NEW MILFORD, N.J. — Jessica Day of New Milford was always told that making art alone wouldn't be enough to support her.
She was told that if she wanted to make money, then she would need to pursue a conventional career. A desk job. A 9-to-5.
But that, too, wasn't enough for Day, 30.
Although it took her many years to strike the perfect balance, Day — who works in public relations and marketing by day and a fine artist at night — feels she's finally found her footing.
She's hoping that her story will inspire others, particularly high schoolers, who are trying to figure out their futures.
"If there’s enough passion and drive, then there’s nothing that can stop you," said Day, of Woodland Park.
"It's important to inform and empower young people."
"We have to make them feel comfortable about their talents and not tell them they can't make money doing something because it's non-traditional.
"I do have full-time, corporate career but I'm working toward developing a lifestyle for myself... with more creative freedom."
Day had a paintbrush in her hand at 3 years old, thanks to her grandmother, an artist. She continued honing her skills through high school, but stopped to focus on her college education.
She says she fell to the pressures of taking the traditional route and earning a conventional degree.
"I was made to feel by the adults in my life that pursuing art wasn't the smartest route because I wouldn't make a lot of money," Day said. "So I went to college feeling like I had to choose a career, and I had no idea what I wanted to do."
Day chose public relations and marketing, and added a minor in art during her junior year.
Staying true to her major, Day pursued a career in PR and marketing — but wasn't truly happy. She always felt that something was missing.
It came to a head in 2012.
"I was working for agency and wasn’t meshing well with the team," Day said.
"I felt so uninspired at work and didn’t connect with any of my colleagues or the clients I was working for."
And so she quit.
For nearly four months, Day poured herself in to art. Painting, drawing and singing. She taught herself how to play the ukelele.
She launched a website , put her work on social media and began going to local crafts shows. Within a week, she made a sale with a complete stranger.
Eventually, Day found another marketing job, but more importantly, she was able to reconnect with the very thing thing that lights her up inside: art.
"That's when I realized that this is something that gets me excited," Day said. "I'm trying to incorporate my creative career with my fulltime career."
The artist recently returned to her roots at New Milford High School for Career Day, where she told her story to dozens of youth looking for guidance.
Her advice was simple.
"Have confidence in yourself," Day said. "It’s important to remember what gets you excited and sparks your interest. that’s what you’re going to be successful in**
"If it's something you're passionate about even if it's not the traditional route, go for it. Seek a mentor. Get an internship, volunteer in something you love and get your hands into that particular industry."
Although Day took a roundabout way of finding where she wants to be, she says she learned some valuable skills along the way.
"And the experience I've gained in marketing and public relations has tremendously helped me to market myself as an artist, which i don’t think i would’ve learned just from being an artist," she said.
"I think things kind of came full circle. I'm a little older and more confident in myself. I realized that art is something that I want to pursue."