“It isn’t me, he’d say,
stepping out of a landscape
that offered, he’d thought, the backdrop
to a plausible existence
until he entered it; it’s just not me,
he’d murmur, walking away.”
James Lasdun, Water Sessions
I have spent a lifetime searching for the perfect job. But it is only in the last couple of years that I have been settled enough to realise that there are none – nada, zip.
The truth of the matter is that our expectations can never be met. If it’s not the pay, it’s a lousy client/customer to contend with or another dysfunctional relationship we have to endure or simply the emptiness that comes from doing the same thing day in, day out.
The question that I keep squaring up to is: ‘Why do people endure years of stultifying drudgery?’ I have posited this question with friends, acquaintances and indirectly at a number of my talks. And I would like to say that I have a honest answer, but I don’t. But then again, neither does anyone else!
And before you holler out ‘fear of failure’, please ask yourself whether failure is defined as doing something you dislike for years, or trying something that brings you to life, but not doing it for a whole host of reasons, chief amongst them financial?
I have read many books that extol the virtue of heeding you’re calling or pursuing your passion, but very few talk about the self-doubt, screams of anxiety or the travails of trying to raise a family with no income (but… you have your dream, of course!). The point is there are no perfect or even near perfect jobs. And in fact the moment you cede any part of you to play the faux employee game is the moment you slowly start to die; perhaps imperceptibly at first, but by the time you are 10 years in, you have forgotten: (a) why you chose this job/career; (b) why you are still working doing the same thing; (c) why you feel exploited; (d) the lack of personal development that you experienced in the early days; and (e) perhaps, most importantly, you begin to question the trade-off you have made with your life – a wage for what?
My sincerest apologies if this is all too bleak-sounding but too often and way too easily we give up on our dreams – thinking as well as acting.
Instead we wait…
And we wait…
But before we know where we are, we suddenly discover that it’s too late or we no longer have the appetite for change that we did in the beginning.
Stop and Focus
Who am I?
Where am I headed?
Why this vs. that?
What sort of legacy do I want to leave?
And what makes me truly happy?
What you need to understand is that a life of work is not your purpose. Being happy, living a good life – a useful one – and leaving things just ever-so-better than when you arrived is all you can ask. I know you will wish to add financial independence into the equation, but work is going to be something we do our entire life (for most people at least), and so you it has to take on a different purpose, meaning and import for you and everyone around you.
As to the money thing – the money follows when you pursue something on the same arc as your muse, not when you only work for money. In any event, in time, you not only become disillusioned but you run out steam and end up questioning the whole trip.
I am not suggesting that everyone should think of quitting their current job. All I am suggesting is that you stay curious and if you aren’t fully or even partially self-expressed doing what you are doing then stop questioning the status quo and act. I know this brings with it a slew of issues – and squaring up to a few demons! – but don’t put things off like my parents’ generation until ‘retirement’. In most cases that will be too late.
Doing something different is not a money thing. Nowadays there is so much free information available to you that the only bar is your apathy.
I don’t live with regret, but all I know is that I spent way too many (precious) hours working on developing a scintillating career only to realise that in the process I had forgotten who I truly was. Perhaps it’s too strong to say that work completely changed me, but it left me feeling empty and bereft of the right type of emotion – anger and frustration seemed to overwhelm me most of the time.
To repeat: there are no perfect jobs; but that doesn’t mean you should leave your life to chance. Make a pact today with your muse to do something that you have always wanted to do. But don’t just talk about it, act.
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