A couple of months ago our older son got a new job working part-time at a local grocery store, and he really likes it. Prior to that, he had been employed full-time at a place that he also really liked, but that gave him little time to pursue what he really wants to do, which is be a musician.
I should say here that he is a musician already. In fact, he’s been playing in bars and clubs for literally half his life. He joined his first band and started playing his first gigs at the age of twelve. He is, in musician years, a seasoned pro.
His former job was unpredictable, though, and the hours were long which meant he missed out on a lot because of this, and he was constantly exhausted from the work and lacking the energy to play. Not the best for a working musician.
Circumstances during the pandemic allowed him to move home and save his money so that ultimately he could quit that job with no hard feelings and start to build up in the music world again. We were thrilled that we could help, and it’s been great having him home again.
The other day the old job called him up and asked him to come back for a three-week contract while some of the other staff were on vacation. He asked for some advice and John and I helped him lay out the pros and cons, and ultimately he’s going to do it. His current job is pretty flexible so it shouldn’t be a problem.
I did tell him my reservations, especially the fact that this place is notorious for its long hours and exhausting work and that I worried he’d once again be possibly missing out on the things he really wants to do. And he reminded me that it’s only for a few weeks, and that he’s thinking ahead.
Thinking ahead to a potential tour with the band and wanting to earn as much money as he can between now and that point in the future (specific dates to be determined, but very, very much in the cards) when they’ll be on the road and earning zero money. So, he went on, he really wants to work as much as possible, and even try to work his current job during the temp contract with the old one, if that’s doable. And it just might be doable.
I’m proud of this kid and his planning and his work ethic and his drive to earn and save money for a time when, while he might be doing his favourite thing in the world, he won’t have an income.
And I look at him and at our younger son, an aspiring actor with a part-time job in a restaurant kitchen, and I think it’s great. He too likes the work and sometimes gets to bring home donuts and fried chicken! But I also look at these hard working kids and think “But wouldn’t it be even betterif they didn’t have to have a side hustle?!”
And the obvious answer is, of course it would.
I think about this kind of thing all the time, not just for my kids, but for ALL the artists I know, all the writers and poets, the painters, the musicians and the actors. What would life be like if the beauty you create and push out into the world for people to enjoy becomes the beauty that allows you to live?
What would it be like for my kids—and countless others—to get up in the morning knowing that their day was devoted to creating their art, performing their art, sharing their art?
What if we as a society valued our artists not just for their finished products, their finished works, but for their artistic process? What if we—and hear me out—paid people to create art so that they didn’t have to rush through band practice to get to work at the grocery store, the pizza place, the library. That band practice was their work, the work that helped them live and eat and enjoy. Basically to do all the things humans need to survive.
What would that world look like?
I don’t have an answer, of course. But every so often I allow myself to contemplate these scenarios and this kind of world and every time I do it makes me smile.
It’s been a long couple of years for artists and I’m sure lots of them have had to give up—or at the very least reduce the amount of time spent on—their art since the start of the pandemic, and that is tragic.
And, at the same time, I’m sure there’s lots of people who started to pursue art because of the pandemic, finding themselves with a lot more time on their hands due to lockdown, the disappearance of their daily commute, etc. And that is wonderful!
Not everyone who pursues art plans to or even wants to do it for a living, hobbies are important and are definitely a thing! But for those who do—my kids, maybe your kids, maybe you?—what a wonderful world it would be.