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  1. #1
    Senior Member Lamplight's Avatar
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    How does one choose a career?

    This is something I've been trying to figure out since high school, and I'm no further now than I was then, and that was nearly 15 years ago. Almost everyone I knew back then had a plan before we even graduated. Many followed through with those plans and now have good careers they seem to enjoy. The others seemed to just stumble upon careers that turned out to be great fits, or somewhere along the way figured out exactly what it was they wanted to do, and then did it. But I had no idea what I wanted to do back then. I went to college right out of high school, but never declared a major because nothing really seemed like a good fit for me. So after two years I dropped out and ever since then I've simply had to take crappy jobs to pay the bills, which I inevitably grow to hate after a couple of years. Now I'm approaching 33 years old and I'm in exactly the same boat I was at 18, whereas it seems like most people my age at the very least have jobs they don't mind so much, and many have careers they actually enjoy.

    So how does a person decide what he or she wants to do for a living? I've considered returning to school, but for what? It would be no different than the first time when I couldn't decided on a major. And I have several hobbies, but they're all either things I wouldn't care to do every single day year after year, or they're things that are next to impossible to make money with unless you're REALLY good, whereas I'm only decent at best (despite years of practice). Currently I have a unique opportunity where I've saved enough money so that I'm able to do without a job for a time, but certainly not forever (maybe another year, year and half). This seems like an excellent time to try to figure this out, but I've been at it for over six months now and, as usual, have made exactly zero progress.

    So how do you do it? Do you just take whatever job you can find and try to tolerate it for the rest of your life, hoping you'll figure out something better before you die? Keep in mind my last job was the best one I ever had. I stayed there for five years, and for the last four I was pretty miserable. Many days it was a challenge not to walk out, and this was the BEST job. I'm currently looking for a job I can tolerate in order to keep from spending all the money I saved, but I worry that once I get back into that cycle of waking up early every day, going to a job I hate, and then coming home so tired I can barely think enough to make dinner, whatever creativity I have will be sucked right out of me, which is what seems to happen when I work full time.

  2. #2
    Look! My Spine! RubenX's Avatar
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    A job is a job. No matter how much you like to do your job, you always have deal with stupid people along the way. A bad boss, unpleasant clients, etc. I usually try to find employment doing something I like. But I've found I've been happier on instances where I didn't liked what I did, yet the whole environment around the position was a pleasant one.
    "Hoy es un dia normal, pero yo voy a hacerlo intenso" ~ Juanes

  3. #3
    Senior Member 009jim's Avatar
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    You don't start off in a good career generally. Typically you start off in a tolerable job and then you work around that to advance yourself. For instance you might start off doing gardening and you work at that for 5 years until you know the business and then you buy a pickup and start your own business. Later you employ another guy to help you, etc, etc.

    However, you have my sympathy because life can be cruel to some folks and continually thwart their plans.

  4. #4
    Senior Member toddles's Avatar
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    You can choose a career but it might not be right for you. Thus I say you do what you love and learn more about it. And if you are interested, chances are you will excel at it. I graduated from college not knowing what my degree was going to be until the 11th hour because I couldn't figure it out. I ended up getting a math/computer science degree because I mainly liked math and the thinking involved. I didn't know jack about the industry. Well today I work as a senior software tester writing automated test cases some 20 years later and if you would have told me that prior to graduation -- I wouldn't have believed it. The point was, I kept an open mind and let it find me rather than me find it. The point is, get an upper degree and many doors will open.
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  5. #5
    Senior Member Lamplight's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RubenX View Post
    A job is a job. No matter how much you like to do your job, you always have deal with stupid people along the way. A bad boss, unpleasant clients, etc. I usually try to find employment doing something I like. But I've found I've been happier on instances where I didn't liked what I did, yet the whole environment around the position was a pleasant one.
    I've had jobs that were like your second example, but that was never enough to keep me from gradually growing to hate the job. And I've never had a job doing what I like to do, because I'm not sure what I like to do in the first place (I mean, besides doing nothing at all, of course). For me it's not just about dealing with people I don't get along with, either. I can actually handle that pretty well usually. It just seems like with any job I have, it's only a matter of time before I not only grow weary of it, but actually hate it and dread going to work so much that when I'd get sick I would be thrilled to death.

