Counterbalancing Act: Daily Life, Daily Grind
Work-Life balance is a challenge in pretty much any career, but, as you know, tattooing doesn't really fall into the "pretty much any career" category.Thankfully, Monte Agee is here to share his challenges, failures, and successes in giving his personal life and professional life their much needed shareof attention over the course of over 20 years of tattooing.
"I got really good at making myself feel like I was involved with my family and friends.
The true story? None of it worked. Ever."
Being self-employed is a pretty gratifying feeling when you realize that you're cut out for the task. I'd like to think that I am one of those individuals, however, one of the most demanding tasks that I face while being my own boss is striking a balance between my work life and my home life. For me, and probably many of you, "clocking out" has always been extremely difficult, if not impossible.
Creativity is in my blood. Over two decades ago, after just a few short years as a professional illustrator and designer, I sacrificed my life to the Tattoo Gods. Since then, I’ve devoted every day to the adornment of others' stories on their skin. In return, I still occasionally get to experience growth and gratification in both my personal life and professional craft.
We have the best job in the world as Tattooists, but the catch is that we're not able to stop thinking about all things art-related at the end of the day. It’s everywhere: on our phones, social media, TV’s, and computer monitors. Art is constantly on our doorstep, which makes it a truly amazing time to be creative, but also really hard to stop.
We go to work, goof off, do our social media routine, procrastinate, hopefully make some pretty pictures along the way, and eventually make it home to eat. Does that about cover it? Something like that anyways.
Over the course of my first 10 years tattooing, if I'm calculating right, I was working 60-80 hours a week with no sign of stopping. I remember believing that I was going to "Tattoo the Universe" at one point. I worked countless tattoo conventions, won dozens of awards, had work published all over the planet, did guest spots - you name it. And what was my reward after all that? I got to go home and enjoy my family and friends every once in a while. I even got to do the occasional extracurricular when the stars aligned just right - that is if I made it on time.
I’m guilty of making countless excuses for my daily routine over the years. I would make phone calls home and text my friends throughout the work day. That always seemed to make me feel better about the situation, and I assumed it was generally accepted by those around me. I got really good at making myself feel like I was involved with my family and friends.
The true story? None of it worked. Ever. The funny thing is that I knew it. Shit, we all know it.
Still I tried over and over to balance my work and life schedules in different ways without any success. So, on top of being my own boss, I had also become a professional procrastinator, until some realizations helped me reach a stopping point.
It wasn’t just the culmination of not feeling creative enough and being distant from family and friends that helped me get there; it was the fact that my children weren't seeing their father.
There was no way to ignore that realization. Once I admitted it to myself, the answer was simple: Be on their schedule - and that is just what I did. My work week now consists of 9am-5pm workdays on an average of 5-6 days a week and never being late for dinner.
Let me just say that, for me, the immediate positive changes that occurred at home and work after I altered my schedule was like having a huge weight lifted off of me. It wasn’t easy, but it has only gotten better with time for not only my family and myself, but also for my clients.
Lightening my workload of ongoing daily projects allowed me to focus more than I ever have. I cut 3-5 daily tattoos down to 1-2 appointments per day. At home, I’ve become the newest member of the family and I actually feel like they all enjoy having me around now. (Not so much the teenagers, but who agreed with any of their parents at that age, right?)
So, amidst my continued self-micromanagement, there doesn't seem to be a complete and concrete single solution to any of this balancing between life and work. Not everyone has the same wolf in sheep’s clothing that seems to challenge our daily integrity, but I hope that my experiences have been breath of fresh air for those who can relate to it on any level.
For me, what happens each day rather than what happens over the course of a month or even a year, just seems to improve my quality of life and well being.
A lite diet of social media and conventions are still in the daily mix of things, but the "likes" and followers that mean the most to me now come from my family.