kim faires photography + stuff

The Allure of the Regular Paycheck.

I subscribe to Hugh MacLeod’s daily cartoon. Above is what arrived in my inbox today. And this is what Hugh wrote about it:

The cartoon is a play on the well-known Bible quote, “Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust”, of course. Do the math…

Not that I think there’s anything wrong with a regular paycheck per se; it’s just what a poor life this is, if that’s the only reason for being somewhere.


[Breathe, Kim, breathe…]

Actually, I can relate to many of his cartoons, but today’s really is special because it perfectly captures my struggles of late.

The most important line in that little blurb is this: what a poor life this is, if that’s the only reason for being somewhere.

Yup. Uh huh. Mm hm.

Because it works like this: I CRAVE–crave I say!–an easy path. A path that I can step onto that will take me to a solid, comfortable, established ending.

Like an escalator. Or a moving sidewalk.

I would love to have a regular paycheck. [Bam. Every two weeks, a hunk of cash gets dropped into my piggy bank! How glorious!]

I would love to have a sense of structure that makes working relatively easy. [Be here by this time. Leave at this time. Get stuff done within that time. Do whatever you want outside that time. It’s built-in discipline, people! No batteries needed!]

But, most of all, I would LOVE to have a simple answer to the question, “So, Kim, what do you do?”

Yeah. I would love to be able to knock that question off without feeling like:

  1. A liar.
  2. A loser.
  3. A layabout.
  4. A dreamer.
  5. An all-round unproductive member of society.

Because the fact of the matter–for me–right now, is that I do not have a regular paycheck. I do not have a legitimate job–at least not by society’s standards. I’m not even making $$ for what I’m doing right now. I’m just trying to build skills so that I can eventually [hopefully] get paid for it.

And I feel an ASTOUNDING amount of shame about that.

Heart-stopping shame.

So much so, that I often–regularly–find myself wishing I had done things differently. Wishing that I had pursued a different path when I was younger.

WISHING [cough, cough] that I had gotten into law school.

[Holy crap. I can’t believe I just wrote that.]

[Actually, I lie. Of course I can believe I just wrote that.]

Yes, wishing that things had gone differently, all so that I could have a regular paycheck. AND an easy–and respectable–answer to the question, “What do you do?”

But that is not the way it is for me.

If I am going to do work that I enjoy, work that I think I am good at, and that I think will fulfill me, and that makes good use of my strengths, then I am going to have to keep walking the path I am on. I am going to have to keep learning, and struggling, so that I can build a career that fits me and is right for me.

It’s just that it’s so very, very hard.

And that regular paycheck just looks so very, very appealing.

But it cannot be the only reason for being somewhere.

At least not for me.

Ideally, I’d like both: a career that fulfills me, but also has a regular paycheck.

I haven’t found that yet.


So I guess that leaves nothing to do, but to keep plowing ahead.

I just wish I had a cool answer to that damn question. Shame free.

Here’s hoping.

Thanks for reading.


Cartoons by Hugh MacLeod, licensed under a Creative Commons.

8 comments on “The Allure of the Regular Paycheck.

  1. Stephan
    November 3, 2010

    You are not your job.
    The answer to what what you do, doesn’t have to have anything to do with your job title. I was an engineer, and then I was unemployed and now I am a writer, because I spend my time writing. And if they have a problem with that, it’s their problem.
    I’m trying to live a dream, and what do they have?


    • kim
      November 3, 2010

      Thanks Stephan! It’s true. But it seems I have to hear it again and again. All the fears and insecurities that ramble through my head seem to get the best of me sometimes. But responses like yours always make it better. :)



  2. Jack Bennett | 32000 days
    November 4, 2010


    Excellent post! You’ve captured some of the essential feelings associated with leaving behind the safe path of the regular paycheck for the risk, excitement, and occasional terror of solo entrepreneurship.

    The regular money, and the regular rhythm of the workplace, is hypnotic and pleasurable, and it’s not difficult to see why so many people choose that path. But if the regular paycheck is the overarching reason, then it’s kind of unfortunate – there are lots of ways to earn a living, but not as many ways to pursue your passion.



    • kim
      November 4, 2010

      Occasional terror? That sounds much more enticing than, um, you know, near-constant terror….LOL! Naw, I’m kidding. You’re right, Jack. And hypnotic is the perfect way to explain it. The traditional workplace seems so attractive when you’re on the outside, but it can also lull you to sleep when you’re on the inside. As such, it’s probably just as hard to pursue your passion on the side of a regular paycheck, as it is to pursue it without a regular paycheck.

      But I’m going to keep trying and hopefully I can find one of those few-and-far-between ways to pursue my passion.

      Thanks for dropping by! And thanks for the great commentary.



      • Jack Bennett | 32000 days
        November 4, 2010

        As such, it’s probably just as hard to pursue your passion on the side of a regular paycheck, as it is to pursue it without a regular paycheck.

        True… that’s what I found recently. Especially when the 9-5 can be more like an 8-8 :P

        But I’m going to keep trying and hopefully I can find one of those few-and-far-between ways to pursue my passion.

        Passion and profits is the way to go – after all, martyrdom and poverty aren’t any fun.


        • kim
          November 4, 2010

          Absolutely. :)


  3. Sarah Heyman
    November 6, 2010


    I can totally relate, friend. I am a stay-at-home mom. Which comes with it’s own stigma. Stigma that produces sneers from other women. Other mothers, who choose to go out into the working world and put their children into daycare. Do I sneer at them? No. To each their own, right? But please, don’t make that face at me, full-time working mom. I work full-time too. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 365. For the foreseeable future. Like 50 plus years. I just don’t leave the house to do it.

    And I make a difference. To my kids. And that, in the end, is what matters.



    • kim
      November 6, 2010

      I hear ya. Being a mother is a HUGE job. And hey, in a different society, you would probably have all kinds of extra support—from aunts, uncles, friends, neighbours, brothers, sisters, etc., etc.—you know, the whole “it takes a village to raise a child” thing. But here, in North America—land of hyper-independence and economic obsession—you, mom, are pretty much left to do it all yourself (AND expected to go out and work). It is a huge job. I certainly don’t have to have kids myself to see that.

      In the end, I think it’s about choice. We really need to learn to honour each other’s choices. Life can be tough, and I’m really not sure anyone has it better off than anyone else (barring certain circumstances, of course), we each just have a different experience. There are pros and cons to every choice. Sure, I am free to take my dog to the park in the middle of the day, and I don’t have to punch a clock—these are the kind of advantages that come with the choice I’ve made. But, obviously, there are some disadvantages to that choice—most noticeably, the lack of a regular paycheck, among many others. So it’s all in how you look at it, and in what you choose to value.

      This is all easier said than done of course. (If it weren’t, I guess I wouldn’t have written about it!)

      So forge on, friend! Forge on! Your choices matter and they most certainly do make a positive difference!


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This entry was posted on November 3, 2010 by in Long-winded Existential Angst and tagged , , , , .

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