It’s a thing that, at some point, everyone comes up against – that moment when something you love becomes some kind of burden and you just want to quit. This applies to hobbies, jobs, work, relationships… everything.
I’ve certainly come across it before in my own life long before now, but I guess it has a weird poignancy due to a semi-arbitrary decision I made a little over six years ago. In June 2007, I graduated university with a BA in English and a BEd. Teacher’s college was always a plan B, a fallback, though I had no idea what Plan A was. I spent almost my entire undergraduate life preparing for my second-place career, not know what first was. Finally, a little before I graduated, I figured it out: publishing! I gave myself seven years to make it happen, figuring that five was a bit too short (everyone needs time to put in their grunt work and escape a dead end or two) and 10 was just irresponsible (how long do I want to earn peanuts, exactly?), so seven seemed like a good compromise.
Well, it’s a little over a year until my deadline comes to pass, but a lot has happened in that time. I got married, acquired a mortgage, and have absolutely put in my grunt work. I’m still not where I’d like to be monetarily, and I’m just now branching out into freelancing and real networking, but I’ve got to consider: at what point do I stop going for a ‘job I love’ and just do it for the money? After all, how many of us truly find a job we love, that is fulfilling and perfect? How much of that is a myth, anyway?
A lifetime of television shows and feel-good dramas have taught us that following your passion is a kind of purity. A heart followed is a heart fulfilled, surely. Except for the times that it’s not. A recent episode of How I Met Your Mother encapsulated this nicely, when Lily, who loves her husband and child, confessed that sometimes she wants nothing more than to up and leave them. This isn’t a damning admission, but rather a statement of fact: nothing is pure.
I remember in high school when a student I respected a great deal, Eugenia, said she was thinking of stepping down as President of the Music Council (think Student Council, only more specific). She just wasn’t enjoying it, she said. At the time I couldn’t relate – after all, you just put your head down, ignore the distractions and push through, right? Why would anyone consider quitting? It wasn’t long until I had my answer, when just a couple of years later I realized I didn’t want to teach skiing anymore.
The short version is that I had gone about three season in a row of only hitting the slopes for training and teaching purposes – no recreational time. I took a day to visit Blue Mountain by myself, the first time I had ever gone skiing alone, just to find out if I still liked it. Verdict: yes! Since then I’ve made sure to go out for fun at least a couple of times a season, but even so I’ve still been tempted to just drop the whole enterprise a handful of times. I often describe myself as passionate about skiing (and teaching it), and that I love it, and I’ve learned to just ignore those moments when part of me asks why I bother anymore.
So what about my actual career, the writing slash publishing slash editing one? Well, I like a lot of it. I find satisfaction in aspects of it and frustration in others. Clearly, my passion hasn’t provided the financial dividends I’d hoped for, and maybe it’s time to consider selling out a bit and take a job that pays the bills and leaves me freer to spend my free time as I’d like (such as, oh, taking a ski trip instead of staying in Ontario, the skiing world’s armpit).
I suspect I’m a bit late to the game in accepting the fact that virtually any career I pick will have more headaches than I’d like it to – I mean, if my hobbies (which I “love”) stress me out sometimes, then what hope do I have for a career that I “love”?
Probably the same chance as everyone else, actually. I’ll find something enjoy about virtually anything, something that convinces me to push past the inevitable moments of doubt I’ll find in any endeavor. That’s life.
Oh, and Eugenia pushed through her doubt and stayed on as president. To the best of my knowledge, she was glad to have done so.
I’m lovin’ it.