A few weeks ago, I shared a guest post which focused on a major issue for people who run their own spiritual businesses: that of the feeling that money is ‘bad’, or that it’s wrong to charge for spiritual services like tarot reading. Theresa argued that for many of us, these attitudes present a major block to financial sustainability, and that ‘getting out of our own way’ would be beneficial.
As someone who has personally experienced those blocks, I agree with Theresa’s words and think there is value there for many readers of this blog. However, it doesn’t (and couldn’t) tell a complete story. For many, it’s not as simple as a change of attitude, and society is not set up in such a way as to provide everybody with an even playing field.. As some readers pointed out in the comments, there are other potential blocks in the way to creating an abundant business, some of which – like mental health disability – can actually be exacerbated by talk of ‘taking a positive attitude’ and so on.
I promised to explore this in more detail, and present other perspectives on this topic. I hope that over the coming months we’ll be able to take this conversation further and discuss the many different issues people face when it comes to entrepreneurship and ‘lifestyle creation’.
The first essay comes from one of the commenters on the original post, SJ, who is currently navigating the path of creating a sustainable business whilst also dealing with mental and physical disability.
Making your own way down the bumpy road less traveled: Navigating the road blocks to getting started with a Tarot business
When I was younger, I dreamed that I’d marry some rich old guy who just wanted to dote on me and give me the money to do whatever I wanted. Let’s be real: I still fantasize about that sometimes. With so many lifestyle blogs of women who share their beautiful lives with us, I’m always sighing and wondering “how does she do it?” Then I remember that for a large chunk of society, life’s journey for a woman is go to college, have a job for a few years, get married, have kids, stay home and let your husband support you and your interests while you raise the kids. Hey, wait! They’re living my dream!
Okay, but, actually, I’m not interested in marriage, especially not a heteronormative one, and not at all okay with kids. What do I do? Go to college and then get a job so I have enough money to support myself by myself.
Okay, but, actually, in this day and age, getting your degree doesn’t mean you’ll get a job you love, unless you’re one of the lucky few or willing to slave yourself to something unimportant to you. Add in some more barriers: since I already talked about being a woman, there’s one. Being queer is another. Are you healthy? I’ve heard that many people don’t wake up and wonder whether or not their body and mind are going to work for or against them today. I’m not one of them, which hinders my ability to work sometimes. I’m privileged to be white, but there are more barriers faced by people of color.
Yet I want to live my dreams, too, and work just enough to be satisfied, and not too much that my body revolts and I can’t get out of bed for a week.
I don’t quite have enough health problems to qualify for disability benefits, and if I did, it would barely make me enough money to survive. (The day I looked up disability benefits from the U.S. federal government is the day I completely understood why we have a homeless problem…) I’m embarrassed and ashamed to admit that my parents support me financially while I figure out how to manage all that’s wrong with me. On the other hand, why is it so much worse to rely on one’s parents than a committed partner? They love me, too, and they have the resources to support me.
Since graduating from college in 2011, I’ve grappled with the insecurity and self-doubt that accompanies every liberal arts major who doesn’t land a dream job right away. I’ve bounced from unemployment to retail to shitty, scam sales jobs to working temp with a part-time ushering job on the weekends, because I didn’t feel valuable unless I had some kind of income. Through it all I’ve volunteered and become a grassroots activist with a local environmental grassroots organization, going from quiet, shy, and studious, to very intentionally developing the social skills to organize and manage people. I’m finally at a point where I don’t equate my value as a human being to the amount of money I make, but it took a long journey with quite a few setbacks.
Last October, I started two jobs, one full- and one part-time, and tried to sustain both of them and my activism. It didn’t work. A wind blew really disgusting, polluted air into my city in December, people wearing strong perfume walked by me, and my asthma control plummeted. My primary doctor didn’t know what to do with me, and I went to a university asthma specialist who put me on an extremely strict regimen to get me back to control. Then I immediately went back to overdoing it, working two jobs and not giving myself time to heal. That didn’t end well.
This series of illness has forced me to come to the conclusion that I can’t work at the speed my brain does.
I finally imposed a break on myself last August, took off from all paying commitments, because none of them made me feel good about ME, and slept, and ate, and watched TV, and hung out with friends. Now, for the first time in a year, I can say my asthma is well controlled, though I need to continue to investigate a host of other health problems so that I can feel like a person again, instead of trapped in a body. And while I’m doggedly going after doctor appointments, I’m contemplating what I want my life to look like, and it does not look like society’s ideal at all.
I’m tired of the 40-hour work week. Working the way I do, with bursts of productivity in between wanting to go for a walk, take a nap, bake some biscuits, etc., the “norm” just does not work for me. It’s not sustainable, either: if I’m forced to go somewhere for 8 to 9 hours a day, I’m much more likely to be exposed to asthma, allergy, or migraine triggers. I work fast, so I get much more done than the average office worker in the time I am there, so I don’t understand why I need to be there for that specific chunk of time.
Instead, I want to build my life out of things that are meaningful to me.
Tarot is meaningful to me. Blogging is meaningful to me. Understanding herbs, crystals, and aromatherapy is meaningful to me. So how do I turn my life into an anti-capitalist-but-still-fulfilling my needs kind of life, where I have enough money to eat well, take my medications, keep myself sheltered, and have a bit left over for some frippery and glitter? Whenever I see articles and posts about monetizing your blog, none of it reads as helpful. I’ve spent years in agony before realizing that “the power of positive thinking” posts are one of my triggers for my depression and anxiety. I don’t want to use ad space instead of selling things I make. I want to be valued for the same things I value, and getting paid to do my Tarot readings is a great way to start, but how DO I start? I’m making connections with people, practicing reading Tarot, getting my blog base set up. What’s next? I’m hoping to hear from others about how they stand out.
I’m lucky right now. My parents are more than willing to help me pay for my basic needs as well as a few extras right now, as long as my first priority is figuring out all of my health issues. I absolutely would not be able to deal with the health issues I’m facing while working full time (I tried, I failed). I have a very hard time balancing all of my other needs while working full time (which includes my activism, my introversion, seeing my beautiful friends a few times a week, developing my Tarot and coding skills). So I’m thankful to have this time to focus very specifically on what my body needs and secondly figuring out what’s next for me, that I don’t get trapped in what my culture’s ideals say I should do, but continue to find creative, meaningful work that honors me, my body, and my community. I am pretty sure Tarot will be a big part of it, and making lotions and potions, and exuding warmth and glitter. I don’t know yet how to turn this into a sustainable way for me to live, but I’m going to try my best!
About the author
SJ is a creative person constrained by brain demons (aka depression and anxiety). Disabled, cis-by-default (though enjoys gender-neutral pronouns), obsessed with Tarot and fairies, and a witchling in flight, working toward a sustainable and joyful future.