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Doing What You Love Probably Won’t Pay Your Bills...And That’s Okay

February 4, 2018

 

{{Co-founders Nohemi Rosales and Keisa Reynolds in Uncharted Books, where they host Whine Club - Sept 2016}} 

 

Anyone who has known me before college knows I am a writer. A notebook of mine was passed around math classes in middle and high school. (No wonder I am horrible at anything related to math.) That was my thing. I went to art school in Chicago to chase my dream of being a journalist and author.


Then like the average freshman, I changed my mind. I got there, took a couple classes, and said, nope, I want to explore other disciplines. I decided against pursuing journalism and creative nonfiction. This is after spending four years working on staff of my high school newspaper, managing two internships in communications, and blogging to build a brand. I ended up with a degree in Cultural Studies and minor in education. I took on internships and jobs with non-profit organizations focused on serving women, children, and LGBTQ populations. I pushed aside my creativity to ‘do good’.

Why? Looking back, I started to buy into the myth of art being selfish. Okay, I think there is plenty of truth in it. But is there anything inherently wrong with it? Selfishness is often needed to make good art and good art often reveals universal truths that can guide us in surviving this social experiment we call life.

A few months into my first full-time office job, I realized how much I missed writing and feeling creative. I stopped calling myself an artist years prior and it finally started to feel like something was missing. In April 2016, a friend and I decided to create a monthly storytelling series for women, femmes, and non-binary people. We decided to call it Whine Club after a few shows where people read from their journals and joined us in celebrating vulnerability with a glass of wine.

 

{{Keisa performing at Miss Spoken, another storytelling series that features women, femmes, and gender non-conforming people - Oct 2017}}

 

Our series has featured dozens of queer and trans people, primarily people of color. Many of them performed for the first time at our show; others hadn’t performed in front of a group that closely resembled them or understood their work as deeply as our audiences. We didn’t know whether or not it would be a safe space; we soon learned it was a brave space for many: a few storytellers shared for the first time how they felt about their sexual orientation and gender identities.

I co-curated a space for people to be themselves. I think that falls under doing good. I turned to writing and performing stories after I realized how much of my time was spent focusing on advocating for social change and not processing my own reality or humanity outside of marginalization and oppression. All the rage and despair I felt had to go somewhere. It didn’t take long for me to discover I was not alone. I still work in offices rooted in social justice and advocacy—and I am proud of the work we produce—but it has become more about a paycheck since I’ve accepted my passion does not have to be tied to my career.

The older I get, the more I surprise myself. I am returning to a dream I thought wasn’t feasible. Turns out I only needed to reframe why I needed to create art. Writing and curating space for people to share their art is still tied to social justice; I am not as far removed from it as I felt I had to be.

It know it isn’t easy to simply follow your heart or passion, especially in this economy. But it is important to listen to ourselves and carve out time and space for creativity. It’s what keeps many of us well-grounded. Indulge in a hobby that you left on the backburner or you’ve always wanted to take up. Give yourself room to process and express yourself. Trust me, it’s worth it. 

 

{{Keisa hosting Whine Club in Volumes Book before they found their permanent home - Aug 2016}} 

 

Originally from Richmond, Calif., Keisa is a Chicago-based writer, storyteller, and researcher. They are currently working on a collection of essays examining the intersections of mental health and sexuality through a queer Black feminist perspective. You can follow their work on keisareynolds.com  

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