Today’s installment in the Doing What You Love series features Cardozie Jones - Teacher, Administrator, Theater Director and Educational Consultant in New York City
I met Cardozie through my wife a number of years ago. She and Cardozie worked together here in Brooklyn, NY at a charter school, when my wife and I first moved to the neighborhood.
As both my wife and Cardozie moved on to other opportunities through the years, they stayed friends and I got to know Cardozie through conversations we'd have on different occasions. I began to suspect that Cardozie was on a path to do what he loves, especially after attending a musical he co-wrote and produced as part of the New York Musical Theater Festival.
Talking to Cardozie over time confirmed my suspicion 🙂 As you'll see from this interview, he's made a conscious choice to do what he loves and is well on his way to making it happen!
May you find his interview as inspirational as I have :)
1 – What is it you do that you love?
I split my time between my work as a Leadership, Culture, and Diversity Consultant and a theater director (and sometimes-writer/choreographer).
As an educational consultant, I get to help schools do better in their commitment to empower young people. As a man of color, this is especially important for me as I see more and more students who look like me suffer as a result of a discriminatory system.
My work and passion as a director comes from a similar place. I love doing work and directing pieces that give both the performer and audience an opportunity to see the world and themselves in a new and more critical way.
The work I do as both an educator and an artist is a core part of who I am.
2 – How and when did you realize what it is you love to do?
I’ve loved musical theater for as long as I can remember!
More accurately, I was probably three years old when I was exposed to it as an actual art form. I remember watching Peter Pan (starring Mary Martin) for the first time, and the second, and third (I had also been exposed to how to work a VCR).
My passion for education and social justice work developed later. In fact, I’d say it’s still in development. But I think it was in college when I first realized a great deal about myself and my place in the educational system.
It was those realizations that led me to where I am today in terms of passion and practice.
3 – When did you decide to make a commitment to doing what you love? What does that commitment look like, e.g. full-time job, part-time hobby, etc.
I am the offspring of a generation that believed in committing to one job for 40 hours a week until you turn 65 (if you were lucky) and retire. So for a long time, that paradigm served as the default and everything else was kind of….whipped cream, the bonus stuff.
Still, I was lucky that for the first 8 years after I graduated college, I worked in a school I loved with amazing people and an opportunity to teach and direct theater. But a few years ago, I realized I felt unbalanced.
While I loved much of what I was doing, working as an educator in a school is one of the most all-consuming jobs a person can have. On top of that, as a profession, teachers are underpaid. But I thought, I have stability. I have benefits. I have summers off.
While those things were great, I realized it wasn’t me who was appreciating them, it was the voice in my head that wanted me to believe there was only one way to be an adult. So now, I work when I want to and for the most part, only do work I love.
Sometimes I’m leading a workshop on How to Support Transgender Students and sometimes I’m at rehearsal staging a show-stopping (if you ask me) number. A lot of times I’m at one of my neighborhood coffee shops reflecting, writing, and planning.
The bottom line is: I’m where I want to be, when I want to be there.
4 – How long have you been doing what you love?
The summer of 2015 was when I really committed to making consulting and artistic opportunities my primary source of income. I’ve been dabbling since 2011 but never fully committed to it, as I always made sure I was on someone’s payroll.
5 – What was the toughest decision you had to make when making a commitment to doing what you love?
Having an employer cover my health insurance has always been something I never took for granted. Sacrificing that was, and remains to be, the toughest part of my decision to work for myself. I know people who are self-employed and have gone uncovered for decades.
For me, the mere thought of that sends my hypochondria into overdrive and yet, it’s expensive as hell so I understand.
And when it’s not expensive because you make so little money that it’s government-subsidized, the hoops you have to jump through alone make you second guess whether you really need it. This is still something I’m working through.
To make matters more interesting, I just so happen to be one of the most unhealthy people I know. My friends tell me I must have been given used parts.
6 – Was there a time that you had doubts about doing what you love? If so, how did or do you overcome those doubts and keep doing what you love?
Life is short. They tell you that.
What they don’t tell you is that even if life is long, quality of life and good health are not guaranteed.
One of the main reasons I decided to rethink my work/life balance is because in 2011, I suffered from a retinal detachment and lost all vision in my right eye. While the surgery to repair it successfully did so, my vision was lost in the process.
Don’t get me wrong, worse things happen to better people and I generally consider myself more blessed than I have words to be thankful for. But what I gained from that experience was a very simple lesson: I only have one eye left, and I need to see as much as I can in case I lose that one too.
It’s a morbid and yet sobering thought that forces you to reassess your priorities. It forces you to think about potential regret and the risks you did or didn’t take in the name of what you love.
So yes, I often have doubts, but in those moments I close my left eye for a few seconds, look into the darkness, open it to let the light in, and continue on my way.
7 – What are some of the things you enjoy most about doing what you love?
I am a free time whore. I am not the type-A person so many of my friends are. I’m also not the “work hard now, play hard later” guy.
Losing my vision made that even less of a credo I want to subscribe to.
I like midday naps, mornings spent drinking coffee with nowhere to be, and walking through my neighborhood listening to music. It’s in those moments I find serenity and those moments that currently make up at least half my “schedule”. This only works because the time I do spend working, my time is far more valuable than it ever was working for someone else.
8 – Do you have any advice for people who are struggling with making a commitment to doing what they love, even if they know they want to make the commitment?
We all have a story in our mind about what life should be. Most people don’t know it’s a story and live into it as though it’s the truth.
Popular stories are -
- I don't have time.
- I don't know enough yet.
- No one would pay for this.
- The economy isn't on its feet yet.
- It's just a hobby.
- It's not realistic.
- I'll do it once my student loans are paid off.
- There are people who do it better.
Now it’s not to say that all of these stories have no meaning. Everything has meaning. The thing to remember is that meaning is man-made and, if you allow for it, that works in our advantage.
It means that we have the power to invent, create and shape our own meaning, not view it as static or unchangeable.
Everyday I have to remind myself that my life and the meanings and stories that I attach to it are up to me. It’s a constant struggle, but it’s also a gift, a gift that I hope to have shared with others.
Here’s Cardozie’s Bio –
A native of Philadelphia, Cardozie Jones has worked as a teacher, administrator, theater director and educational consultant in New York City for over 10 years. After moving to New York in 2001 to study musical theater, Cardozie discovered a passion for education and has spent the last decade splitting his time between his work as an educator and his work as a theater artist.
Though teaching theater is what led him to the classroom, he soon realized he had an aptitude for not only teaching students, but teaching teachers and other educators as well. Having had opportunities to see a complex system from a myriad of vantage point, he has learned that schools have limited capacity and can often benefit from greater support in how best to create and sustain a positive and thoughtful culture in which all members of its community—especially diverse communities—feel supported, inspired and valued.
As an educational consultant, Cardozie leads workshops, coaches teachers and school leaders, and offers overall “culture” support especially in the areas of racial justice and LGBTQ issues. Consulting leaves his schedule flexible enough to make time for his passion for theater.
He has directed and choreographed dozens of productions and is a member of AfterWork Theater, an organization dedicated to providing adults the opportunity to perform fully staged theatrical productions in their spare time within an inclusive community that values fun, diversity, and creative self-expression.
Continually given the opportunity to find new ways of expressing himself, Cardozie is committed to ensuring others receive the same opportunity by serving as Vice-President and programming chair of AfterWork Theater’s Board of Directors.