Narrated by the late Alan Watts the above video addresses issues I’ve had with societies perpetual indoctrination of young minds with the ideology that the end goal in life is a career were you make money, lots of it, as if it brings some kind of resolve or resolution.
I opted out of this cycle years ago, in fact I never really bought into it. Growing up there wasn’t a lot of money around with a single mother raising 3 boys. We lived in hand me downs, made our own toys and buried ourselves in books.
That said it’s not like I didn’t have parents who weren’t worried about where I’d end up in life and they encouraged me to take up tertiary studies to have something to fall back on. Since I was living under my mothers roof I could but only oblige and so I studied fine art and graphic design (yes, I understand for many these may not be the best choice of fall back options!).
My passion was always music and I plowed everything I had into it and while I worked in the field of new media circa 1997-2002 it was a means to an end to make my passion a career. By 2003 I was on my way to having released my 2nd album and later 3rd, both nominated for South African Music Awards and which took me to over 80 cities worldwide to perform my music working with many of my luminary musical influences and heroes.
The downside in all this is that I left my then girlfriend, now wife and mother to our two children for up to 7 months of the year while I was on the road. In 2005-2007 I went back to working in design while she finished up her accounting internship and I started learning to build and repair electronic equipment on the side knowing that my end goal was to open a recording studio to keep me involved with my passion of music, but closer to home.
For 3 years I ran one of Cape Town’s best equipped studios, recorded over 100 records, mostly young independent bands and a few well known international acts, but I was working 12-16 hour days, 7 days a week and in 2010 I spent 7 weeks of 7 days juggling 3 projects, the last of which my swansong, Annie Lennox’s ‘A Christmas Cornucopia’.
I got back to South Africa two weeks ahead of Nathan’s due date, my career could have cost me one of life’s most precious moments and it was a sacrifice I wasn’t willing to make and so I decided to take a year off to become a stay-at-home Dad. I leased the studio, took a small retainer we started to enjoy life a lot more.
Why me? Well Kathy’s moved up to become a senior manager in one of the Worlds largest accounting firms, earns more that I did, has family medical, dental and other fringe benefits and works fewer hours… It wasn’t a hard decision.
A year past and I decided not to return to the studio life and sold my assets, in that time I’d become the primary caregiver, family cook, urban farmer and added a string of other titles to husband and father.
Two years in now I’ve become a homemaker, decorating our house with thrifted finds, landscaping and building a place for us to call home.
Sure going from a dual income to single income has meant cutting back in many areas, but the quality of life we have is far superior to the life we had. My career changes had nothing to do with failures, rather a shift in focus to do what was best for our family and lives, rather than making money our goal.
It’s bought with it emotional challenges, I’m still constantly fighting the archetypal notion of the male breadwinner, being that I now make the bread rather than buying it.
Kathy’s going to return to work next month and I’ll be staying home with the two kids and have put measures in place to help ease things. We have a fantastic childminder, Happy, who will help me 4 mornings a week. Nathan will be a play school for 3 of those, giving me 4 hours on those days to pick up some freelance work, probably in electronic design work and hopefully leave time for my weekly blogging commitments and my day to day household chores.
All this to say, follow your heart. If you’re unhappy in your current work or life situation, change things, don’t live out of fear and let it paralyze you. I’m proof that change doesn’t kill you, it will move you, it will shake you, but you may just come out of the other side feeling happier and more at peace with those decisions.