When we think about “return on investment” (ROI), we generally think in terms of time and money. Did the time we spent yield meaningful results or was it wasted? Did the money we invested yield a profit?  

I’ve read (in a few places, so I can’t be sure of the true attribution), that money is a renewable resource while time is not. This concept becomes more salient with every passing year.  

That’s why this is my last week working with wonderful colleagues at an excellent company doing meaningful work. I quit. 

I’m pretty sure no one grows up wanting to be a ditch digger, or a checkout clerk, or a janitor. Without disparaging these or any other professions, it’s safe to say that (as kids, at least), we often have much bigger aspirations for our lives.

From ages six to sixteen, I thought I wanted to be all kinds of things. At six, I was a writer, and I wrote stories galore about birds and people. At seven, I was a psychologist just because I knew how to spell the word. Once I got my first guitar on my eighth birthday, I was a rock star. At nine, I was a young archeologist, digging up rocks at a nearby construction site every afternoon looking for sigs of an ancient burial ground (I was sure it was there).

When I was a kid, there was nothing I couldn’t do. And that’s just the way it should be.

By the time I was in high school, I set my sights on a career in acting. I was in every play and de facto Queen of the Drama Club. My first professional gig was with a summer stock company in Mt. Gretna, PA when I was 17.  I replicated the pattern in college, graduating with B.A. in Theater.

Everything about the theater brought me joy. Every rehearsal, every performance. It was my Plan A, and Plan A = genuine purpose.

My parents were pretty clear about this whole acting thing: You can go for it, but you’d better have a back-up plan in place. In other words Jean, learn to type fast because we can’t pay your bills for you. Plan B = the safe, reliable fall-back position (a.k.a. “the day job”).

Go with Plan A

I took the train to NYC a few weeks after my 25th birthday with $350 in my wallet and whatever I could  drag with me. I had a place to crash for about two weeks, during which time I found a job as a receptionist at a midtown law firm and an apartment to share in Brooklyn. I needed that steady job to pay the bills, but it was never going to pay for acting classes, headshots, or dinner with friends. Or furniture for that matter. And that steady job was never going to give me the flexibility to get to auditions.

My plan was not working, but to be honest, I wasn’t a very good planner back then. I quit after a few months and looked to temp agencies for work, figuring this would give me the freedom to audition. It did, but with intermittent work the bills were harder to pay.

Life went back and forth between Plans A and B for quite a while, but in time I got to live Plan A for a solid 18 months. A year and a half as a professional actor in a hit off-Broadway show. It was one of the happiest times of my life.

In fact, most of my best moments have stemmed directly from immersion in creativity. That’s just the way I’m built, I guess, and it’s where my best energy belongs. Life has always been a bit of a juggle between the poorly-paid joy of creation and the security of… the day job.

When I think now about ROI and the scarcity of that precious resource time, I’m fully persuaded that Plan A is a soul investment in soul while Plan B is a soul tax. It’s time to invest in time spent with music, art, writing, and any creative output. It’s time to work for myself instead of others. In fact, it’s past time.

This post was the why. Coming soon… the how.

 

There I am, lower right, the nun, in Tony ‘n Tina’s Wedding, 1991. Living Plan A.
Tony&Tina