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    Sounds like the Post Office would be a great fit for you.

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    I have my own company, do what I'm good at, don't work even close to 40 hours per week, fairly pleasant. But I'd rather win the lottery tomorrow and not have to work another day in my life. I don't like to work, don't like to work out, didn't like homework, etc. But I have to do them anyway. I reached a point where I simply tried to change my attitude. I don't like going to work, but it's where I spend a good chunk of my life, I'm going to take the attitude of trying to make it pleasant for myself and those around me. Worked for me, fairly well.

  8. #8
    Mystery Meat gitarzan's Avatar
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    I went to College and studied Journalism, Photography and Industrial Design. I graduated with a degree in Journalism in the middle of a 3 year recession. I got a job at Radio Shack, where I got hooked on early pre-PC personal computers. They became a hobby. Four or five jobs and about 7 years later, I got hired by my current employer. In the meantime, I was still a rabid PC hobbiest. A year later an job opening in IT came around. Seems they were hiring a PC person, as the formerly all dumb-terminal shop was just beginning to place PCs and no-one in there knew anything about them. 19 years later, I'm still doing there it as a Network/Systems manager. Funny how it works out sometimes.


  9. #9
    Senior Member BR46's Avatar
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    On a road trip to a motocross race my son and I were in a restaurant eating lunch and talking when a man told my son.
    "there are only two things you need to do in life: 1) Figure out what you love to do. 2)Figure out how to make money at it.

    He is now a Test Engineer for Yamaha off road division

  10. #10
    K2ProFlex baby! ilikebikes's Avatar
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    My response would have been something along the lines of: "Does your bike have computer controlled suspension? Then shut your piehole, this baby is from the future!"
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    Just try to remember what you wanted to do when you were a kid, thats what I did, worked out well til I fell three stories into the firery pits of hell........but thats a story for another time! LOL! ;0)
    You see, their morals, their code...it's a bad joke, dropped at the first sign of trouble. They're only as good as the world allows them to be. I'll show you. When the chips are down, these...These "civilized" people...they'll eat each other. See, I'm not a monster. I'm just ahead of the curve

  11. #11
    K2ProFlex baby! ilikebikes's Avatar
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    My response would have been something along the lines of: "Does your bike have computer controlled suspension? Then shut your piehole, this baby is from the future!"
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    Quote Originally Posted by BR46 View Post
    On a road trip to a motocross race my son and I were in a restaurant eating lunch and talking when a man told my son.
    "there are only two things you need to do in life: 1) Figure out what you love to do. 2)Figure out how to make money at it.

    He is now a Test Engineer for Yamaha off road division
    No, the only thing one needs/has to do in life is die, all else is optional. ;0)
    You see, their morals, their code...it's a bad joke, dropped at the first sign of trouble. They're only as good as the world allows them to be. I'll show you. When the chips are down, these...These "civilized" people...they'll eat each other. See, I'm not a monster. I'm just ahead of the curve

  12. #12
    Senior Member BR46's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ilikebikes View Post
    No, the only thing one needs/has to do in life is die, all else is optional. ;0)
    Test Engineer for Yamaha off road division is a nice option.

