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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