I just read an article from Slate about how the ‘Do What You Love’ mantra devalues actual work, as well as entire socioeconomic classes of people who do the dirty and unloveable, but so very necessary, jobs that keep society running. You know, the shelf-stockers, hospital janitors, and farm laborers of the world. It was an interesting perspective, and one that makes sense to me, though I had never considered that particular angle before.
I have the sort of job that lots of people covet. I have my own office, work (fairly) predictable hours, and get paid quite well. I get benefits – good ones, like paid sick time, a pension, and four weeks’ vacation. My work is challenging, has creative elements, and often is under minimal supervision. Sounds dreamy, right?
Well, it has its challenges, too. I carry a great deal of responsibility, including a threat of lawsuits and other legal action, or even people being hurt or killed if I make a poor recommendation or fail to consider all of the information in a case. My clientele is difficult at best, and the physical work environment ranges from depressing to dangerous.
I don’t love my job, though many of my colleagues do. But you know what? I think that’s okay. I strive to do a good job of the things that are required of me, and I recognize that the structure of a work week is good for my mental health. I’m grateful to have a secure job that pays well, and I do truly enjoy my colleagues, who are a smart and funny bunch. I may not love my job, but I’m committed to it, and I do get gratification from writing that stellar report, overcoming challenges, or meeting that super-tight surprise deadline.
There are lots of things that I do really love, things I am good at, and could marshal into a business or career if I wanted to. Travel writer, portrait photographer or pet portrait photographer, market gardener…there are things I love so much that I do them for free, or even pay for the opportunity to enjoy them. Here’s the thing, though: I think they would become work if I had to do these things day in and day out, for my living. I could see dreading ‘yet another trip’ if I didn’t get to stay home when I wanted to. Some days, I don’t feel inspired to pull out the camera, but leaving it in the closet wouldn’t be an option if that was paying the mortgage. I don’t know how long I would continue loving those hobbies if I were forced into them, day in, day out. It seems to work for some people, but I don’t think it would do it for me.
The other issue is money. The job I have pays in a way that small-town photography or one-family market gardens just don’t. It pays enough to enjoy all of my hobbies, and gives me enough time off to pursue those things. As a market gardener, I doubt I would have the time or the money to travel overseas. As a travel writer, I’d never be home to plant or tend the garden.
As it is, I do lots of different things that I enjoy immensely – blogging, photography, gardening, travel, canning, mentoring…the list goes on and on. I DO do what I love. All the time. I just don’t get paid for it, and I do a job I don’t love in order to have the time and money to do the rest. It’s really not a bad compromise, as far as these things go. I am happy with the lifestyle I have, and wouldn’t trade it, even for a job I loved. It’s just not necessary.
So I’d say go ahead and do what you love, but maybe recognize you don’t always have to get paid for it.