Yes, this can sound depressing, and can definitely be the cause of a heap of woe and worry. I've had many day jobs since graduating college: drama teacher, substitute teacher, Hollywood Video clerk, Bed Bath and Beyond clerk, children's museum manager, waitress, administrative assistant to a circuit court judge, lumber company office manager, and surgical scheduler. Needless to say, I've had a lot of time to reflect of having a "day job" and pursuing my art on nights and weekends. I've tried to do a lot of thinking and experimenting with how to take back more of my day, and while my musings have not resulted in a surefire formula that leads from "day job" to "job I love", I've come up with a few ideas on how to maximize my life while working in a position I'm not in love with. Rest assured, they are prescriptions based on my own ongoing struggles to make peace with jobs I don't love. Here goes:
1. Don't give your commute away to worrying/planning/thinking about your day job. Whether you walk, drive, bike, or take public transportation to your day job, don't surrender even fifteen minutes that is yours to claim. Read, listen to music or an audiobook, recite a monologue, plan your Saturday night dinner menu. Claim it. Own it. These intervals add up; for me, commuting take up a good two and a half hours of my day, and I am becoming less and less tolerant of wasting any of those minutes.
2. Don't give your lunch break away. As with your commute, it's tempting to go on Facebook or scroll through CNN's newsfeed when you get a free moment. Try writing five sentence of your first novel, search the classifieds for a job you might enjoy more, or read a blog post about meditating. Also, if you are able, try leaving your desk. In my experience I feel a lot better when I've stepped away for half an hour during my day to take even a short walk around the block and get some fresh air.
3. Dress like you. Sound weird? It did to me too, until I realized recently that I spent years dressing like a completely different person for work. Dressing like a different person during the day took me away from myself more than necessary at my day jobs throughout the years. I'm not saying we should dress like we would to hang out with a friend on a Saturday afternoon, but if you need to wear a dress or suit jacket to work, at least make it personal. "Dress casual" does not have to mean black and white, heels and hair in buns. The point is, the more you can feel like you, the less you'll feel robbed of yourself during your day job.
4. As much as permitted, decorate your workspace with quotes, photos and reminders of who you are and what you love. I once substitute taught for a music teacher who had twenty (count them!) framed photos of Jesus Christ on her desk, along with a collection of Disney figurines that would rival the Magic Kingdom itself. I'm not saying you should go overboard, but I think it's helpful to bring a few things with you to remind you of who you are outside of your cubicle walls; a plant, a card from a friend, and a few photos of your favorite vacation make a world of difference, especially during a tough moment during the day.
5. Allow yourself to vent about your day for five minutes when you get home, then move on. There is almost nothing worse than having to spend eight hours doing something you aren't passionate about, and then using two more precious hours of your evening or weekend lamenting those eight hours all over again. Not worth it (believe me, I'm SO guilty of this). Once you blow off a little steam, go enjoy the rest of the time that is YOURS any way you like!
6. Make a list of all the things your day job has afforded you. For me, I can think of a film acting class I took last year, a recent vacation to Vermont, and a new pair of boots that all came from the work I put in every day. Not to mention the peace of my that comes from paying my rent, the ability to get a good twenty minute walk in at the beginning and end of every day, and having great proximity to downtown Boston after work to run an errand or meet a friend for coffee. Make a list and watch 'em rack up!
7. Recognize that having a day job means that you belong to a community. It might not be the community you planned for, but I look back on my many jobs and realize how many amazing people I've met and worked with, people I never would have gotten to meet hadn't it been for the job. We've spent time at holiday luncheons, celebrating birthdays and getting to really know each other in bits of conversation tucked into the tasks of the day. One of my dearest life-long friends came out of my time working as an office manager for a lumber company. Who would've guessed?
In conclusion, an inspiring video that has nothing to do with day jobs and everything to do with unspeakable courage. Here's actress Ellen Page's amazing coming out speech at the Human Rights Campaign's Time To Thrive Conference: