I thoroughly enjoyed spending hours driving, exploring, thinking about art and making art while I was in Colorado and Utah, but a cloud hung over everything, and it has remained. This inescapable question: How will I pay for this?
Traveling at 25-27 years-old with a couch surfing network that could make almost anyone jealous is so much different than trying the same at 36. Floors don’t cut it anymore, and all those old friends have families and busy jobs. Even when I do have a place to crash, plane tickets are so much more expensive, and I had still not enough appreciation for that newspaper paycheck that was above average for my age. Where I used to be able to get a ride from the airport, I pretty much need to rent cars now. I have to pay for parking at the airport. I sometimes have to consider hotels (which only happened about twice on dozens of past excursions).
As productive as it was, looking at the rest of my Semester Away plans have become increasingly daunting. Even hopping in a car for a short jaunt threatens my beleaguered bank account. Loans help pay basic bills, and nothing else. I don’t want to take up a TA position and be stuck on campus, in what has been a classically terribly unproductive position for my photography. (Though I truly appreciate its role in actually helping me pay for the on-campus portion of this degree!!)
I have been working steadily on art, and I’ve collected a solid amount of it, especially considering the head and foot work it takes to make one of these images to work. I’ve now got a stack of books to build a solid academic underpinning for my work. I already have an even clearer mission for my work, and a clearer idea of what works and won’t.
Still, I could barely imagine affording 2-4 more excursions over the next half year. And while even staying planted in East Texas (a better idea than ever, but that’s another post) is certainly an option, I worry that it won’t be seen as NLC-worthy. And even if I could make the best MFA show ever in my backyard, this is the sobering truth:
I. AM. BROKE.
I cannot emphasize this enough. I cannot sell enough of my art making tools. Blood isn’t valuable enough. I’m 36 and I have bills. Debt I've taken on while building a personal photography business is going away, and I want to keep it that way – I’ve got enough school debt to worry about. I’ve been waiting for a solution, or to just squeeze through and hope the damage won’t take too long to undo. I grew up poor and understand how to max out money, so this isn't an issue of money or luxury management.
The only sources of income I’ve had after my last TA check came in was a once-a-semester stipend from Kilgore College for newspaper consultation, and a nice shot of cash from my super generous GoFundMe donors (if you are one, I will send an update to you soon!). While that was enough to get me through June, July-December offered very little in line of hope.
Amid all these money worries, a job opening caught my attention, really for the first time in years. Since I went into business for myself, I’ve generally eschewed full-time employment outside of my own work. I've especially avoided distractions as I've entered the downhill stage of this degree. So I threw together a resume (as a sign of how much I wasn’t interested in looking for non-teaching jobs, I had a CV, but no resume), applied and decided to see what would unfold.
As it goes, barely a week ago I received a call and interviewed. It went pretty wonderfully, if I may say so. Short story even shorter: I begin Tuesday as Kilgore College’s new graphic designer and campus photographer.
This is terrible for grad school, right?
Well, no. I don’t think so. I think it’s great, actually.
As long as I pace myself correctly, I still have several evenings and lots of weekend times for my art. It happens at those times usually, anyway, because my subjects have jobs and often go to school. It opens me up to more connections, I will have personal studio space to work with, I’ll have lots more practice with technical skills that will be helpful in accomplishing my photos, I’ll have access to potentially several different locations I would have had otherwise … and most importantly: I will have MONEY to accomplish my goals. I can take a long weekend and go to New York, should that be useful. I can take a long weekend to take a workshop in Austin. I can attend openings and lectures much more easily, because I’ll be able to afford driving or flying to them. I’ll have ample space in my studio office to have my books and other research material at hand.
As long as I manage my time, this should only help me. It eases so many burdens, and creates only a few. I barely have a choice in the matter, regardless ... So, here we go.
Rough edits, all screen shots. No comments for now: