Friday, March 14, 2014

Passion vs. Paying the Bills

Last night I had a teaching dream, usually a sign of anxiety. Not this time. This time it was on a night of presentations that my dream students were giving at the end of a project, and I was running around, reassuring, trouble-shooting, and finger-wagging at the troublemakers. By the end of the dream, my dream self was in tears with pride for the job the kids had done.

Which brings me to today’s blog topic: passion vs. paying the bills.

Teaching is probably my calling. I am passionate about it, especially about middle school kids, especially about twice-exceptional middle school kids, and I am passionate about education. I can remember saying when I was younger that I wanted to start my own school, and I remember very clearly the day I decided to become a teacher. The dream was not off; I had many days in my teaching career where I was filled to bursting with pride and love for my students.

Now, I write. I don’t write anything particularly profound, but I enjoy what I do, and it pays the bills. More importantly at this moment, it gives me freedom that I need to figure out what’s next. We can take two days off and go to Sarasota to meet Cal Ripken, Jr. and watch the Orioles in spring training (happy birthday to me and much love to my brother for making that happen!!) . We can go to New Orleans so Sicily can speak at the TEDYouth conference. We can take six weeks off and go up and down the east coast and listen to Barack Obama give a speech commemorating the 50-year anniversary of the march on Washington. I can do yoga every morning, and we can reward ourselves on Tuesdays and Fridays with gluten-free cupcakes. In the middle of the day.

But teaching. No flexibility. Someone else is the boss (which is really not going to work for me so much after owning and running my own school). There is no spontaneity. Yes, summers are free, but they are free for everyone else, too (which makes everything more expensive and crowded and unpleasant).

But teaching.

I could see writing becoming something major after a while, but right now I am a hired gun. I get to say yes or no to assignments, but they are still not necessarily my own (lots of ghostwriting in freelance work). This blog counts, I suppose, but there is no money in it (and that does need to happen to some degree, although we live frugally and our needs are few).  It has only been a few months of writing “professionally,” so there’s that.

Which do you choose in your own life: passion vs. paying the bills? And if you chose passion and it pays the bills, how did you get there?


  1. It is an odd mix because much of my passion (creating and cultivating community) is present in my "pay the bills" job. However, my passion(s) very often become taxing and turn me into a revenue focused worker bee. My fault and flaw though. No one else's. I am learning though and I am daily learning more about the balance between it all. Right now in my life I choose financial stability for my family that - through no plan of my own - has allowed us to develop and follow passions as well. I am fortunate that way for sure. If I had to choose though...if I had to make a yes or now decision....I would choose passion. Without passion there can be no success in anything; day job, freelance job, temp job. There must be some element of passion somewhere.

    1. I actually thought a lot about you as I wrote this. You have a great mix happening right now!

  2. Hi Suzannah,

    (could not post a Comment on your other blog so I will try to speak to you here)

    Just discovered your blog.

    I can see a lot of interesting reading ahead of me !

    I was looking around for blogs on learning with a view to finding bloggers with a similar interest - ie. to help improve student learning.

    I taught in Private Girls Schools for nearly 30 years. I can say that these parents are generally very interested in their daughter's education. Of course, there's always the "difficult" ones but so few it doesn't matter. I might also add that a significant number of these parents held down two jobs (and went without ) in order to put their girls through the Private system.

    as Head of Science I would shortlist, interview and recommend employment of suitable science teacher job applicants. And .. I must say that it was usually the case that Public school applicants were not of a high enough standard - a different mindset you might say. Now having said that I must also quickly add that there are many excellent Public school teachers doing their best in a very difficult environment.

    This is my very first comment ever on any blog.

    If you are interested to visit my blog on learning then you are most welcome :


  3. I left retail for a more meaningful career within social work, which I am passionate about and gives my life great meaning. But I am in healthcare and the paperwork demands seem to be increasing every day. So I've been thinking more and more on how to gain more of a balance between what I am passionate about versus what is practical financially. I do not know what the answer is but just try to trust that the flow of life will bring me to the right place.

    1. I don't think there is a right answer, thankfully. I was just curious to hear how people balance, if they do, making a living with making a life. :)

  4. In April of 2012, I jumped without a safety net. Our tiny house was finally finished and it gave me the courage and the catalyst to quit my job and do something I had always wanted to do.

    I worked for 15 years as a recruiter in the temporary staffing industry. 8 of those with the same company in Alpharetta GA. I was good at what I did but I didn't really like it. It was a job. It payed the bills - barely. I made a good salary but I also fell into the trap of living beyond my means. I needed something to rein me back in. The tiny house gave me that opportunity.

    I was able to pay off my debt and reduce my expenses and quit my job. I was able to choose my passion and changed the kinds of bills I was paying off. Now, 2 years later, I am still extremely happy with my choice. I work at a bar part time for extra money and fun. All that money goes into savings. I make money writing. Most of it is for other people and it is ghost writing but I still love it. It still get to flex my creative muscles. I was a superstar at an old client because I could make cast iron railings sound interesting from week to week. I like the challenge.

    You're right, there is no one right answer. For me it was about integrating my work and my life. They are not two separate things. My job isn't "writer" - I simply am a writer, I just also happen to get paid to do it.

    You are raising some great questions. Keep it up!

    1. I think I am heading in the same direction. Life is really too short to not do what you want. I still need to work on balance, though, which means I need to get more freelance work and be more disciplined.

      I am trying to put myself on a schedule!!!!