  13. #13
    K2ProFlex baby! ilikebikes's Avatar
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    My response would have been something along the lines of: "Does your bike have computer controlled suspension? Then shut your piehole, this baby is from the future!"
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    Quote Originally Posted by BR46 View Post
    Test Engineer for Yamaha off road division is a nice option.
    Oh hellz yeah!
    You see, their morals, their code...it's a bad joke, dropped at the first sign of trouble. They're only as good as the world allows them to be. I'll show you. When the chips are down, these...These "civilized" people...they'll eat each other. See, I'm not a monster. I'm just ahead of the curve

  14. #14
    Senior Member BR46's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ilikebikes View Post
    Oh hellz yeah!
    Like on the commercials he is the "Professional rider on a Closed course"
    And I'm jealous because I paid for his engineering degrees

  15. #15
    Ogr8nwmypstmksnosnse pgoat's Avatar
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    I am more or less in the same boat...i think most people are. I do like RubenX' comment above about the environment being as or more important than what you're doing. For example, music is the most important thing in the world to me besides family and friends. But I decided at 17-18 yrs old against pursuing a career in music b/c it seemed like such a slim chance for success and I also hated all the toxic BS that came with it - drugs, shifty people, crazy lifestyle & topsy turvy Hours, etc etc. Now, approaching 50 I certainly regret my choice sometimes but I gained a lot along the way by skipping that craziness.

    The closest I ever came to having/loving a career was when I worked in Special Education for 10 years. I fell into it by accident (needed a job, had a friend in the field) and at first it seemed an anathema to my general interests. But I quickly realized it was a great fit for me, personality and values-wise. It was hardly all beer and skittles, lots of injuries and stress, etc. and the pay sucked. But the majority of my colleagues were amazing, giving people and when you saw any progress or benefit you brought to a child's life the rewards were indescribable.

    Eventually I burned out on that and I have a second career I am content with now. I do wonder if there is more left for me, but I think it's just a matter of pursuing stuff you like and also putting yourself in situations where you can shine and give of yourself and your talents.

    Lampy, over the years on BF we've seen you're a very talented and also a very good person. That doesn't always easily translate into a great career, let alone a lucrative one, but you have more tools than many people. I would try speaking to a career counselor (there are often free services at local public libraries and the like). You could also try aptitude tests that assign you one of those four-letter personality types that suggest possible careers. One of the best ways to investigate careers and network is by volunteering.

    My final $.02 - never say never and don't put yourself into a box. I used to think I was an introverted person who liked to focus on material things and isolated tasks. Maybe that was true when I was younger, idk for sure...all I know is, that is NOT me now and I need to remind myself every so often to forget that firmly etched self-image of yesterday. Life is a journey - let yourself enjoy every new path that presents itself.
    Quote Originally Posted by jsharr View Post
    People whose sig line does not include a jsharr quote annoy me.

  16. #16
    long time visiter Alfster's Avatar
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    Lamplight, I realize you referred to your hobbies as not worth pursuing as a profession, however you really should consider your options around your artistic abilities. There are a lot of opportunities if you ever get serious about it. It's also the type of job you can phase into over several years, while working a more traditional type job. You've obviously have talent, even if you doubt yourself ... which I gather you do.

  17. #17
    Senior Member Lamplight's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pgoat View Post
    My final $.02 - never say never and don't put yourself into a box.
    I'm starting to think this is one of my problems. There are many jobs I can say with certainty I would hate. Some things you simply know. But there are probably many I think I would hate but if I tried them I may not. So far, I've worked a pretty good variety of jobs, everything from a CAD operator to a truck driver, and I've hated them all. And there are some fields where I know I couldn't possibly succeed. For example, I know myself well enough to realize I would be an awful salesman. The people I've known who were successful salesmen are literally my complete opposite. But...I've never tried it, either. Who knows? I know I'm not at all interested in it, though.

