To the Next Generation: Don’t Make Work Your Calling

I grew up with two hard-working parents who weren’t totally happy with their jobs.

In fact, a lot of the time, they were walking tumbleweeds of worry and frustration.

This led me to the (quite logical) conclusion that MY job should ALWAYS be enjoyable – and that the only way to accomplish this was to find a purposeful career by centering my work around my greatest passion.

Then I’d obviously be happy forever.

Easy peasy, lemon squeezy. Problem: solved.

Throughout my college years, I watched with pity as the doofs in my graduating class aimed for secure, lucrative jobs in fields like finance, medical practice and law.

Not ME – I’m destined for greater things. 

Then, in 2008, I tossed my square hat in the air and entered the job market, armed with a generic Business and Economics degree that qualified me to do…

… absolutely nothing of value.

No matter, my time will come. 

And for the next decade, I went through the full 5 Stages of Finding Your Purposeful Career:

  • Stage 1 – The search begins: get an entry-level job in a meaningless field of work
  • Stage 2 – Freakout mode: take on several (additional) thousands in student debt for a graduate degree to avoid making any real decisions
  • Stage 3 – Get back out there: take that shiny new master’s degree for a spin with a mediocre job in your field of study that doesn’t quiiiiite hit the mark
  • Stage 4 – Freakout mode redux: quit that job and begin having babies to avoid making any real decisions
  • Stage 5 – Surrender: give into the abject disappointment of feeling like this will never happen

Which, for the record, left me in a fairly hopeless and angry place over the last few years, on and off.

I mean, there I was: the only person in America (possibly even the WORLDwith this very perplexing, incredibly exasperating deficiency.

Unable to find or invent a job where my talents were used to their fullest and my Greater Purpose was served, I was forced into the worst fate imaginable: regular work.

Woe. Is. Me.

And then, I came across this article in The Atlantic.

It’s quite long, but I assure you, every word is worth reading.

Because I know you’re busy, here’s a time-saving summary: there’s a whole generation of folks out there who think the way I do, and we’re all in for a LOT of disappointment.

As if I didn’t already know…

Look, I’m not ready to give up on the dream, either. 

I mean, I actually know people – real, live people – who have made a career out of something they really enjoy and at which they’re quite skilled.

It does, on occasion, happen.

But after more than 10 years of desperately trying to solve this riddle for myself…

… listening to The Dirty Heads’ “Vacation” on repeat…

… looking down on all those poor schmucks who just work to earn a living, rather than nobly searching for their Calling…

… secretly fearful their same fate awaits me…

… I can tell you that the search produced nothing, except a buttload of angst and discontentment.

The solution that was supposed to shield me against feeling useless, unfulfilled and miserable has become the exact thing that lands me there.

Day after day. Season after season. Year after year.

And the more I see other people solving the riddle for themselves – figuring out to make their passion their paycheck –  the more hopeless this journey becomes.

Sorry, Billy, but I am most certainly not keeping the faith.

Instead, I’m numbing my feelings with hard cider and far too much weed, existing for the moments when my over-reaching brain shuts off so that I can enjoy life for a minute.

Again, the exact scenario I set out to never repeat.

(GODDAMMIT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

You know what’s a much better, far more admirable, far less depressing pursuit?

Following your passion, WHETHER OR NOT it’s tied to your paycheck.

(In fact, maybe don’t plan on it being tied to your paycheck)

You can hope for that, sure.

But unless you’re looking to join the ranks of people like me and become a bumbling, angry, alarmist mess of existential frustration…

… let’s don’t and say we did.

Instead, focus on cultivating gratitude rather than landing your dream scenario – it will help stave off those feelings of disappointment and aggravation when your job isn’t your end-all, be-all ideal.

The practice of finding good things (even in a job you hate) is far more useful and rewarding in the long-run.

Your life’s pursuit shouldn’t be searching for a career that suits your passion – instead, keep pursuing and refining the passion itself, for no other reason than to enjoy it.

Honestly, you’re far more likely to find what you’re looking for when you’re not bent out of shape about making it happen…

… every lonely gal on Tinder knows that.

Don’t tie your purpose to any one thing you do, whether it’s being a parent, having a particular career, or serving the world in a specific way.

Those are just small parts of the whole that is YOU.

Find purpose in who you are. Spoiler alert: YOU are not your CAREER or job; you’re a living, breathing being made in the image of God, redeemed and empowered to love and serve. Find purpose in how you express that to the world.

Literally everything else comes with a guarantee to land you right back where you started: buried in a pile of your own bullshit.

One day, you’ll find yourself berating your kids for something assinine, like licking icicles.

In front of the neighbors, no less. Like one of those pilled-out 1960’s moms of legend.

You’ll take a timeout in the laundry room, reflecting on the seething rage you just spewed (very publicly) all over the front lawn, and consider cracking a hard cider to soothe your soul.

But then you’ll remember that you’re fresh out of cider from the binge drinking you did on Saturday.

So, you’ll take a deep breath, go make apologies to your kids and focus all of your pent-up energy on feeling the sun’s rays warming your face, melting the hard-packed snow off the roof in a cascade of energetic droplets, reminding you of jungle rain.

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