It was a tough time. I was working for a record company and the music industry was in free fall. CD and vinyl sales were plummeting and digital music sales yielded pennies on the dollar, not nearly enough to keep a record company thriving. The layoffs began in April. At first it was a few shipping clerks. By summer, two dozen had been let go.
The firings always happened on Fridays. As we neared the end of each week, everyone held their breath waiting for their name to be called. Mine was called in September. I was given two weeks severance and a thank you for my years of hard work. The owner had been a friend. This made it even harder.
With little savings to live on, I had to find work fast. I’d last searched for a job 15 years earlier and I had no idea where to start. I made a list of my skills. Advanced sales training, creative writing, marketing, and a good ear for music. There was little to make me stand out particularly since I was tired of sales and marketing and wanted a new direction.
But where? And how?
I woke at dawn each day ready to find work. I did everything an unemployed person was supposed to do. I crafted a new resume. I scanned online job sites and posted to Monster, Indeed, Career Builder, and Zip Recruiter. I spread word amongst friends and work peers that I was looking for a new gig. I called every record company in town and went on interviews.
After several fruitless weeks, I grew despondent. I didn’t know what to do. I contacted my spiritual mentor, a man I’d studied with for two decades. He reminded me of several important truths:
I am exactly where I’m supposed to be.
The perfect job has already been selected for me.
My role was to release my negative thoughts and fears and watch for the perfect job to appear.
He asked if I’d been meditating. I told him no. He asked if I’d been praying. I told him yes, but I felt disconnected from God. He asked if I’d been avoiding caffeine and sugar, chemicals that increased anxiety and made it harder to rest. Again I told him no. He reminded me that the universe was nurturing and abundant and that my needs would always be provided for. He also said that the perfect job was mine by “divine right” and nothing could change this fact.
As the weeks went by, I meditated as much as possible, but the anxiety remained. I turned to my favorite hobby, woodcut printing, to keep sane. I was an amateur woodcut artist for years. The methodical process of carving a block, gouge by gouge, was tranquil and relaxing. While I searched for work by day, I relied on woodcut printing at night to help me maintain equanimity.
At some point during my block printing sessions, I unconsciously repeated a mantra I’d read in the 1925 book The Game of Life and How to Play It by spiritual teacher Florence Scovel Shinn. The statement read: “I have perfect work in a perfect way; I give perfect service for perfect pay.” The words were hokey, but they resonated. Around that time I had a vivid dream. In the dream I stood in the center of a circle of senior citizens showing them how to carve a wood block, apply ink, and make a custom print. The onlookers were rapt, fascinated by the process. As I removed the paper from the carved block, I showed everyone the fresh print. It was a bright red flaming heart.
I emerged from the dream energized and alive. I woke my wife and told her the dream. “That’s God,” she said. “That’s how God talks to you. He’s telling you what to do.”
“What do you mean,” I asked.
“He’s telling you to share your artistic talents with the world. The flaming heart is the sacred heart of Jesus that wants to transform you. You need to listen.”
Dream language is often coded and symbolic but I decided to take this dream literally. It was a Friday morning. At nine a.m., I Googled the words “Los Angeles Senior Homes.” The first entry was a place in Encino. I called the facility and asked if they brought in people to teach art classes. They asked if I could give a free demo. I agreed and a few hours later I stood in front of a group of seniors showing them how to carve a wood block. When the demo was over, the Executive Director booked me for a class.
Six months later I was teaching upwards of 30 classes a month. I taught at senior homes and schools, churches and synagogues, sober living facilities, hospitals, hospices, parks and recreation centers, museums and private parties. I went from being unemployed to working days and nights, weekends and holidays. Word of mouth spread and suddenly I was in demand, booking months in advance.
The pay wasn’t always great but I made enough to cover my bills and was doing what I loved. And I provided a valuable service. I reflected on the path that led me from a sales job at a record company to teaching art all over the city. I’d never thought to list printmaking as a job skill. Now it was my profession.
The mythologist writer Joseph Campbell coined the phrase, “Follow Your Bliss.” He said that through doing what you love you “put yourself on a track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life you ought to be living is the one you are living. That life is within you all the time.”
My love and passion for woodcut printing served as a magnet pulling me towards a new livelihood. Without knowing it, I followed my bliss.