Unconventional productivity

Ever since completing my master’s program, I have more often than not hesitated to reach out to update friends, family, and potential networking connections because I “haven’t made it yet”. There is not a big kid job at the top of my resume to prove that I am a capable and successful adult. There is not a steady paycheck directly deposited in my bank account giving me financial stability. There is not an apartment lease with my name on it. I am largely dependent on my family to provide for my daily needs, which is definitely not the ideal, considering my stereotypical young adult preference to be completely independent. I definitely searched and applied for jobs, many jobs. While the total application count would not qualify my life for a coming of age movie, it is slightly depressing to sift through my cover letter files and ponder the idea that no one wants to hire me.

A few months ago, I went into a state of panic and anxiety; spending most of my waking hours either pouring over job descriptions or quietly having a one-woman pity party. Surely something had to be wrong with me given the deficit of interviews or job offers. The reality is that my resume is a bit more “connect the dots” than “building blocks” of knowledge and practical competencies. While I have held quite a few jobs in the past eight years, the experiences do not clearly communicate that I am qualified for a specific career path, let alone a specific position within an organization.

The only relief from the monotony of the daily job-hunt was working on a piece of art that I started three years prior. While taking an elective art course at my undergraduate university, I found inspiration in creating images using unconventional materials. Given my addiction to coffee, I decided to use coffee beans to create the logo of one of my favorite brands. In the process of creating, I did not have a particular end goal for where I wanted the piece to end up. A four-foot by four-foot canvas full of coffee beans is not exactly the kind of thing you want hanging in your foyer. However, throughout the creating process I dreaded the day when I would have to market the artwork for display or sale.

The day after I completed the artwork I uncharacteristically rode the waves of pride, excitement, and adrenaline to approach the store manager of my usual coffee haunt to inquire about installing my art. Many entrepreneurship articles I have read recommend that self-starters make up a job title and commit to it in order to establish a sense of function. After months of frustration that the best title I could claim was a substitute dance teacher I approached the manager, confidently introduced myself as a local artist, and proceeded to ask if she/the store would allow me to display my art. From that moment on, I took a new outlook on my role, title, and position in life.

Each day is super busy and full of a variety of events lately. I rarely receive a paycheck for my activities, but I am rewarded nonetheless with the satisfaction of positively contributing to my community as well as to my own life. Not having a 9-5 job has given me the free time and mental capacity to try my hand at new skills (volunteer barista) and to spontaneously take advantage of spur of the moment opportunities (Dominican Republic missions trip). Months after installing my coffee artwork, I have yet to sell that or any other piece of my design. I continue to create because it brings me great joy, peace, and happiness to explore new creative outlets. Even when/if I do finally land a normal full time job with professional business cards, I will still be an artist, a dancer, a volunteer, etc. Not having an official title is not a reason to discard natural talents and gifts in favor of more conventional pursuits. The world is full of unexpected opportunities to use those random bits of passion to build something sweet, something beautiful. I do not advocate that there should be no work and all play, but I fully embrace the freedom to take alternative routes on the road to success.

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