‘Side-Hustle’, the household term for making the dream-ends meet, is a paradox of both embracing the necessity to survive and rejecting the constraints of depending solely on one’s job to do it. The implication that you need more money for shelter and booze and stuff, but also need some fulfillment ‘damnit’, coupled with a strong overtone that you have a work-boner for it. You don’t Side-Hustle at McDonald’s because that is having two jobs.Therefore, it is a privilege to have something that could potentially earn dollaz enough that you wouldn’t need to work at McDonald’s, but not so much of a privilege because you definitely need a Side-Hustle to live.
Let me be clear… I still do not know what I want to be when I grow up. I swear all the time to nail this down, but I keep flip-flopping on the issues. I toggle insanely between my various interests, driven by my equally indecisive muse. I have an education that is very specific and not at all what I am good at or designed for. I still managed to find an offshoot career with it… the most absurd dark-art of this profession which I’ve nestled cozily into for… well, for almost 20 fucking years. I really like it and I am good at it, which is why job dissatisfaction isn’t my impetus for change. It is the nagging, wake up in the night, all-knowing mind-wizard that whispers to me incessantly; ‘who are you’?
Now, someone (me), might be like “you picked your thing, loser, and now that’s what you do and who you are now so shut up and go to bed”. Except, someone else (also me), might be like “you need to do this ‘aspiration’ before it’s too late and you are found dead, face down, in a pool of your own regret.” I do have other interests and trying them out while I still have cash flow could enrich my life without also maybe destroying it. Do I want my unlived soul to suffer the earthly mistakes of this life? Nope. Self-doubt, self-sabotage, I can take those fools. Maybe ‘self-help book’ was right… I am special. Or was it that I am not special? I forget. Either way, I buried this body 20 years ago, some ‘shit’ has happened and now more than ever I cannot ignore the beating of the hideous heart. I must act. It’s time to hustle.
Arguably the entire notion of a Side-Hustle is more of a quarter-life thing than a mid-life thing. This one-time zeitgeist movement has become standard protocol among my friends in their 20’s and 30’s. In this discussion, I am assuming that the quarter-life version is more survival based and that by mid-life you’ve earned a decent standard of living and can support some form of sabbatical, be it part or full-time. This may or may not be true for you… but it has been true’ish for me. True’ish except that I am only holding back because of bills and debt, plus I was a dumpster fire in my 20’s, but let’s say for the sake of argument that this is the case.
Do you have an improbable to-do list? One that says weird shit like ‘become an Egyptologist, learn the bassoon, write science fiction epic, identify new species of monkey, become National Geographic photojournalist… etcetera. You feel this urge to ask, ‘can I do this, is this crazy’? Probably. Do you have one that is less improbable? Maybe it includes ‘start internet business so that you can work remotely, invest wisely and cash in young to travel, write self-help book, start a clothing line.’ I have had more conversations about the career crossroads with my 40–50 somethings than on any other topic. It’s all we seem to want to talk about these days. The intersection of reasonable and unreasonable, where we are free to think that there is still the chance to start all over again with something new. As long as it’s practical and we could start it up on the side.
So, what in mid-life do we do with this unrequited zeal to fulfill our grown-up destiny? What with a mortgage, kids (or god-forbid, kids in college), do you do without gambling all that you’ve worked for? It’s as though the cumulative acquisitions of a career outweigh the potential gains of an unlived, untapped potential! Because, ahhhhh, they kind of do. Or do they? Yes, they do… but I am trying to find the balance because I think it exists. I can’t just blow off this version for another like I could’ve done in my 20’s. Will I craft an elaborate scheme to winter in California and write a book? Will I earn gold bars as an artist selling paintings on Facebook? Yes and yes. What about the idea that I don’t need to make money or even think about profiting? What if, indulge me, the famed ‘Bucket-List’ sidles over to the bar where ‘Side-Hustle’ is day drinking and says ‘heyyyy, let’s do this thing.’ What if I find my bucket-hustle??? The seamless merger of the retirement’esque fulfillment of life goals and the intrepidity of entrepreneurship. Yes. The Bucket-Hustle.
Financially, the timing isn’t right for me. But if I have no intention to improve the timing, it will never be any different. How will I get there? Lottery win? Marry rich? A one-time gig as a high stakes drug mule? Maybe. Since I go to bed at 9:30 most nights I feel like holding out for any of these will take too long. I think these questions will continue to go unanswered until I figure out how, when, how. The point for me isn’t that I have the answers immediately but simply that I ask them. I need to ask them, and I have opened the door now so that the answers may sail in accidentally one day with the breeze. Historically, that seems to be how I have found my way. Just by fucking accident. I am comfortable with that. Yes, I am comfortable with that.