How To Follow Your Dreams (When You’re Working 9 To 5)

The 9-to-5 grind doesn’t have to keep you from living the dream (or at least part of it).

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Sometimes life can feel like a Rihanna song—and not one of the fun sexytimes ones. If you all you do is work, work, work, work, work, you may be paying the bills, but when is the last time you actually did something that made you feel alive? Some people have day jobs where they can kill two birds with one stone: They can pay the bills and get a creative outlet that fulfills their passions. Sixty percent of Americans even say they’re “completely satisfied” with their jobs. But that leaves 40 percent of Americans who could use a little pick-me-up. Whether your secret passion isn’t a money-maker or you’re not comfortable giving up the benefits that come with full-time employment, there are still ways for you to do your thing in your off hours. Ready? Set? Let’s do this.

Get a side hustle.

You may work 9 to 5, but if your employer’s not making use of your full range of talents, there’s no reason you can’t. In a 2017 study by Bankrate, an estimated 44 million Americans were working side hustles—extra gigs that bring in a little extra cash each month. For some people, it’s a matter of making ends meet, but it can also be a way of making your passions profitable.

Put your volunteer hat on.

Maybe your dream of being a professional puppy birthday party planner will not make you any money, no matter how hard you hustle. But there’s likely a non-profit in your ‘hood that will take you on and let you fulfill some of those childhood dreams. Ask your local shelter if you can throw a puppy birthday–themed fundraiser. Turn your talent for boiling the perfect egg into producing mass quantities of goodies for your local community center’s Easter egg hunt. Put your penchant for planting to good use at the community garden. Whatever you decide to do, don’t forget to check in with your employer. Many companies will provide a few hours off once a year (or more often) for employees to volunteer, while others may chip in a small donation. Your good deeds can not only fulfill you in your time off but help you feel more invested in your job.

Grab your backpack.

Adult student numbers are climbing at colleges across the U.S., thanks in no small part to the availability of online classes. Whether you’re looking to change your career entirely or just want to indulge your love of British literature or psychology, check with your HR department. Many employers offer tuition reimbursement for employees. If your job won’t help with tuition, you can still search for scholarships or take non-credit classes for little or no money through programs like EdX.

Join the group.

You may not make it to Broadway. You may not be the next Maya Moore or Jonquel Jones. But your local theater group may be looking for someone with your acting chops to take on the Miss Hannigan role in their next production of Annie. And that group of ballers in your office may just need a point guard. Plus, joining up won’t just let you live out your dreams. It may make you a new friend (or 12).

Just do it.

Ah, if only Nike slogans were real life. Whatever dream you’re chasing, don’t forget to give yourself permission to go for it. Yes, work is necessary. Yes, dinner needs to be made, and the kids need to be bathed. But it’s not merely acceptable to “do you.” It’s necessary. Still, you may need to kick-start yourself into action. The key? Put it in writing (even if it’s “digital” writing). Carve out time on your Google calendar so no one schedules a late-afternoon coffee meeting when you’ll actually be rock climbing. Create a bullet journal, and start coloring in your to-do list. Write yourself some lists, post them on the fridge, and check things off when they’re done. The more you write down, the less wiggle room you give yourself to ignore your “me time.”

Jeanne Sager
Jeanne Sager is a writer and photographer from upstate New York. She has strung words together for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, and more.

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