When What You Love Doesn’t Pay Enough

According to an April 2015 survey done by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 86% of Americans are satisfied and engaged by their current job. This is a change from the consistent downward trend in job satisfaction that occurred from 2009-2013. The recent rise in job satisfaction is a comfort to some; namely researchers, economists, and management professionals, but what about those who are part of that 14% who are not satisfied with their jobs?

We’re all familiar with the saying “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” I happen to love doing stand-up. I’d love nothing more but to devote my energy to it, but there’s one tiny problem. Since I started in January of 2015 I have yet to get paid gig that didn’t involve passing a tip jar around. I know patience is a virtue and if you have a job you should count yourself lucky. However it’s pretty tough to stay patient and feel lucky when you have to wake up every weekday morning, fight swear-worthy traffic, and drag yourself to a job your heart isn’t really in. I know a lot of people who feel the same. I have friends who are talented artists, crafters, bakers, musicians, and filmmakers that are working in corporate jobs, retail jobs, or as baristas. It’s not just artistic people who are part of the 14% crowd. There are people in the corporate world who have MBAs in Finance but work in menial middle management positions or people who are qualified to work in HR but work in Finance, etc.

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Being part of the 14% crowd is hard and the input we receive from people doesn’t help. There’s a tendency for people in the 86% crowd, no matter how well-meaning they may be, to give advice that is often unsolicited, sounds judgmental, or is just plain bad.  They may say things like “Why don’t you give up on X and focus on Y?”, “You’re so good at blah and yada yada. Why don’t you try pursuing blah or yada yada?”, or “You should do (insert thing here).”

Asking someone to give up their passion is like saying, “Give up breathing.” That other thing you’re suggesting may be harder to get into than the passion the person’s pursuing in the first place. As for the “you should,” you should consider learning how to provide helpful input that doesn’t sound like a directive. We Americans tend to have a very independent spirit which is great, but it means that most of us tend to hate feeling like we’re being told what to do. If the advice you’re offering someone is solicited, it’s a good idea to phrase it as a question and reiterate that you’re trying to be helpful (e.g. Have you considered doing (insert thing here)? It may help you.). If you’re offering someone unsolicited advice, you might want to keep it to yourself. People find unsolicited advice annoying. If someone tells you they’re not interested in what you’re suggesting, let it go. Don’t nag them or try to push them to think the way you do.

If you have a friend or family member in the 14% and they’re venting to you, don’t be dismissive. If you can’t listen politely, say that you’re not comfortable with the topic of discussion and suggest a change to something you know makes them happy to help them forget about things for a while.

If you’re part of the 14%, be patient with others. When people try to give you advice, be gentle. I know unsolicited advice can be annoying, but the fact that someone’s taking time to give you advice shows that they care. If you asked for advice take it graciously. You’re the one who asked. If you don’t like the answer, it’s your problem.

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Be patient with yourself. If you’re living with your parents’ and doing what you love for free, you’re sticking to your principles and not giving up. If you’re holding down a job and still devoting time to what you love, you’re exercising a lot of responsibility. Don’t get so wrapped up in the boring day to day that you forget your purpose. Pat yourself on the back because you’re handling this adulting business much better than you think.

Most importantly, do not under any circumstances give up. I know how hard it can be not to give in to the pressure placed on you to give up on your passion. I routinely catch myself thinking of quitting and working a “regular” job just to shut people up. The idea of stability appeals to us, but believe me no amount of stability is worth giving up your dreams. Helen Keller said that “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet.” Few things that are worth doing aren’t at least a little bit scary. No one has ever grown without stepping outside of their comfort zone. If your comfort comes at the price of pursuing your passion then comfort is overrated.

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Margaret Atwood once said that part of the reason she writes is to “show the bastards.” How are you ever going to show the bastards aka the haters if you give up? If you give up, the bastards win and we cannot let the bastards win! If you keep going, doors will open for you. I’ve become part of an amazing community of comics. I’ve given and received awesome support and I know that if I stop now that big opportunity I’m waiting for is never going to come. In order to see your ship come in, you have to be standing on the dock.

If you give up now, you’ll always have that “what if?” That, my friends is called regret and you don’t want that. Lastly I promise you that when, not if we finally make it, I’ll be clapping for you. Stay strong and never give up. Never give in.

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Star Wars: The Memories Awaken

Dad + Me age 5

When I was about five, my father sat me down on our living room floor to watch the original Star Wars movies. It wasn’t just the abundance of shiny objects that grabbed and held my attention. It was the idea of a mystical Force that flows through every living being. It was good versus evil. It was the idea that a farm boy from Tatooine could become a powerful Jedi and save a galaxy far, far away. My favorite characters were Yoda and Chewbacca. Yoda proved and I quote, “Size matters not.” Chewy looks like a big, hairy stuffed animal. I just want to hug him, brush his hair, put a bandana on him and give him a Kong full of peanut butter. I love that Wookie and Carrie Fisher shares that feeling. When Chewbacca won the lifetime achievement award at the MTV movie awards, she said she wished that they had love scenes.

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Yoda: the original gangsta

The original Star Wars movies were something my father enjoyed and wanted to share with me. They gave me a memory of time I spent with him that I’ll cherish for life. I suspect he showed me the movies to give me a role model in Princess Leia. Obi-Wan was her only hope until she picked up a blaster. Why wait for a man to rescue you when you can just blast your way out?

Then the prequels happened. I didn’t bother seeing The Phantom Menace because everyone I knew who saw it warned me that it was awful. I saw Attack of the Clones and everything from the graphics to the dialogue was all wrong. For God’s sake, Anakin and Padme had an entire conversation about sand. SAAAAAND!!!! I couldn’t bring myself to see Revenge of the Sith because I was still foaming at the mouth over how bad Attack of the Clones was. On the flipside, The Clone Wars series on Cartoon Network was actually good and well worth the watch.

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Again, no Jar Jar. Just, no.

I didn’t let Jar Jar Binks or the prequels ruin my relationship with Star Wars. I still played the video games. Soul Calibur IV was purchased for the sole purpose of getting to fight as Yoda. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic was a bit slow, but if I needed to mellow out it was my go-to game. I found it oddly soothing. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed would’ve been a lot cooler if the damn game didn’t freeze right after I beat a boss fight. I was pissed! It took me right out of the game. Lego Star Wars is one of my all-time favorite franchises and got me hooked on the Lego games.

When I saw the trailer for The Force Awakens I was cautiously optimistic. I didn’t dare get excited because prequels. Then more trailers came out and as I saw more footage from the film I couldn’t help but get swept up in it all. I hadn’t had a decent Star Wars fix since our games of Jedi Manhunt in college. Yes, Jedi Manhunt. That’s how cool my friends and I are. In our defense, there were way worse things we could’ve been doing. Picture us dressed in black, breaking into teams, and taking turns hiding all over campus until we found each other and battled with plastic lightsabers. It got bloody, too. To this day I have a scar on my right middle finger from a mistimed parry. I also had a run-in with a possum. Good Lord those are ugly when you see them up close!

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The Force Awakens awoke all sorts of memories in me; some good, some bad but all worth experiencing. I felt like I was five years old again when I saw the Millennium Falcon take to the skies over Jakku. I squealed when I saw Chewy appear on screen. Seeing Han and Leia together again was joyous even if they did remind me of an ad for Cialis. “The whole galaxy is at war, but why stop to take a pill?” Carrie Fisher is a diva. I hope I get to be like her when I grow up. Thank you, Carrie. SPOILER ALERT!  DON’T READ THIS BIT IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE MOVIE! I’m big enough to admit that I cried when Han Solo died, but not for the reason you think. I was sad about him and for Leia, but my tears weren’t for them. They were for Chewy. He was heartbroken and my heart broke with his.

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I know, Chewy. I know.

The Force Awakens was good enough to leave me looking forward to the next installment with cautious optimism. The film features the first woman to fly the Millennium Falcon and the first female Stormtrooper Captain in the form of Captain Phasma who was played by Gwendoline Christie. You’ll recognize her voice from a little show called Game of Thrones. I’m starting to think she’s being typecast in the role of badass.

I do have a few things I’d like to see in the next movie. I’d like to see Han Solo’s funeral. I think for a character that gave so much to the franchise, it’s only right to give a fitting tribute. Can I get a glimpse of Gwendoline Christie’s face? Surely Stormtrooper Captain is a rank that allows for helmet removal. How cool would it be to see a Stormtrooper officer remove the helmet to reveal that she’s a woman? Maybe not as badass as Eowyn’s “I am no man,” scene in Lord of the Rings, but still pretty cool. At some point Leia needs to get a blaster and shoot something. Lastly of course, I want to see more of Chewy. As in lots and lots of Chewy. So help me if he gets killed off at any point for any reason, I don’t give a crap how much it advances the plot. I am going to riot. Mark my words! You’ll see me on the news! Tell my mom. I may need bail money.

About Last Night’s Shenanigans

Last night I did a set at Take 5 Gourmet in Robbinsville, NJ. There were a lot of talented comedians including a first time comic who got laughs right out of the gate. It’s always fun to see someone new get bitten by the comedy bug. My friend Kurt Zimmerman hosted and it happened to be his wife and also my friend Dawn’s birthday and of course we had fun embarrassing her. I think I had a good set, but I’ll let you be the judge:

Last night’s set

The War on Nerds

I’d like to call attention to what appears to be a rather strange global phenomenon. I call it the War on Nerds. I know what you’re thinking: You’re crazy! There’s no war on nerds! Are you sure? Take this trip with me.

