Gratitude, Privilege, and What It Really Takes to Do What You Love

I read an article yesterday whose main idea was that the trend of privilege of quitting one’s job to chase a dream is bullshit.

There were parts of it I agreed very much with- for instance, to paraphrase, my drive and initiative and skills are no more valuable or true than those of migrant workers, double-shift-working single parents, or of any one of the billions with a job they don’t enjoy.

I wish it were not so that millions must live far away from home and family, working a backbreaking horrible job (or six) in order to just keep themselves and their loved ones from starving.  This situation has never been my reality, and I can only see it from a very distant perspective.  It also requires a different, much longer conversation, having to do with workers’ rights, cultural sensitivity, poverty, racism, equal pay, and a thousand other things.

I wish it were not so that life and/or work is absolute crap for so many, absolute joy for so few.

Standing where I stand, and speaking from direct personal experience, I would like to propose that what’s bullshit is the level of romanticism around the concept of chucking it all to do what you love. Here’s why.

Figuring out what you even want to do with your life is damn near impossible in the first place. It’s okay if that takes a while. It should always be okay, and it is also okay if it changes at some point. Your mileage will almost certainly vary. I had it very easy where figuring out what I wanted to do was concerned, and I recognize this. Those of you who are not having an easy time with that at all, I see you, and I wish you triumph.

If and when you do scale that fence, and you decide that you want to leap and fly, you absolutely must be prepared to work your butt off to build a new AND sustainable career- both to replace the career or job you want to leave, and to keep yourself and any loved ones alive, or else you may lose your integrity in leaning on any available well of privilege, or leaning on your spouse or family, when things don’t go so well.

I’m not saying you’ll lose your integrity if you don’t do exactly as I did, nor if you go home to your mama’s to rest. I do that a lot, but she and I have always been close.

What I am saying, for my own part, is that I have an ocean of support, and also plenty of privilege, and it’s still a colossal amount of work to do my thing, which is managing and maintaining an independent artistic career.

I’m also saying that you don’t have to ever even consider making your passion into your job or your life’s work. It’s hard, and the attempt might just make you not want to do it anymore at all. I’m saying look carefully at every angle before you make the change. Dream as big as you like, but also think, and plan.

Do what you love, but know what you’re getting into.  Be kind, be aware, make friends, do your best, and say thank you.  Say thank you a lot.

I saw other articles after I read the first one, most of which declared at the start that entrepreneurs are all rich kids with trust funds, no integrity, and no accountability. It was at that point I had to work hard not to bristle.

I don’t want to bristle, because I am swimming in privilege. I am a newly married white woman in very good physical health, with a US passport. My psychological difficulties are mild enough that I can usually live with them, and when I can’t my spouse and my family always make time to help me. My parents were smart, and they put all they could into my own education and good financial habits. Any debt I incur doesn’t last long. But I did not work to start my career and my business with the help or the urging of a rich uncle or anything like a trust fund.  I do not have those.

I do know that I was born to people whose parents and grandparents made some smart decisions a few decades ago, and they taught me how to be smart about what money I have. I’m not saying that I put more into savings than I spend, but anyone will tell you that saving more than you spend isn’t something our economy supports. Nor am I leaning on my spouse- my music career supports us both.  I have some idea of how rare this is, and that it could change at any moment.

My privilege comes from knowing that there’s a gigantic well of support in my life, fictional rich relatives aside. My job is of course to give as good as I get.

I am proud of what I’ve done in the past 12 years of building what I’ve built, and I am humbled by every story from every person who takes a moment to tell me how my music has helped them. It happens a lot. I always do everything I can to listen.

And I’m listening now, too.

If I am one of those rare birds for whom this new and problematic American Dream is more than a concept, then I must and I will stay aware of all the responsibility that my success places upon me: to do good work and good things, to be awake and aware, to show gratitude, and to set the best possible example. All of this on top of being talent, manager, agent, bookkeeper, secretary, and CEO.

None of what I do would result in success without the loyalty and unending support of my fanbase and the communities who’ve welcomed me as one of their own. I recognize this, and I am grateful for it every time I take a breath.
That support matters more to me than just about anything else.

So thank you all. 🙂

I’m grateful to the authors of these articles, broad brush or not, for reminding me to be aware of all of this, and to say thank you often.

It is my privilege to do the work that I do, and to share it with you.

Without you, none of it would happen. 

I am also grateful that the days of new friends and colleagues asking me to my face if I’m a trust fund kid are gone.  I am grateful that I don’t really have to be effed up over it if essayists who’ve never met me want to paint me with a broad brush.  I am certain they have no idea that I even exist, and this does not bother me overmuch. The people whose opinion of me matters, my fans and friends, will tell me if I’m not doing a good job. You also tell me when I am doing a good job, which keeps me in better shape than you may know.

Thank you.

The one time in recent years that I’ve been in danger of any kind of serious, career-killing debt, after unexpected hospitalization and surgery, I found that I had an army of you at my back, giving all that you could of your time and effort and CD buying power- and that was before GoFundMe was even founded, and before crowdsourcing and crowdfunding were at all as well known as they are at the time of this posting.

Lastly, I am grateful that it’s been over a decade since anyone had a conversation with me that went something like this:

Person: what do you do?

Me: I’m a musician.

Person: no, I mean what do you do to pay the bills?


The reason no one asks me that anymore is because you believe in me, because a lot of you have believed in me for a long time. Thank you.

Thank you.

Thank you.

Thank you.