    I enjoy writing fiction. Making up stories and characters is really enjoyable to me, but I constantly tell myself I'm not very good at it (and that's probably true) and even if I improve, it would be next to impossible to get published. I've been drawing all my life and feel I'm decent at it, but I keep telling myself it would be almost impossible to make a living doing that, and that I'm not good enough anyway. Comic books? Graphic novels perhaps? I can see myself enjoying something like that. But aside from the fact that I'd have to GREATLY improve in each area, how on earth do you get started? And if you manage to get into it, what are the odds of actually making a living? The thing is, I've always been a pretty cautious person. This has kept me entirely debt free over the years, I've never been arrested, no illegitimate children, etc. But I think it's also prevented me from trying a lot of things. The biggest risk I've ever taken was moving across the country back in August, but even then I made sure I had enough money so that I could do without a job for a couple of years without being homeless. I wanted to move for years before I actually took that leap and did it. I stayed in a place I absolutely hated so that I could do this comfortably, and even then some of it was due to dumb luck. When I think of all the people I know who actually enjoy their careers, most of them took pretty big leaps of faith to get there. The thing is, they all had wealthy parents who could pay for school or spouses to support the family when their initial pursuits failed (and then their second or third attempts would succeed). If I fail I'm simply screwed.

  18. #18
    Administrator CbadRider's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alfster View Post
    Lamplight, I realize you referred to your hobbies as not worth pursuing as a profession, however you really should consider your options around your artistic abilities. There are a lot of opportunities if you ever get serious about it. It's also the type of job you can phase into over several years, while working a more traditional type job. You've obviously have talent, even if you doubt yourself ... which I gather you do.
    ^^This.

    Art isn't just being able to draw a tree that looks like a tree. It's also having a creative mind and being able to think outside the box. Look at the cartoonists in the Sunday paper. A lot of them can't draw very well, but their strips are successful because people find them entertaining.

    You really seem to enjoy drawing bikes. Is there a vintage bike shop nearby that would display your work? Can you volunteer to help with advertising at a local co-op?

    Try different things that interest you and maybe you'll find something you want to pursue further.

    As for not being able to support yourself - my dad supported 8 kids on an artist's salary.
    Quote Originally Posted by toddles View Post
    So Tom only hires people that are nutty? Is part of the requirement to be a moderator on this site is that you have to be nuts??
    Forum Guidelines *click here*

  19. #19
    Pedaled too far. Artkansas's Avatar
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    One thing that may help you in your search is to do all the exercises in the book "What Color is Your Parachute?". If nothing else, they will help you think about the subject. Very available at your local library.

    What did you do as a kid? I'll bet there were things you did, just for their own appeal, that your friends or family didn't share. That can be a clue.

    Who do you envy? That says a lot about what you want.

    What makes you mad? Working for a solution to that may be satisfying.

    As others have said, every career has its pluses and minuses, high and low points. And once started, you have to keep up to date with what is going on. A good situation can turn worse because of changes in market, technology and age. Or it could burst open and prosper unexpectedly. You kind of have to surf current events.

    This article on career reinvention has some good food for thought.

    Only one person has the answer. It is good that you are refusing to settle. Good luck in your search.
    Last edited by Artkansas; 02-26-12 at 11:00 AM.
    "He who serves all, best serves himself" Jack London

    Quote Originally Posted by Bjforrestal View Post
    I don't care if you are on a unicycle, as long as you're not using a motor to get places you get props from me. We're here to support each other. Share ideas, and motivate one another to actually keep doing it.

  20. #20
    Senior Member Lamplight's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alfster View Post
    Lamplight, I realize you referred to your hobbies as not worth pursuing as a profession, however you really should consider your options around your artistic abilities. There are a lot of opportunities if you ever get serious about it. It's also the type of job you can phase into over several years, while working a more traditional type job. You've obviously have talent, even if you doubt yourself ... which I gather you do.
    This is where I've been focusing my attention lately. In trying to think of things I seem to have a talent for, at least in some capacity, the only one that stands out is drawing. While I don't feel I'm fantastic at it or anything, I do think I have a decent amount of skill in that area, and it's about the only area where I can say that. As I mentioned in my post above, I'm not really sure how to go about pursuing that, but it's definitely something I'd like to explore. Your last sentence mentions what I feel may be my biggest problem. I doubt myself entirely too much, not just career-wise but in everything. I've done that to myself as long as I can remember, and I have no idea why.