Doctor Who premiered in England on BBC 1 on November 23, 1963. The series wasn’t sold by the BBC to American networks until 1972 and the episodes aired were only select episodes from Jon Pertwee’s era and were aired out of order so the series didn’t take off. It wasn’t until 1978 when PBS began broadcasting Tom Baker’s first four seasons in the proper order that Doctor Who started to gain traction in the U.S. Stateside Whovians are then left to wonder WHAT TOOK SO LONG?!?!

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Tom Baker doesn’t know what took so long either

Still don’t believe me? Okay, all three Star Wars prequels. Anyone who doesn’t believe in the War on Nerds will change their tune once they subject themselves to those three pieces of crap. Thank God Disney snatched up the franchise to rescue it from George Lucas. Don’t even get me started on the evil that is Jar Jar Binks.

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Jar Jar, no. Just no.

If you’ve subjected yourself to the trainwreck that was the Star Wars prequels and still don’t believe there’s a War on Nerds, you can detox with some seasons of Joss Whedon’s brilliant space western (yes, I said space western), Firefly…oh wait. I said seasons, but there’s only one. It got canceled after one season despite its huge cult following and a second season is looking like a distant, wildly unrealistic fantasy despite a successful movie based on the series in the form of Serenity. Still uncertain? Okay where the hell is our next season of Sherlock? For that matter, um The Winds of Winter? Hello? Anyone? We’re running out of stuff to watch and/or read over here!

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*siiiiiiiigh*

If there really is a war on nerds, then surely we’re smart enough to win it right? In theory yes, if we all came together and united for one cause, we nerds absolutely are smart and badass enough to take on all comers. However, there’s a slight complication. The nerd culture is made up of many different fandoms and factions and for reasons that I have yet to fully understand we just can’t seem to get along. Star Trek fans don’t get along with Star Wars fans, players of World of Darkness RPGs are often at odds with players of D&D, the classic Doctor Who fans argue with the post-2005 reboot fans, etc. It’s a product of a lot of passion and a lot of pride in the things that we love. I’m not saying that passion and pride are bad things. I’m just saying can’t we all just agree to disagree and get along?

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Should you watch this? Yes! Yes you should.

Now we that we’re aware that there is a war on nerds we can put together a strategy for peace. Item #1 on the list was just touched upon. We need to stop fighting amongst ourselves. Star Trek and Star Wars both have their merits and pitfalls. World of Darkness RPGs are just as enjoyable as D&D. The classic Doctors deserve as much respect as the post-2005 reboot Doctors since they’re the ones who paved the way for the younger fans to get into the series. Learn to share, people! If we put our differences aside, I think we’ll figure out that we have a lot more in common than we think. Walls will come down, friendships will form, and it will be glorious!

Once we stop fighting amongst ourselves we can move on to the bigger issue of redefining the terms “nerd” or “geek” since let’s face it we use them pretty much interchangeably. Simon Pegg put it best when he said that “Being a geek is all about being honest about what you enjoy and not being afraid to demonstrate that affection. It means never having to play it cool about how much you like something. It’s basically a license to proudly emote on a somewhat childish level rather than behave like a supposed adult. Being a geek is extremely liberating.”

I believe we can safely say that the same is true about being a nerd. By this logic then, even professional athletes can be geeks about the sports they love. Just ask World Cup winning USWNT defender Becky Sauerbrunn who refers to herself as a part of the geek squad. Goalkeeper Hope Solo likes Game of Thrones and Star Wars. When you chat with them about soccer, their faces light up the same way mine does when someone brings up Doctor Who…or Star Wars which OMG that will have to be a whole separate entry on its own. Actually, point of fact my face lights up when you chat with me about soccer, too and don’t bring up baseball or the Philadelphia Phillies unless you have a couple hours to kill.

There’s my point, friends: I’m a geek and I like sports and you can absolutely be a geek about the sports you like or anything your heart desires. You don’t ever have to play it cool. So screw the stereotypes and the labels. Labels are for canned goods, not people. We are totally free to rebrand ourselves on a cultural level and I think we owe it to ourselves and the next generation of geeks/nerds to do it. So from now on, whenever someone calls me a geek or a nerd with the usual snide, derisive, snotty tone I’m going to smile and say “Thank you,” and I encourage everyone else to do the same. We can end the war on nerds if we just follow Bill and Ted’s advice and start being excellent to each other. I know I’ve said that on this blog before and I’m going to keep saying it until I actually start to see it happen, so let’s do this together. Join the resistance! We have cookies.