I met up with an old college buddy of mine last night over drinks. As men do, we chatted about old acquaintances women, jobs, where we’re at in life, and where we see ourselves going. I’m writing this because, by societal standards, he is the more successful of the two of us in almost every way and is two years younger than myself to boot – a large gap at my age of a ripe old 27. Yet I feel satisfied and content with the path my life has taken; with nothing but excitement and (if honest) some good trepidation of the possibilities before me.
So this post is mostly an exploration to make sure I’m not backwards rationalizing my choices, with a possibility to show any readers how minor choices can lead to greater personal health and happiness if one is willing to give society’s expectations the finger.
Lifestyles and Career
We’re both designer’s in theatre – each of us design both sets and lights. We each live in a cheap, artistic, and slightly sketchy part of our respective cities. We each love to do edgy work and challenge the directors of the shows we work on to make artistic choices that are strong and actually backed up/support the story of the play we’re working on.
That’s about where the similarities end.
He lives and works in the shining theatre Mecca of New York City. So his similar, and slightly smaller, apartment costs 4 times what mine does a month. In order to get work there he got his Master of Fine Arts at NYU’s Tisch (one of the top 3 theatre schools). He also had to join the union to be able to be eligible for the jobs in NYC that pay anything resembling decent money. So he’s loaded with the student loans from Tisch, the student loans from the private university we went to for undergrad, and is paying union fees every month as well as them taking chunks out of his pay check.
In contrast I went from undergrad and worked several years before even deciding I’d want to attempt grad school. When I did go, I saw the debt I was taking on (over 20 grand a year), and it simply wasn’t worth the money. So despite the highest gpa in my class (3.8 ish), I moved from Boston to Chicago because I saw it’d cut down on living expenses, offer more work, and the work would pay the same as in Boston. I have far less student debt than my friend does and I don’t need to join the union to get work, so I didn’t and thus have no union fees.
Neither of us Pay the Bills with our Design Work
His reward for fulfilling the MFA at Tisch is that he assists big name designers in New York. It pays better to assist broadway shows – doing draftings and model making – than it does to do the level of design work he has access too. So he balances paying his bills with forwarding his career.
I do the same thing, only instead of assisting other designers I mainly do electrician or carpentry work. I build fake walls, fake counters and cabinets, paint them, or hang theatre lights, run the electricity to them, and put in the color. I couldn’t assist if I wanted to in Chicago – there’s just not enough high paying work for designers to hire out someone to do their draftings. But I enjoy the physical labor as a change of pace from the mental work my design work demands.
The difference is that, to make ends meet, he has to earn in a week what I have to earn in a month. To do that my friend works 7 days a week most of the time – going on 3 or 4 week spurts of 12 hours a day with a week off. I work 3 days a week most of the time until I get into crunch time on a show or I find a particularly well paying gig for a couple weeks where I decide to work a bit more to save up enough money to pay several months worth of bills for 3 weeks of work.
In exchange for his freedom he gets to draft and model high status shows that have budgets of 50,000 for the sets while lamenting that they never have actual discussions talking to the director. In exchange for making less money, I work with different people at different theatres every day, to go to a bar with them after and lament the life of an artist or simply have good discussions with the men I work with.
Simply put – he doesn’t have any. He works to the bone to save up for vacation time in the summer and to me it seems like he might as well be working a cubical job. My brain imagines him hunched over a computer, drafting all day. He is a male serial monogamist, saying that relationships ‘ground him’ and that he needs them to be balanced.
Meanwhile I have buckets of free time. I go to the gym three times a week, am working on getting through my reading list, cook for myself, and bounce from going on a few dates with one woman to the next when one proves she’s not worth my time nor enjoyable to be around. When we compared these things he looked at my as if I was crazy for not working myself to the bone for the extra money while saying he couldn’t imagine having the free time to read up on things like leadership, nutrition, or classics like the Iliad. The concept that working more hours wouldn’t actually forward my career goals, but being a healthier man with a rounded education and leadership abilities would, seemed foreign to him.
He then advocated that I should go back to grad school and get my Master of Fine Arts.
Our End Games
His only career path that will allow him to get out of debt is to slave to others because older designers (like every other part of the economy) are baby boomers that simply aren’t retiring or handing over the reigns to let others lead. You could take Cappy’s video and apply it word for word to the theatre industry in NYC. If my own hunches are right, he’s got a big gamble on whether the US federal government will keep subsidizing the arts in Universities to allow him that career path he’s focused on and locked into. I searched and couldn’t find another Cappy video I remember watching, but even without the video from my side of the liberal arts and theatre world….. I can’t foresee the universities and theatre world continuing at the pace it’s going. It’s going to bubble and burst just like every other liberal art field when the Feds stop subsidizing University theatre programs. Then people’s retirements will disappear, they’ll go back into the industry, but theatres mainly run on donations and grants at the moment, so those will dry up and be unable to support family income levels those professors were used to.
In contrast, I plan on starting my own theatre company. I will plan on avoiding grants as much as possible so that the company is able to stay afloat when they dry up. I plan on having individual apprenticeship/mentorship programs built into the company in all aspects of the company. None of that bullshit ‘internship’ type stuff that allows companies to get free slave labor. Rather, pick one or two individuals in each department and treat it like training a trade over several years with increasing responsibilities. To basically take the learning and mastery styles of training humans have used for our whole history. To write and create new works directly targeting the community, to involve them in the discussions, and have partnerships within the community to focus on actual change instead of some bullshit, high minded ‘art’ that never affects or makes a difference in the lives of those that see it.
Instead of his dream, mine is under as much individual control as possible, instead of relying on a University that relies on the government while also relying on students to continue attending. While I imagine and foresee mine happening in Chicago, it could happen in any city, but I will have the ability to chose which one. He will have to search and take whatever professorships are available to him and go through years of working towards tenureship with no guarantees.
Or, if the whole industry goes to hell and neither of our dreams work out; I at least can either be employed as a home carpenter/electrician or even just start my own company doing handiman work or building costume furniture/cabinets. Meanwhile I won’t have any reason to lament my life as a sunk opportunity cost – no man, market, institution, or government can take away my personal health or the satisfaction I’m finding in self education.
Yet somehow society considers him the successful one. The whole thing just boggles my mind
A Question to Readers
Do you identify more one way or the other? Or maybe something different all together. I’m simply curious what other men that are red pill aware desire from their work and see as their goals. Do you desire a high status job that might pay amazingly, but has soul crushing hours? Or do you want to live off as little as possible, exalting in your freedom? Start your own business? Maybe just find a moderately paying job, with few responsibilities, that would let you afford to travel and go on adventures even if you’re ultimately reliant on the company?
I’ve seen some interesting posts by Aneroid Ocean on him juggling such questions and working towards those goals. Riv has an awesome post about his goals this year. Yet I rarely see others writing on what they want to achieve.
I guess I’m simply curious because I view myself at one extreme – that of freedom at the cost of personal wealth. I will eventually have the money for a home and family, but certainly couldn’t support them now and have no desire to be able to in the next ten years. Yet my friend lives his life like he has a checklist of things he has to accomplish, and in a certain way. More than anything it reminds me of a woman’s checklist demands for a man, and how unreasonable they can become.
Are a man’s goals in life the equivalent of a woman’s goals in a man?
An interesting question
Where do you find yourself in this world, and where do you want to be?