How to Survive Moonlighting

Moonlighting isn’t for sissies! Its 4:00 in the afternoon and my work day has finally come to an end…, or has it? I’ve shut down the computer and I’m in my car now, driving toward the dance studio to teach lessons. For me, it feels like my day is just beginning even though I’ve put in eight hours of work already.

No one plans it that way – working two jobs and countless hours. Initially, I thought I would be going into tech writing long term, that I would find a way to like it, or to at least like the paycheck well enough to stay, but I was wrong. I guess I’m just one of those people who have to love what they are doing. And the truth is I don’t love it. And the paycheck isn’t enough to keep me in it – at least not for long. The trouble is, once you get hooked on a paycheck from Corp America, it can be hard to break free.

Sometimes you have to find a way to move ahead, even when you feel kind of stuck.

I’ve been moonlighting for almost two years now. Lots of people do it for lots of different reasons:

To save money for something big, like a down payment on a house or a trip.

To move into a new line of work, preferably more aligned with one’s passion.

To earn the money to put a loved one through school.

To build a business from the ground up… (and not starve)

What all of these reasons have in common is they all lead to significant change – usually for the better.

Moonlighting is one of the most popular strategies to get ahead in life. But working by the light of the moon takes some serious commitment and a strong desire to move forward in life. It’s hard, but if you’ve found yourself burning the candle at both ends, here’s some advice to make it easier.

Focus on the present – This one thing is the hardest of all – and the most important. The reason focus is tough is because our present circumstances are usually the “cause” that is calling us toward change. We want things to be different, but when we look around and see that life is not yet “completely” what we want, that gap can cause us to feel depressed. Thoughts of giving up and throwing in the towel can creep in (if you let them). Remind yourself that as slow as the engine of change might crawl, things can happen in an instant if you stay focused enough to see it through. What you want can only come to you in the present – so learn to be here now.

Ignite your desire – People who moonlight are usually going after something very big in their lives. Otherwise they wouldn’t have the stamina or persistence to get through the challenges of this dual existence. Desire is a sign that your ideal life is on its way, not a death sentence for what you want. Feel it, own it, embrace it, but don’t try to “fix” it. It’s not a problem, it’s a gift of knowing that more of who you are wants to be expressed. Cherish those dreams as if your life depended on them, because indeed it does. Do whatever you can to keep your dreams real and right in front of you. Read, write, dabble and explore what you can from where you are. Every little step, no matter how small, is progress-ing you.

Keep a picture on your desk – Never lose sight of the big picture, of what you want your life to look like down the road. It may not look anything like what you want right now, but if you can keep a vision of what is coming in the forefront of your mind, it will lead you in the right direction. With clear insight on the future, all of your decisions will move you in that direction. It might seem like a contradiction to say, “focus on the present” AND “keep an eye on the future,” but together these two conscious actions keep us on track. When we drive, we have to stay focused on the road ahead of us, but if we’re smart, we also consult a map with clear directions that guide us where we are going.

Get some sleep – Take care of yourself while you’re working extra-long hours. This will help your body and mind function under the stress. Take time to eat well and exercise a little every day. I use my fifteen minute breaks to really get away. I go out for a run or do a 15-minute online yoga workout. These activities counteract the effects of sitting in front of a computer monitor eight hours a day. On top of that, physical activity gives my mind a chance to wander, generate new ideas and daydream about what’s coming. It keeps me excited. Good health + plenty of sleep, provide the stamina and energy to keep working toward your goals long after everyone else would have given up.

moonlight quote2Living by the light of the moon and its creative, emergent energy can be as exciting as it is challenging. Those of us on the path are fueled by the idea of what’s possible, not what is. It’s a roller coaster ride for those with a penchant for risk and even bigger rewards.

The worst days are when you’d rather be anywhere but where you are.

Some weekends, when I made some great strides toward building up my dance business –working on a website, handing out flyers, meeting new people and making connections, I’d feel great about life. But then on Monday morning I totally wasn’t ready to switch gears back into my regular 9 to 5 job. There are days when sitting at the computer feels like torture and the only thing I can do is take a deep breath and remind myself, it won’t be like this forever. And another deep breath and another. . .

The best days are when you realize you’re right in the middle of a perfect transition into a new way of life.

My regular 9-to 5 job has helped me become more financially stable. I paid my way out of debt, learned better organizational and time-management skills, and developed a better sense of my own worth. In one fell swoop, I tripled the amount of money I was making. And moving forward, I wasn’t willing to take less. In the two years I’ve been moonlighting, I’ve also improved my skills and confidence as a dance instructor, something that takes time no matter what your circumstances. Transitions aren’t doorways exactly, they are more like tunnels – long, sometimes winding tunnels. No matter how small, there is always a light there at the end. On a clear night, it’s unmistakeable.

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