This week Ashley explores finding professional happiness in unexpected places.
It could be the air of anticipation in a new season but I recently realized I’m happier than I’ve been in awhile. Sure, there have been some interesting hurdles to conquer over these past few weeks but overall, I’m feeling much more balanced, inspired, and optimistic. Suck it, 2013.
Why such a change? Well, my endless quest for answers has brought me to an interesting realization.
As you know, I came to San Francisco to pursue theater. And at the time, I thought that meant working any and all part time jobs surrounding the theater that I could get my hands on. I worked for several nonprofit groups in the hope that I was getting closer to my dream, my happiness, to “having it all”!
I was exhausted all the time. And poor. Which was a bit deflating. I would work so hard but never have much to show for it. Most of the time I could barely financially support shows I wanted to see. But I may be one of the most stubborn people out there and I wasn’t willing to give it up without a real fight. And then a sequel to the fight. Followed by a half-hearted third round.
It started to seem stagnant. I never felt like I was moving. I was constantly surrounded by the thing I had claimed to love the most and it wasn’t adding up; theater was all around me in one shape or another but it wasn’t providing the joy I had expected and fought for. I lived in the pressures of budget cuts, harsh industry realities, and consistently changing staffs. It seemed that most people who crossed my professional path were uninterested in fighting to the death for places unwilling and unable to fight for them in return. What a concept.
So I left my string of multiple nonprofit jobs because I couldn’t afford to stay and I just wasn’t happy enough to fight anymore. I switched over to marketing in more corporate settings with companies who appeared overly enthusiastic to bring a “theater person” to the mix. I figured maybe in this different setting I’d pursue some other interests while still getting the chance to do my theater stuff in my free time.
And I was pretty miserable. The environment did very little for me and I found myself surrounded by people with very different passions. Even when I left the office, I found myself to be angry and irritated. I had hoped to pursue my dreams outside of work but mainly, my energy was low and I didn’t have the drive to chase projects I should have.
When I was in college, I double majored in Communications (focused in Marketing/Public Relations) and Theatre (focused in Performance). So in attempt to find my happiness, I traded in one career path for the other. One side had heart, character, but an unsteady foundation and the other side had ambition, money, and an ignored foundation.
I quit my corporate job to go to Disney World with a group of my closest friends (BECAUSE I’M AN ADULT AND I DO WHAT I WANT!) and when I returned I was unsure which path to try. So I watched a lot of Netflix. (Seriously, if anyone wants to talk about Revenge or Scandal, I can do that now!) And I applied to hundreds of jobs. In all different fields. I figured, eventually, a door had to open and I’d know where to go. This process proved to be frustrating and soul-crushing at times for a sensitive gal, such as myself. People would encourage me to “hang in there” and that the right job would find me and it would all be worth it! I wanted to punch them all in the throat.
But a few months later, after filling out a seemingly random online application and continuing to move forward with a new company, I found something different.
Now, I’m not going to go into too much detail about it because I need to save some juicy details for a later blog (and it’s pretty juicy, guys, it’s like almost as interesting as Scandal). But I will say that I currently work in the tech industry San Francisco is known for… just in a fairly unique way. It’s not theater and yet, something feels right.
I love being able to work in an environment that doesn’t drain my energy and pushes me to go home and be creative during my free time. I love working with people who appreciate my contributions and are still willing to laugh at my puns (it’s a fairly small office and they’re getting some of my best material). But mainly I love finding happiness in the most unexpected places.
In my experience, I found that when I’m happy, theater is everywhere. Even when it’s not my main source of income or the place I go to for 40 hours a week. I’m still going to keep fighting for my dreams but at the moment, I’m content with where I am. And the only thing I can suggest is that everyone deserves to find a workplace that works for them too. Don’t go down a path that you’ve already tried if it made you sad, keep opening doors! Eventually, something will be worth going inside for; you’ll step into kinder grounds. Until then, you’re welcome to imagine punching me in the throat.