The ultimate choice, right? Passion or paycheck. But are the two always mutually exclusive? Can one, eventually, enable the other?
Is sub-par sometimes a means to an end?
I came across this interesting post by a twentysomething web designer from Portland, Ore., who laments her life in a corporate cubicle, doing a job she kinda hates. Sound familiar? But she lets herself off the hook for doing something she doesn’t love…while she paves the way for something she does.
There are things about my job that I do care about. I care about performing well enough that I maintain the respect of my coworkers. I certainly care about performing well enough to keep my job. I care about the fact that this is the entry level experience I need to progress in my field. Do I care about the work that I do? Um…
But I do care about some parts of my work. I love coding. But I want more. I want to do more design, be more involved in the creative process, have greater control over the product I turn out. And there are other things I’m interested in, too. I’m interested in marketing and branding and social media. I’m interested in making things, doing things that help people on a very personal level, that helps to build community (local, global, whatever), that does something to add meaning or value to someone’s life. My job doesn’t and will never provide that, and that’s not to say there’s something wrong with my job, but rather, that because my job doesn’t really do what I’m interested in, it’s probably not the best fit for me.
Knowing this, I think it’s okay for me to stop beating myself up over the fact that I’m not feeling fulfilled by my job or satisfied by the kind of work I’m doing. It’s okay not to care. That doesn’t mean I get a license to blow off my work or be a slacker. What it does mean is that I can stop investing so much in my work emotionally, that I can stop being upset because I’m not a “perfect” employee. I’m not meant to be perfect in this position. It’s not what I’m cut out to do, and I can’t make myself better suited for the work any more than I can make my job what I want it to be.
Intriguing perspective. Whether or not it makes dealing with life decisions any easier — no clue. But realizing that you can learn from not-quite-perfect may give us the patience to make peace the buffet of choices out there. As Po Bronson writes in What Should I Do With My Life?:
“Finding what we believe in and what we can do about it is one of life’s great dramas… Don’t cling to a single scenario, allow yourself many paths to the same destination. Give it a lifetime to pay off. Things you work hardest for are the things you will most treasure.”
Another way of looking at it, in the words of somebody’s mother: “Sometimes you have to kiss a bunch of frogs.”