have seen that they are vapor in the wind. As I continue to seek first the kingdom, I am confident that God will provide what I need. And maybe that’s long-haul contentment with the hybrid life, or maybe it’s the wherewithal to work harder and smarter and be more courageous with leveraging my art for income – against my most natural inclinations.
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*Matthew 19, Mark 10