As you can see from the ABOUT section of this blog, I took a year off from work to pursue some traveling and community serving goals. And, as you can see from the date I started this blog, the end of that year has come, and the end of that year has gone. Here I am... stretching this "year" apart as good and far as I can.
I reluctantly chose not to return from my leave of absence, however unwise it may seem and however hard it may come back to bite me in the you-know-where. I remember the decision when it came to me, and I knew it was something I had to try. It happened on a night in early June, during a break in the informal class I was taking at UT. I opened an email from my dad (one of many on a similar topic), which linked to an article explaining how every job has parts that suck, and that there's no need to find a job that employs your passions, since you can do all that stuff in your free time outside of work. Although I agree with the main point, that every job has its downsides, and that you do have free time to amuse outside interests, the article was kind of bogus. The author spoke from a perspective in a career (as a writer) about which he is passionate. Where's the perspective of someone with a shitty job they care nothing about, telling us how they just sucked it up, dragging through 40+ hours of their week and finding it all not to be so bad?
I get it. Every job has negative qualities, and few people bound out of bed to jump into their passion-fueled work at 6am on a Monday. But from working at two completely different jobs over the past year, I can tell you that there is a difference in the things that suck about the job that aligns to your interests and the one that doesn't. Sure, as a spoiled, selfish millennial, I've found plenty to complain about in each of them, and the thought of making a difference in my community never brought a broad smile to my face when my alarm started going off in the morning, but I was willing to give so much more of myself and put up with the shittier shit (extra hours, low pay, cleaning up kindergartener drool, etc.) when I knew I was doing work that inspired me. In my earlier job, I sailed smoothly through each day accepting each and every perk, and yet it never felt like enough. There wasn't much to criticize-- big pay checks, vacation days, flexible time-- but boredom and a sense of disconnection were plentiful.
My dad is one person I'll take career advice from above anyone else, since he's had a long and mostly happy one and has managed a good many people through transitions of their own, but his job actually suits him very well. He's a successful manager, newly minted VP, and the people who work for him really enjoy it and feel a sense of purpose in doing so (or that's the story they tell to his daughter). He's a mathematician market researcher and an early adopter, so he gets to spend his days learning at conferences, exploring new technologies, and feeling like a part of something big. Sure, commuting and office life can be a drain, and he would rather be skiing, but he's been making more than the most of his work for a while.
So this post is not meant to write off the corporate world (it has a ton of upsides and can help the right person get a lot of things done), or any "type" of job-- none is inherently better than another. But something in me says that you've got to find the right one that matches with you. One that brings out the "you-ness" in you. A (if you're lucky) benefit-providing container for a little bit of the stuff that you like. The one that makes you stay up late and forget to eat sometimes, and not mind so much when the alarm clock rings or when you're treading through the shit that will inevitably pile up. I hope we all find something semi-permanent that we're wild about, or at least something with parts that light up the tiniest bit of wild passion in us. In the meantime, I'll welcome suggestions on what to call this page!