Upon discovering Penelope Trunk’s blog I was intrigued by one of her most popular posts: “Bad career advice: Do what you love.” Trunk makes the argument that finding a job or career you would do “even if you didn’t get paid” is nearly impossible. A silly dream even! She states we are all multi-layered, multi-faceted human beings. We do not love just one thing, and jobs do not make our life. Relationships make our life but jobs can ruin our lives. She recommends taking the Myers-Briggs personality test and browsing the book Do What You Are.
Pick a career that caters to your strengths
It’s a concept that’s been buried in the back of my head for years. I’ve never been able to find words to write that wouldn’t make me sound like a jerk. Our generation can frustrate me. High school students graduating and working for five years part-time because they don’t know what they want to do for a career. People dropping out of college because they are no longer “interested” in the degree they started. Young adults switching jobs every year, to find one they are “passionate” about.
I respect hard work. It doesn’t matter what you are working on, but if you work long and work hard, you have my respect. I love watching/reading anything about sports or athletic pursuit. Training to achieve a goal takes hard work. The reward of hard work is satisfaction of a job well done. Ecclesiastes 7:8 says, “finishing is better than starting; patience is better than pride.” The beginning is exciting — “Yay! new stuff to accomplish! look at all this opportunity!”–but then a period of time passes and it’s not new anymore. You’ve entered the middle phase and the middle takes perseverance, determination and grit. Most people give up at this point, and I would venture to say a disproportionate amount of our generation gives up in the middle. “It’s too hard. It’s not fuuuuun. It doesn’t feel like the beginning.”
We are terrified of the middle
“So… you really love running, hey? You run a lot.”
“Yeah. I do love it. It’s wonderful.”
The conversation ends.
Well, I guess I love running… but 30 minutes in, when I have 45 minutes left to run and my body is exhausted? I don’t love running. It is not pleasurable. My rainy run for an hour this morning sucked. But when I walked in the front door, sat down on the floor to stretch, my first thought was: that was horrendous, glad it’s over, but dangit, I did it and I LOVE RUNNING.
The end of a thing is both exhausting and invigorating. Exhausting because you pushed through the middle; Invigorating because you pushed through the middle. Nothing about the middle is glamorous. We want the fulfillment of a job well done — without doing the job. “Easy for you!” I hear, “You don’t have to work 9–5, you have freedom, you write in coffee shops, you take pictures and get paid!” These things about me are true. I am thankful for my job as a wedding photographer. But being thankful does not mean I adore every micro-second of work –“Gasp! Say it isn’t so” — yet, I LOVE IT … because I’ve redefined what “loving work” means.
Two ways of looking at work.
1) Here I am, recording my vehicle mileage for last month in excel, dum-de-dum, typing in numbers for an hour, after this, I have a long list of stuff to finish before dinner. BORING …
2) Here I am, six solid hours at the computer today, recording vehicle mileage, writing blog posts, answering emails, packaging parcels for clients, writing out an improved workflow, driving to the bank, post office and Staples for supplies. Thrilling? No… but I’m building something! I am leaving things better than I found them.
I LOVE THAT.
I loved my job as a barista. I didn’t love being on my feet for eight hours; washing dishes while scooping pieces of melted cheese and chunky salsa out of the commercial sink; working until 11PM — but yet, I LOVED THAT JOB. I finished every shift with joy. I made those drinks. I smiled at those people. I cleaned that sink. My feet hurt because I used them.
As a barista, and as a wedding photographer, I’m not thinking: “Wow I love everything about my job this is the best! Yay! I’m so fulfilled! Yay work!” Many parts of a work day are boring but in it’s entirety, a work day is purposeful. I am pushing through the middle. I walk away from a day and thank the Lord for work. I worked; and it was good. I will rest; and it will be even better.
When work becomes a gift, that four monotonous miles in the middle of a run brings joy. When work becomes a gift, those hours cleaning sinks, standing on my feet, and staying up late brings joy. When work becomes a gift, all that entering in vehicle mileage, driving to the post office, nursing an aching back after a 10-hour wedding, brings joy. When work becomes a gift, everything else–relationships, free time, hobbies, dreams, REST!! — is treasured and valued and enjoyed even more.
Flickr photo (cc) by Dan Nguyen @ New York City