Last week Slate ran this article.
Its point is that the aphorism to “do what you love” is steeped in the oblivion of privilege and that it’s insulting to those who must, simply, work.
Given my checkered history, I have some perspective on this. On the one hand, I’m currently doing what I love, but on the other hand, I spent years doing what I didn’t love, but which was necessary, and which paid money. For most of my working life, I have had jobs for which my feelings ranged from abject hatred to benign affection, but never actual love. (Sorry Microsoft!)
I really enjoyed much of my time at Microsoft, but strongly disliked part of it. I will never say I enjoyed packing fish on Alaskan trawlers. My 6 years at United Parcel Service were wonderful for me in many ways – my time there grew me up in a way that attending college alone never could have, and I forged some lifelong friendships there. But, those years weren’t wonderful to me. It was hard, dirty, miserable work, performed in the dead of night while my college friends were all tucked in their beds. Later in life I had a brief stint as a telemarketer and a slightly longer stint as a slinger of frozen chickens.
I can’t honestly say that I would have worked at any of my jobs if I had not been paid.
Now I’m in the unique position of doing what I love amid a cohort who are (most of them) doing what they must. There are some who are in it for the love of planes, but even these people would probably not work on them for free. Many, if not most, work full time jobs on swing or night shift and then drag themselves in to 7:00 AM class to earn certificates that will enable them to make better lives for themselves and their families. The primary goal is the money, not the proximity to airplanes.
Twenty years ago, I was in a similar situation, working nights at UPS and attending college during the day. Twenty years on, a combination of luck, frugality, privilege, and work have afforded me the ability to do almost exactly as I please. And, I won’t argue – it’s great. I love spending my days with airplanes and coming home with enough time and energy to work on my other love – writing. Some days I look around me and I can hardly believe that this is my life now.
But, I’m also cognizant that it’s a privilege. Yes, I worked for it, but work alone wouldn’t have gotten me here – there was also a good measure of luck. Recognizing this, I get what the Slate author is saying. It would be obnoxious and disrespectful to my classmates (and instructors, and everyone everywhere who works hard to give themselves and their people a better life) to bray about the importance of always doing what you love. In my idea world everyone would reach that state, but I of all people should recognize that it doesn’t happen overnight, and the work you do to get there, if you get there, is just as valuable as the work you do in the utopia zone.
Jen, I think in many ways you have a unique perspective on this issue, so I’m glad you wrote this. I shared it on FB so more people can see it! – Alice
Alice, wow, thank you – both for the compliment and for sharing it!
Your posting caused me to think of what might be an interesting corollary. Mr. Tuftee once gave me a piece of sage advice concerning getting better at climbing hills on a two wheeled apparatus. He said to “learn to love it, and do it a lot”.
There’s a lot to be said for learning to love what you already have.