I was recently given the opportunity to work on a farm for the summer, and I was stoked. I couldn’t wait to work outside in the beautiful Oregon sunshine, get my hands back in the earth. I was tired of working as a waitress, hating that I was spending so much time doing a job I didn’t like for the money. Sure, the farming job wouldn’t pay much, but at least I’d be doing something I was passionate about.
Later, I found myself on my laptop, staring at my student debt. Suddenly the idea of working on a farm for little pay seemed absurd. What I should do is pick up more hours at the restaurant or get a second job. I didn’t have time for fun, not yet. I had school debt, car payments, rent to pay. Focusing on making money seemed the more logical thing to do.
Often when faced with a tough decision we use logic, our left-brain, to navigate. This is something most of us learn as adults, as opposed to when we were children and used our right brain for everything. For a right brain dominant person, it was brand new and so unlike me to be thinking I should work for the money and worry about passions later. Some could argue that’s just growing up. Then I thought about all the middle aged people I’ve talked to who wish they had done things differently. They wish they had followed their passions, worked less in their twenties, traveled more. It hit me: this is how it starts! I was twenty-three and already belittling my passions, justifying forgoing happiness for the sake of a few extra bucks. This is what society, the society that values logic over emotion, facts over imagination, money over passion, math over art, order over chaos, does to you! This is how it wears you down. I was beginning to think my right brain had failed me, gotten me into a hole of debt for a degree that offered no jobs, no money, no “real” skills, pinning me to the life of a “starving artist.”
A week later I read an article titled, “That’s What You Think,” from a February 2017 issue of The New Yorker. In it two cognitive scientists argue, “Human’s biggest advantage over other species is our ability to cooperate….Reason developed not to enable us to solve abstract, logical problems or even to help us draw conclusions from unfamiliar data; rather, it developed to resolve the problems posed by living in collaborate groups.”
Humans essentially use logic to keep ourselves fitting in with the crowd. Logic means taking the safe route, the easy route, the route that keeps as much on our side, working in our favor. It got me thinking, wow, Logic, you think you’re so great, but guess what? You’re nothing but a sheep. You’re boring and overrated. Yes, we need you to survive, but I don’t want to just survive. I want to live.
The reason creative types remain starving artists is because they don’t know how to turn their passion into a profit. They can do the art but not the accounting. Successful creative entrepreneurs have mastered the best of both worlds by doing just that. They managed to develop the left brain while holding on to the spirit of the right brain. I’ve been listening to an NPR podcast, “How I Built This,” that interviews entrepreneurs, and I noticed a common thread. Most entrepreneurs risked a lot starting off – they quit their jobs, went broke, defied what society said they should be to go ahead and be what they wanted to be. When asked how they did it, most agree they simply wanted it more than anyone else. That word – want – what an emotional, right-brained, childish, completely unreasonable word. Risk and desire is logic’s enemy, and yet for creative types, it’s absolutely necessary to live a fulfilling life. Isn’t it true that moments we follow our gut, take a risk, let passion fuel us, lead to the most spectacular and rewarding times of our lives?
I don’t want my regrets to be all the things I didn’t do. I don’t want money to define my life. What I want to do is help my left brain grow after twenty years of it believing it was stupid. If I could embrace both halves of myself, maybe then I will start to understand how not just to survive in this world, but how to thrive and make it my own.
So I had my first day on the farm. For the whole afternoon I weeded in a gorgeous onion field in the rural parts of Oregon City, while having spiritually fulfilling conversations with a like-minded farmer. It was muddy and cold and wonderful.
On my drive home, I stopped at the top of the hill before leaving the farm. The sun was setting over a crop field in a way that looked like the earth’s rows emptied into a pool of pink and purple. There was a farm house, a fence, and just yards in front of me, a horse. Its big beautiful silhouette carved into the sky. In that perfectly aligned moment, beauty in its fleeting, organic form, that horse represented something for me – majesty, bravery, independence, an extension of my own spirit that I will cling to my entire life.