  21. #21
    Senior Member Lamplight's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CbadRider View Post
    ^^This.

    Art isn't just being able to draw a tree that looks like a tree. It's also having a creative mind and being able to think outside the box. Look at the cartoonists in the Sunday paper. A lot of them can't draw very well, but their strips are successful because people find them entertaining.

    You really seem to enjoy drawing bikes. Is there a vintage bike shop nearby that would display your work? Can you volunteer to help with advertising at a local co-op?

    Try different things that interest you and maybe you'll find something you want to pursue further.
    Some very good ideas here which I hadn't considered, thanks. There are several bike shops here in town. There's also at least one art guild where you can pay a small fee and display your work in a building they rent. This is something I've considered but probably need to actually pursue. The guild gets quite a bit of publicity in the paper, too.

    Quote Originally Posted by CbadRider View Post
    As for not being able to support yourself - my dad supported 8 kids on an artist's salary.
    That's encouraging, especially since I'm pretty frugal anyway.

    Quote Originally Posted by Artkansas View Post
    One thing that may help you in your search is to do all the exercises in the book "What Color is Your Parachute?". If nothing else, they will help you think about the subject. Very available at your local library.

    What did you do as a kid? I'll bet there were things you did, just for their own appeal, that your friends or family didn't share. That can be a clue.

    Who do you envy? That says a lot about what you want.

    What makes you mad? Working for a solution to that may be satisfying.

    As others have said, every career has its pluses and minuses, high and low points. And once started, you have to keep up to date with what is going on. A good situation can turn worse because of changes in market, technology and age. Or it could burst open and prosper unexpectedly. You kind of have to surf current events.

    Only one person has the answer. It is good that you are refusing to settle. Good luck in your search.
    I'll look for that book, thanks. As a kid I spent a huge portion of my free time drawing (and making origami, believe it or not). In high school everyone just assumed I would do something involving drawing, and at every job I've had when my coworkers would find out I could draw, they would always say, "Why on earth are you working here?" So that seems to be the obvious choice.

  22. #22
    Pedaled too far. Artkansas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lamplight View Post
    I doubt myself entirely too much, not just career-wise but in everything. I've done that to myself as long as I can remember, and I have no idea why.
    Me too. I've learned that not being afraid to make a fool of myself is the best remedy. Since I have no confidence, there is nothing to lose if things go south. I just act like I have confidence. Usually things turn out for the better. Most people's standards are lower than mine I guess.

    Drawing skills can lead in a lot of directions. Become the Thomas Kinkade of bicycle art, Be a concept or storyboard artist for hollywood or advertising, design shirts or become a graphic artist, computer animator or do scientific visualization. You could become a CAD operator, or even become a designer like the fellow who invented Dyson vacuums.

    Personally, I started with drawing, went towards puppetry and then graphic arts for print and TV, which morphed into 3D animation. But now, decades later, the industry has changed so much that I'm once again trying to redefine myself so I can work happily.
    Last edited by Artkansas; 02-26-12 at 11:20 AM.
    "He who serves all, best serves himself" Jack London

    Quote Originally Posted by Bjforrestal View Post
    I don't care if you are on a unicycle, as long as you're not using a motor to get places you get props from me. We're here to support each other. Share ideas, and motivate one another to actually keep doing it.

