Inspiration for this post comes from my BFF Anne.
I was listening to a podcast yesterday (because why yes, I am cultured and educated, and I definitely don’t spend twice that time playing Candy Crush) that featured an interview with a woman who studies fashion history as a career. She proclaimed, echoing the interviewer, “I have to force myself to go home every night.” As in, she loves her job so much that she doesn’t want to do anything else.
First of all, good for her that she’s happy doing what she loves and gets paid for it.
Second of all, NOT AGAIN!!! Not another public example of the perpetual lie that you can or should love your job that much!
I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that for all working professionals who have not yet begun their ideal career, the goal is to ultimately identify and then begin said ideal career. Y’know, the one that will make you “excited to get out of bed every morning.” The one that you’ll “have to force yourself to go home every night.” That career that will make you so happy and fulfilled that you won’t believe you’re getting paid to do it. You know, that thing that a very, very small vocal minority talks about!
I’m gonna go further out on aforementioned limb and suggest that, for most of us, that “ideal career” does not exist. And I’m gonna go even further out and suggest that it’s okay if you don’t love your job as much as Fashion History Lady does.
And that can either be a devastating blow to one’s hopes and dreams or a sobering, badly-needed reality check to combat unrealistic expectations about work in our culture.
I know a lot of successful people who work hard and are very well-rounded, pleasant contributors to society. They are public officials and lawyers and judges and entrepreneurs and journalists and engineers and chemists and advocates and teachers. How many of them have told me that they were in their “ideal career”? How many of them have said that they jump out of bed every morning, eager to get to work and sit down at their desk? How many of them say that work is their favorite thing to do?
And that is a good thing.
Because if they did, they would not be well-rounded, pleasant contributors to society. Because it’s weird for work to be the thing you love more than anything else. Because those people exist mostly in movies and TV and those people’s lives are falling apart.
The difficult thing is, a lot of people who have this unhealthy attitude are very high-profile, successful people, so we tend to think that being in love with your career is necessary to succeed in said career. Andre Agassi is a refreshing break from this trend. In his autobiography Open, he says:
“I play tennis for a living even though I hate tennis, hate it with a dark and secret passion and always have…If it’s something you’ve done since you were six years old, and there’s a sense that if you stop giving 100% you are doomed to failure, and that is unacceptable. No wonder so many players hate their sport – the surprise is that so few admit it.”
I was shocked when I learned this. I assumed, as many non-professional-athletes assume, that if you’re that successful at something, then you obviously love it with a fiery passion. It was the first time I stopped to think that when I get up and get dressed for work every morning, LeBron James gets up and puts on his Cavaliers uniform, and he might be dreading that day just as much as me.
Basically, what I’m trying to say is that I am exactly the same as LeBron James.
The fact is, a career or a job is just that: a career or a job. Andre Agassi’s version of sitting at a desk every day is forehands and backhands, and that’s his job as much as mine is to console teenagers with crappy SAT scores. He enjoys it no more than anyone else enjoys their job. It’s a good thing if you enjoy most aspects of your job. And it’s good if you don’t enjoy certain aspects of it, because you don’t have a career or a job solely to get enjoyment out of it. You do it to make a living. That is the reality for 99% of us. If you don’t enjoy every aspect of your career, it doesn’t mean that you have to leave it and start a new one to find that elusive, “ideal” career for you. It might just mean that you’re a normal person and your true passions lie with your family or friends or dogs or hobbies like travel and photography or writing long-winded blog posts complaining about various first-world problems.
Think about all the things you love most in this big, wide world. What are the odds that the thing you love most will be your job? For those who have found work that you love, then that’s wonderful. But for the rest of us, we’ll probably find our fulfillment elsewhere.