19 for 2019: #19 Side Hustle

How Did This Get Here?

I laugh now reflecting on why this is even on my list, and further, that it nearly overtook the list—this very blog is a product of this ill-defined list item and its tendrils and roots underlie many other items on my 19 for 2019.

With just one last and final slot to fill in my list and seeking to finish the list out, an array of nebulous seeds of ideas coalesced into the hazy blob of an idea, and I casually added “side hustle” to the final position on the list, almost as an afterthought.

Particularly with the rise of the gig economy and the spirit of entrepreneurism fostered by the likes of Silicon Valley, I’m surprised “side hustle” is not the word, or words, of the year.

And why not? I’ve watched other people do it, and with a renewed enthusiasm for learning new things and personal growth, why not throw my energy behind something that truly brings me joy and/or something I can monetize? These are, of course, two different things, and both have advantages, and if I can bring the two together, all the better.

I honestly had no idea where to start. Except, as you may have noticed a common thread here, it comes back to Gretchen Rubin again, where I encountered Chris Guillebeau of Side Hustle School and Part of Gretchen Rubin’s Onward Project. Seemed like a good place to start while I figured out what a side hustle even looks like to me. I subscribed to his podcast, which I often listen to on my morning commute, and started borrowing his books as fodder for thought to get my creative juices flowing in the direction of something tangible.

It Starts With Quiche

I love to write, and it’s something I mostly put down since finishing grad school. My first step toward fulfilling my side hustle dreams was to start this here little blog, I’ve got a lot of stories to tell and it stands a sandbox and creative outlet of sorts to start telling my story and play with my side hustle ideas, so thanks for reading and coming along for the ride.

This year has been one of coming back to my mental drowing board again and again, spitballing idea after idea and my negativeshitfinder immediately finding logistical or other complications. It’s a side hustle in the true sense, balanced with a very full and demanding full time workload and my ability to balance the two is key. I love food and drink related pursuits, and just can’t quite nail it down to something tangible and feasible just yet, though I’m getting there. Yarn crafting is super fun, though there are plenty of pros who do beautiful work and I’ve got just a little more practice and learning before it’s monetizable, and let’s be clear, even the pros have a hard time monetizing handmade yarn crafts. Automation and shipping production overseas has dropped prices, quality, and people’s appreciation for what it takes to produce good work and most people won’t pay what it’s really worth. Most people craft for the joy, and that has its merits, too. I’ve long been a bit of a DIY enthusiast, even if just a little, born mostly out of frugality and resource consciousness. I watched a lot of my family hand sew clothes and craft other fibers into both beautiful and functional items and many in my family are talented artists and makers. I long ago discovered the power of simple household items for cleaning that are cheaper and gentler on the planet like salt, baking soda, vinegar, and citrus and in recent years have significantly cut my use of harsh chemical cleaners, opting mostly for the former and playing with more and more recipes to elevate my options. I discovered how easy it is to have an indulgent spa experience in your own bathtub and now keep those supplies in bulk and pamper myself regularly for pennies. I started making my own deodorant and am not likely to go back to the commercially produced stuff. And this is all an outgrowth of my love of food, where my husband and I both are always tending to one experiment or another in our kitchen and my frugal grandmother would be proud of my stock bags in my freezer and steady supply of broths and stocks in the fridge that compliment much of what we cook. Animal fats are not for skimming and discarding for health reasons, they are for reserving for cooking the next meal and to be honest, my kitchen superpower is resourcefulness—making awesome things from whatever happens to be available, prioritizing the use of those ingredients that need to be used up, and using as many bits as creatively as possible. What started as learning to taste wine when I moved to the Bay Area has become a strong desire to sniff and taste everything, and the more I do it, the better I’m getting at it. Just over the last few days of the vacation in San Diego from which my husband and I returned last night, our bartender in the small Knotty Barrel tasting room was delighted at my joy in sniffing and tasting a German Rauch and exclaiming, “it’s a ham hock in a glass!” And he doubled over in delight and laughter when I correctly identified diner coffee in their Banana Pancakes ale. At the maker fair, we found Smelly Bastard, and the proprietor seemed both delighted and mesmerized as I identified in detail most of the candle scents he waved under my nose. After we left the maker fair, we wandered to Seaport Village and happened upon a little winetasting room where the hubs and I shared a tasting flight, where I listed immediately the two main notes of the first white as listed in the tasting notes. I’ve either trained myself well over the years, or I have more of knack for this than I’ve ever given myself credit for.

But how is this even a side hustle? Great question, right? I’ve got a few ideas and am still working at filtering them down to something useful. A product? A service? Maybe a little of both? It’s getting clearer, though we’re not quite there yet, and I’m also thinking in terms of tying this in with some longer term life goals and I’m so excited for this new adventure. It’s bound to unfold here, so stay tuned.

The Overarching Theme

What I do know is that I want to make things. Wandering that little maker fair in the Gaslamp Quarter, something clicked that has been moving into place for a while. I miss the creative process, I miss taking things and turning them into other things, having a tangible result that has some kind of functional or aesthetic value to someone somewhere. It’s a part of the culinary process that fascinates me—take a photo of all your ingredients before you start, then photograph the plated finished product and marvel at them side by side—the transformation from before to after and all the steps in between that caused it. It’s really quite thrilling to me—the physical breakdown, transformations caused by heat and chemical reaction. Upcycling, downcycling, repurposing, using what’s around you, it all brings joy. It’s really recently just in hindsight that I’ve really come to see that the deeper I got into my academic work as a college student, the more I lost touch with my creative side, especially under the strain of growing into my identity as ablind person and getting the skills I needed for that. By the time I finished graduate school, I spent most of my time reading, thinking, and writing, and not even really applying, let alone creating. And now I find that although I work in human services, I spend soul-crushing amounts of my life reading, thinking, and writing—emails, database entry, program planning, and I feel like a little bit of my soul has died. I have tasted the vibrancy that comes from being a maker with my resurrection of crafting skills in the last year or two, and I want more.