"We’ve been taught since we were toddlers that we can be anything we want to be, that we should always be happy, that we can and should find a fulfilling job that entwines all of our talents and interests. Those promises bring extraordinary pressure and set expectations that frankly, not many people can or will ever realize."The thing is, I love my job. Actually, I LOVE my job. Did I get lucky?
In some ways yes, I got lucky. When I was 6 I knew exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up... and that's the job I got. Most people don't know what they want to be when they grow up. Or they do, but then realize that they should find a more practical job because they won't make much money in their dream field unless they're the best of the best.
In other ways, luck had nothing to do with it. I made some pretty critical choices.
Choice #1: I chose life over money
I was willing to earn very little money as long as I got to spend most of my waking hours doing the things that I love to do.
Choice #2: I chose to minimize societal influences that push me towards valuing money over life
Hello.. TV and magazines anyone? Once you go on a media fast you begin to realize just how strongly you are pulled by the messages around you that make your life suddenly feel inadequate. So when Meg says the promises of a fulfilling and passionately loved job puts extraordinary pressure and sets expectations, she's right. It's because the fulfilling job is in direct conflict with the ubiquitous societal norms of having certain things and looking a certain way; norms that we're not even consciously aware of.
One day, I stopped watching TV. I didn't set out on an intentional media fast, I just didn't get cable. I didn't even bother to get rabbit-ears. And then it became very easy to never turn on the tube. I didn't turn it on for four years. I also stopped buying magazines. I'd walk into the grocery store and flip through a magazine at the checkout counter but have to put it down within 30 seconds because of stimulation overload.
The other thing I did was to move away from the community I grew up in. Don't get me wrong, there are many wonderful things about my community and I go back and hang out with them occasionally. But most of the people I grew up with are upper-middle class. That's pretty rich in my book. They live in fancy new houses, have fancy new furniture and fancy new cars. They look at my fancy degree (which I happen to have) and can't understand why I didn't pick a fancy career to go with it. I don't need that. I chose not to surround myself with that.
Choice #3: I chose to reflect carefully on my work and recognize what it is that I love.
This is one of the more enlightening things I have done in my life. For someone who has known what she wanted to be since she was 6, it was quite a surprise to learn that I didn't need a specific job title to get the same joy from my work. I was able to distill out the features of the work that really rocked my world. I will probably write a dedicated post about this in the near future. But for now, suffice it to say that if we can get over the hump of thinking that it's only be being a writer/actor/chef/artist/athlete/politician/(fill in the blank) can we LOVE our jobs, then maybe we can actually begin to find fulfillment and joy in the work we actually do.