Livelihood vs. Life’s Work: Reflections on Success and Survival

In a radio series about people adapting to an economy in flux, we hear how three Nashvillians have changed their ideas about success, fulfillment, and what it means to be a “real” working artist.

Part 1: Rachel Agee, an Actor with a Day Job

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photo by Shane Burkeen

With wit and verve, Rachel Agee recalls the bitter ironies of the last few years:

  • Getting laid off from a law firm that made training videos—including one about how to ethically fire someone. (note: They didn’t follow its advice.)
  • Losing her house 3mos. before finding a job—at an agency that advertised help for homeowners facing foreclosure.
  • Moving back into the same apartment complex where she lived before buying her house.
  • Playing the role of a lifetime, as a notorious figure skater who decides to reclaim her own story.

In this piece, which aired on WPLN in July, Agee reclaims her own story, and has learned to answer the question “What do you do?” in a totally new way:

I stopped berating myself a long time ago for not achieving all of the things that 16-year-old me thought that I would have to in order to be successful. Like, I have set up in my head all of these weird goalposts that you have to have hit in order to call yourself a thing. That is not how that works! You can pursue your art fully with your whole heart, and you can also do other things to make money. You don’t have to be famous or even do it full time in order to be a legitimate artist.

America: I give you permission to be the thing that you are, even without the job title or the awards. Write the thing! Do the thing! Put your music out, for heaven’s sake! Don’t hold back from doing what you really want to do because there might not be some big ticker tape parade at the end of it. Yeah, you’re welcome. You’re welcome America.

Hear the full story here:

WPLN’s Transitioned: An Actor’s Reflection On Getting A Day Job And Remaining An Artist

Part 2: Alison Prestwood, Lawyer & “Rock Chick” at 59

photo by KimG.jpg

Alison Prestwood candidly reflects on her second-thoughts about the decision she made in middle age to leave her dream career as a session bass player and become an attorney:

People ask me if I love being a lawyer, and I usually say, “I love music, and I like the law.” Not everything in life is about joy. Some things you do for other reasons: Leaving a joyful thing for a smart thing. Taking care of yourself. Well, it’s a very grown-up thing to do. And I actually feel like I’m finding something in myself that I didn’t know I was able to give to someone else.

Hear the full story here:

WPLN’s Transitioned: I Love Music, and I Like the Law”

Part 3: Ann Jetton, Caregiver with a Sense of Purpose

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Ann Jetton’s fortunes have improved greatly since she was laid off during the recession. As a nanny and a caregiver, she’s found work that does more than just pay the bills:

I’m so happy because both the jobs that I have, I love them both. Most people can’t say that about their one job. Where I’m at now, I’m not just working to survive. I can actually say, I look forward to going to work. I know when I get there, I’m gonna make a difference.

Hear the full story here:

WPLN’s Transitioned: Years After Financial Crisis And Unemployment, ‘I’m Not Just Working To Survive’

*note: Ann Jetton has spoken with great enthusiasm of her dream to open a community center & program called “Kids for Kids,” which will offer young people a safe place to go, have a bite to eat, and meet with mentors. Keep an eye on this page for updates about how her dream is progressing!


This is the continuation of a longer series that aired in 2011. To hear the original stories from 6y ago, see the WPLN news archive.


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