  23. #23
    Senior Member no motor?'s Avatar
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    I can tell you how I did it, and I never figured it out until I was almost 34. I always did well on the aptitude tests we took in high school, and was frustrated when they never told me what it was I wanted to do. I just kept hearing I could do anything I wanted, and I'd figure out what that was later. By the time I graduated college in a recession I still hadn't figured out what I wanted to do, and ended up trying to earn a living for the first few years. I ended up writing my obituary, journaling my accomplishments, reading books about career changes etc and still didn't have an idea as to what I should do. I quit worrying about it for a while, figuring I really didn't have much to complain about in the other parts of my life. But I was really unhappy at work, and at 2:35 in the morning of February 15th 1994 when I was having trouble sleeping because I was so unhappy with work inspiration hit like a bolt of lightning. And now with 12 1/2 years of working in a career I love and am told I'm well suited for after 1 1/2 years of night school (after still working full times) and 10 semesters of grad school I'm still glad things turned out the way they did. All that work I did before inspiration hit prepared me for when it did, don't be surprised if some of the soul searching you're doing now makes sense later on.

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    Don't take this the wrong way, but your job or lack there of is not the problem, just a symptom. From what you've been writing you seem to be reaping what you are sowing. No direction, no energy or excitement for the tings that occupy your time etc. To find out what you want to do you first might answer the question "what do I get out of being dissatisfied with my life?" Once you begin answering that, and my guess is it will take a while to do that, you can go about being "lamplight". Just one small obstacle you've mentioned - you like making art but don't know how to get into it. Go make a drawing of a bike, take a picture of it, and list it on EBAY.....you are an artist by tomorrow night. That's not rocket science. The question which needs to be answered is, why when faced with such a simple solution do I not take action on it? Hope this does not sound harsh, it is not meant to be. I just want to cut through the peripheral stuff and sometimes that sounds hard.

    Peace (and good luck).

  25. #25
    Senior Member Lamplight's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stevel610 View Post
    Don't take this the wrong way, but your job or lack there of is not the problem, just a symptom. From what you've been writing you seem to be reaping what you are sowing. No direction, no energy or excitement for the tings that occupy your time etc.
    The part in bold is certainly true about me, and of course it's not that any of this is intentional. But what about direction? I guess my only real goal in the past was to eventually do something for a living that I actually enjoy, which of course is the reason I started this thread. I can't claim that I've ever felt energetic or excited about any of the work I've done in the past, except for when I first started my drafting job (and of course that went to pot in short order). I do become a little excited when I complete a drawing and I'm actually satisfied with it. And sometimes while writing I feel especially enthusiastic about what I'm doing. But I've never been very energetic about anything nor have I ever been a person who gets excited easily. I was the kid at school pep rallies who couldn't understand what everyone was so excited about and just wanted to leave.

    Quote Originally Posted by stevel610 View Post
    To find out what you want to do you first might answer the question "what do I get out of being dissatisfied with my life?" Once you begin answering that, and my guess is it will take a while to do that, you can go about being "lamplight".
    I'm not sure what you mean here. I certainly don't enjoy being dissatisfied with my life, and all I'm getting out of it is frustration.

    Quote Originally Posted by stevel610 View Post
    Just one small obstacle you've mentioned - you like making art but don't know how to get into it. Go make a drawing of a bike, take a picture of it, and list it on EBAY.....you are an artist by tomorrow night. That's not rocket science. The question which needs to be answered is, why when faced with such a simple solution do I not take action on it? Hope this does not sound harsh, it is not meant to be. I just want to cut through the peripheral stuff and sometimes that sounds hard.

    Peace (and good luck).
    While I hadn't considered using Ebay, I have considered Etsy in the past. I think it goes back to my lack of self confidence because I would just tell myself, "No one would buy your drawings, so why even bother?" Of course, why not try it anyway? What could it hurt? Another problem I have is my interests come and go all the time. So one day I may convince myself to try selling a few drawings online, then the next day I'm out walking around, taking pictures with my camera and I've forgotten all about the drawings. Or I'd think about it while I'm, say, on the bus where I couldn't work on it, then when I'd get home (and could work on it) I'd forgotten about it again. Which sounds ridiculous but it's amazing how often I do that. So maybe if I could just keep one thing at the front of my mind I might actually accomplish something.

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