Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The high cost of dreams

While most kids rode a school bus to high school, I took the train. It gave me a look at the future that few fourteen-year-olds see.

We'd be working on homework or talking sports while sharing the train with commuters. Occasionally I'd take a late train home and see what those same commuters looked like after a work day.

We called them the "commuting undead."

They looked like lifeless zombies, worn out and fried from whatever careers they'd chosen. I swore "this will not happen to me."

As a young reporter I met people in average jobs, and thought about them every time I thought about doing something else. In particular, I wondered what it must be like for someone who works on an assembly line. Doing the same thing, day after day, year after year. Imagine doing that for forty years or so.

Then it hit me that many people simply don't have dreams. For them a weekly paycheck, a six pack of beer and a big screen TV are all they need to be happy.

Which is fine, but not enough for anyone who's creative.

I hear a lot from people who are looking to do something else, who think life will be better outside the business. It may be true in some cases, and not in others.

The one thing you have to keep in mind is that at this point in time, not many people are happy in any career. The economy is in the tank, there's no loyalty anymore, and companies treat employees like dirt. Some of the people with whom I rode the train got what I thought were great jobs years ago...and now they're facing the same hardships like the rest of us. Pay cuts, layoffs, doing more work for less pay.

Back to dreams. Several years ago I was considering leaving the business for a job that wasn't the least bit creative. A friend of mine who was a creative director for an ad agency posed the best question: "What are you going to do for a creative outlet?"

All creative people have dreams. It's the way we're wired. We're not satisfied working nine to five and doing the same thing every day.

If you're considering leaving the business, make sure you take that into account. You may end up with more money and better hours, but if you lose your dream you may lose part of your soul.

I once got a fortune cookie that read, "Without dreams you have no future." Truer words were never spoken.

Dreaming isn't free, despite what Debbie Harry said in song. They may keep you in a career that will make you pull your hair out, but the alternative might be worse.


1 comment:

Forward said...

So true. I worked a job for more money than I ever made in television production once. It was the worst job I've ever had with the worst people I'ver ever met. I cried almost every week for two years. When I was fired, I was devestated and relieved. It's two years since that, and I'm still looking for work; but I'm happier and healthier than I was when I worked in "Hell."

Your blog continues to be one of my favorites. Keep it up, please.