Why I Can Afford Having A “Dream Job” That Doesn’t Pay Well

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A good family friend of mine gave me a bit of advice: Either do what you love, or, find a job that pays you the money to do what you love.

Unlike many of the words of wisdom I received throughout my adolescence, this one proved to have staying power. It stuck with me through college and the first few years out, as I ventured into my first “real” jobs and made what I considered to be my first big life decisions.

The advice was simple: While I’ve hardly made bank in the eclectic assortment of postgrad jobs I’ve held, my prior positions and paychecks allowed a different lifestyle than what my current role as yoga/fitness instructor and aspiring writer supports. I felt comfortable going shopping regularly on my way home from work, and going out to lunch quickly became my norm. I was never a self-proclaimed extravagant spender, but I also didn’t feel the need to compare store brand vs. name brand prices.

Whether I realized it at the time or not, in making the decision to follow my passion, I also made the decision to have hours and paychecks that fluctuated regularly. I committed to minimizing unnecessary spending and to making more meals at home. I accepted the fact that, at least initially, as I invested in my training and began a new career, I would be doing what I love, but I wouldn’t be making the money to do a whole lot extra. I set pride aside and acknowledged the reality that my husband’s paychecks would be more than my own. And I abandoned the expectant and somewhat arrogant thought that after 4 years of busting my ass in college and a handful of years in the working world, I somehow already “deserved” a career that satisfied my passions and filled my bank account.

So, I prioritized and chose the first part of the advice. And as I grab my notebook, step into my yoga pants, and pull my hair into a ponytail each day, I’m grateful for that decision. I’m doing what I love, even if it is at the expense of traditional hours and a Carrie Bradshaw closet. I’m okay with minimizing my superfluous spending, as I’m content with what I have. My paycheck is less, but my level of fulfillment is more. And setting aside my independent woman pride, my husband’s paycheck still exceeds my own. I’m okay with that, too, and recognize it’s a pretty fortunate situation to be in. That may not work for everyone, but for the time being, it works for me.

As cheesy as it sounds, I’m excited to wake up and dive into my passions each morning. I’m grateful for the opportunity to share my writing and my teaching with others. I love being able to connect with people, whether it’s through an article I wrote or a yoga class I taught. Each challenges me in a way that working in my traditional 9-5 never did. They require my creativity, vulnerability, and authenticity. As I hit publish on an especially honest and personal piece, or walk into a new class full of faces I’ve never met, I’m nervous, and I’m excited, and I feel fully alive. I think, this is what I was born to do.

And yet, of course I’d be lying to you if I said that choosing to follow my potpourri of passions in writing and fitness over that of a more traditional route has been all rainbows, butterflies, and unicorns. It hasn’t. I’ve questioned my decision countless times. I’ve wondered if I’m being unrealistic, if my college degree is going to waste, if I’m missing out on some metaphorical ladder because I’m out running around, chasing my dreams.

As someone who craves schedule, lives by her planner, spends far too much time thinking about the future, and loves a good routine, hopping around from one studio to another can feel daunting and overwhelming at times. And as long as I’m airing it all out there, I’ll admit that comparison gets the best of me. I see my friends experience raises, promotions, and success in their law, fundraising, and marketing careers, and suddenly my daily blog posts and new vinyasa sequences hardly seem impressive.

I guess what I’m getting to is this: Life isn’t perfect, and so the decision to follow a passion or to make more money  isn’t either. I still have yet to fully find and create the work/life, passion/paycheck balance. But what I have discovered is a fluidity that I once didn’t realize existed. Passion and money, like many other things in life, seem to exist within a wide ranging continuum. With that in mind, I’ve come to believe there’s less of a right or wrong way to achieve each, and instead a variety of ways to make ends meet, to feel both emotionally gratified and financially sound.

I know that my life, finances, responsibilities, and priorities will change and evolve, and with that, money may at some point take precedence over passion. Somewhere along my journey, I may decide to forego the first part of the statement in favor of the second. Although I’m still unsure of whether or not I’ll ever “have it all” at once, I’d like to think that I’ll continue to find time for the work I enjoy and the money to live. It’s just now that I’m discovering the two may not be as fixed and permanent as I once assumed. As time and life go on, I’ll do what I need to make things work. That may look traditional and it may not. I may have a full-time job and a few, meaningful part-time hobbies. I might piece together a couple of jobs I enjoy.

Along the way, I’ll circle back to that now age-old advice, and check in often. I will attempt to simplify seemingly complex passion and money-fueled decisions. I’ll ask myself: Am I doing what I love, or does my job provide the financial freedom to do the things I love?

Kate was born and raised in Iowa, spent a few years in Texas, and now calls Connecticut home. She lives with her husband and two dogs, is passionate about college football, loves warm weather, and serves as a Head Writer and Social Media Coordinator the lifestyle blog, Thirty On Tap.

Image via Unsplash

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  • Lauren

    First, Kate – this is not a critique of your article, more just a general comment about something I’ve noticed reading TFD for a while. I’m really happy for you that you can do what you love as a means of income and make it work! So many people aren’t ever able to do that, so congratulations! I mean it.

    I think it would be cool to hear more perspectives on TFD from women who do not have the financial support of a partner who out-earns them. I’ve read a lot on TFD about the importance of not living under the assumption that now or in the future, a man will be there to support you – and that’s really important! But it’s not the same as actually being the higher earner in your relationship. I keep coming to articles about starting your own business, or quitting the grind to follow your passion, or trying a freelancing career, hoping to find advice that might help me as I start on my career path, and then being a bit disappointed to learn that the author was able to do what she did in part because of her partner who supports her financially. And I really, really don’t mean to disparage women who are able to do stuff like that because of a partner’s help – if that’s an option for you, if it’s a healthy relationship, go for it! But it would be cool to hear from women who, like myself, just never find themselves in that situation and are still happy in their careers and relationships. I guess I just want to know that I’m not alone 🙂

    • Kate

      Hi Lauren, thanks for sharing your opinion on the piece! I agree with you that it’d be great to read from the perspective of a woman who does not have that added financial support if need be, spousal or otherwise. It was important for me to share that I did have additional security in hopping from one career to another because I know that isn’t the reality for everyone, and that made my situation uniquely personal. I totally get the feeling of wanting to know that you’re not alone, in any arena in life, and hope that there will be other perspectives shared on TFD that resonate more with you 🙂

  • kf

    “And I abandoned the expectant and somewhat arrogant thought that after 4 years of busting my ass in college and a handful of years in the working world, I somehow already “deserved” a career that satisfied my passions and filled my bank account.” After X years and X dollars of investing in yourself to become the type of asset that a company wants to hire, you do deserve a job that provides both of things. Please read, digest, and reevaluate through this lens http://strikemag.org/bullshit-jobs/ Just because a job holds meaning does not mean it shouldn’t also provide a living wage. You are not “entitled” (a word you didn’t use, but very surely inferred) for that either. Those are two of the basic building blocks on maslow’s hierarchy of needs.