LA is full of slash people. It is not very uncommon to go out and meet someone who answers when asked “What do you do?”, with a series of things or activities. Diversifying your gifts is the norm here in LALA Land and although it seems normal here, we slashers, are often faced with much adversity when trying to obtain or keep gainful employment while pursuing other passions.
Now ever since I was little I have been a slasher. If you asked me when I was five what I was going to be when I grew up you’d get, “I’m gonna be a judge/firefighter/dancer and a singer”. After some deliberation after all the “grown ups” kept asking me how I’d do all of this, I’d say, “I’ll be a judge during the day and a firefighter on the weekends and sing and dance at night” with a look that simply says “DUH”. True story. After being told I was too fat and not graceful enough to be a ballerina, I 86’ed that idea, and when I realized I could die in a fire, like for real, I decided that was another good one to cut. And hey, maybe I was being too ambitious. So, I narrowed it down to a judge and a singer. It was not until I was 12 that I would simply say “I want to be a singer”. Ironically, now that I am older, I am back to my good ole slashing ways. Maybe its just in my nature but I am actually good at more than one thing and although I do not think all my energy should or can equally be distributed to said things, I do think that you can enjoy doing more than one thing for a living. The problem is trying to explain that to folks who do not and are not capable of living this type of life. I recently found myself in a “meeting” which I thought would be constructive or beneficial for both sides but only ended up reminding why I do not entertain such conversations.
Now, although I am a “Starving Artist” I use the term starving poetically and in the most figurative way possible. There is nothing sexy to me about being starving. I am also a foodie by nature. Like my first sentence was “Mommy I’m hungry”, so me and starving should never be in the same room. Starving for that big opportunity to get a check for simply being and expressing in a moment that will hopefully touch or resonate with another, YES. Literally being hungry and sleeping on someone’s couch, HELL TO DA NAW. I am a grown ass woman and although my main career path has led me into the unknown, having major leaps and valleys, stability is very much my homie. Actually, I find it very hard to be creative when I am not stable. So, me working a “day job” helps to fuel my craft.
Long story short, my new company wants me “all in” and I ‘m good where I’m at. Despite the fact that I do go above and beyond for them, when I can, more so prior to this meeting than now, that was not enough. Although, I was very clear about my schedule and what I need prior to being hired, they want what they want. At the end of the day that’s all that matters, to them. I won’t go blow for blow on the ridiculousness that was said but I was pretty much told that at 33, I do not really know what I want for my life and that my idea of “Quality of Life” is in fact an incorrect one. I blacked out somewhere after that to prevent myself from poppin’ off in the office and becoming that black chick in the office. Which in this case, I am also the only, so that’s a double negative. You know what I’m saying. But as their voices morphed into what sounded like Charlie Brown’s mom, I felt completely disrespected, offended and outraged that I needed to even explain what the fuck I do on my free time to these people. Like, really?!
I wanted to, and still might say, “If you have a problem with my work ethic or the job performance then maybe we can discuss how my outside life is effecting my time here. But since you don’t have a problem with it, obviously, since you’re trying to promote me yet again, maybe you should mind your motherf*ckin business biiitt*hhh (in my Kevin Hart voice)!”.
I’m saying all this to say, that once an employer learns you have additional interest, especially if they are creative, its like you are suddenly on trial in this city. Which I think should be illegal. I mean, you can sue for all other types of discrimination, why not careerism?! As soon as you mention you sing or act or dance in this town they immediately think you are the most irresponsible, unreliable person on the planet despite your current job performance. And I often have to withhold this information until I prove myself because of this.
These are things us working musicians/actors face everyday. Riding the fine line of adulthood while retaining our childlike belief in our creative abilities, while allowing ourselves to be quietly labeled “not normal” to the rest of the world. We creatives, often sacrifice many things that others probably take for granted. Things like a stable income, health benefits, a savings with a balance worth printing the record at the ATM just because, a 401K; things that just come along with working a decent 9 to 5. And although we may be the best worker a company may have, we will still face interrogations and ridicule for asking for the flexibility to live we see fit. Now, I don’t expect all companies to be flexible but I work in an industry that typically is. Also, I make that VERY clear when starting any job. NO surprises here people. So when I started with this new company, they knew what it was and agreed to it. Although my previous job stressed me out to the max, at least I knew that they knew I was not some irresponsible free loading kid who would neglect my work at the drop of a downbeat. They knew I had more than one gift. One benefited them, the other benefited me- an so they let be. It might be the fact that the President and COO were both retired musicians as well, but you know what I’m saying.
My 9 to 5 friends often comment about how they wish they could have my life. Have the flexibility to travel and get paid to party with people or be on TV, but they do not know that this life comes with much sacrifice. While your peers are getting married and having babies, you are probably somewhere alone; writing, learning, crying, looking for your next gig or working towards your craft while watch your friends post pictures of their husbands and babies on Facebook. When your friends want to take a vacation to Africa you have to pass, because you only made Palm Springs money last month. When your girl just bought her first home, you’re just grateful you made rent this month without overdrawing your account. You have to learn to deal with being uncomfortable for as long as it takes ,or for as long as you can stand it. You have to know that despite public opinion, you are just fine, there is nothing wrong with you and if others do not like it, that fine as well. They don’t have to. They just need to respect it.