Some days, it’s easy. Some days, my day job is a perfect blend of easy and challenging, my co-workers are funny, and I’m getting work done at a healthy pace. Those days I drive home with lots of ideas in my head, and I get home, spend a couple minutes greeting the cat, and head on out to my studio where I’ll spend a few hours working and painting and sculpting and making a grand ol’ mess and enjoying every moment of it. These are the good days, where it’s all worth it. I love making things, and when I’m happy and content with my life, there’s not much I’d rather do with my good mood than spend it making things.
Some days, it’s hard. Some days, the day job’s been more challenging than easy, and maybe I’ve screwed up or everyone’s just a bit grumpy today. On those days, I go in my studio and work anyway, because I know that the steady tedium of sanding, or the fact that I’m doing something I’m actually pretty good at will turn into a sort of steady grind of this-isn’t-so-bad-after-all. On those days, sculpting and painting is my calm, my rock, my balance and my escape. These are okay days, and these are most of my days.
And some days, it’s really fucking difficult. Those are the days where I’ve probably screwed up at work, or the day’s so busy that I’ve skipped eating lunch, and by the time I get home, my back aches from sitting in my not-particularly-ergonomic chair, and my entire brain feels frazzled and all I want to do is sleep. I’ll lie on the couch, with the cat on top of me, and I’ll stare at the ceiling for hours, or however long it is before Jason gets home and makes me tea and pokes me until I deign to move. Sometimes, I shuffle off to my studio then, where I’ll sit dejectedly on an uncomfortable stool and halfheartedly clean, or paint something badly that will have to be sanded and repainted once I’m in a better mood. I wish I could tell you that I buck up and work through it, but I don’t.
Those are bad days, and I have them, and I have them more often than I’d like to admit, especially when I’ve over-committed myself, which is in itself a habit. On these days, my to-do list is filled with crap I don’t want to do, tedious work I’d rather put off until much later or never do at all, and I’m not enthralled, impressed, or even remotely interested in anything on my work table. I hate making things on these days. Everything feels like a chore, an obligation or another horrible, droning task.
As you can tell, I’m not very good at advice. But it’s totally fine if you don’t feel super productive every day, and it’s okay to have bad days, because you’ll have good days and okay days too. I now plan for a smattering of bad days in my schedule, sort of like a floating mental health day holiday, and I do that because that way, I get to turn my “You are a bad person who can’t do anything right” thoughts into just a scheduling problem. I can deal with scheduling problems!
But it’s okay to have hard days, because this thing we do - it’s really fucking hard. I mean, we’re working two jobs, and if you’re lucky, only one of those jobs demand that you pour your heart and feelings and life experiences into it. And your own blood too, depending on how clumsy you are with the x-acto knife or needles. There are probably harder jobs, but this one’s not easy, and you’re not lame for being tired and cranky. So, just work anyway, when you can, because if you really love what you’re doing, it might make you feel better. And when you can’t, don’t beat yourself up about it, because we all have shitty days, and that’s okay too.
I know this doesn’t really answer the question, but I suppose I don’t really know how to balance my life either! I just try, and it works out well enough often enough.
Shing Khor offers up some solid advice about balancing your day job with your after-hours art job.