This is Part 1 of a multipart series I am writing on the Myth of the Perfect Job
I was the child who never stopped coloring. I loved to draw. It was my hobby. I would spend hours and hours after school and on weekends working on a project. I can’t remember, but I think I may have only taken one or two formal art classes in school as a child. It didn’t matter. I loved it.
I got a scholarship to go to art school. I spent two years studying art and earing a degree in graphic design. I worked for a year at a marketing firm which went out of business. The next month, I started my own business. I was pretty successful doing this. I ran this business for five years. I loved the freedom of working for myself. But I lost something along the way. I had lost any desire to create art for myself. I spent all my creative energy in my job, getting paid to create for other people, but never for myself.
I had a job, but I lost a hobby.
Other than art, I had always been fascinated with science. When my wife developed a skin issue, and we had some rather arrogant, dismissive dermatologists caring (or, rather, not caring) for her, I did a little research and figured out what was wrong with her skin. Something that she was “going to have to learn to live with” hasn’t been much of an issue for well over a decade.
I became passionate about health. I went back to school, earned a biology degree, and then I went to medical school. Now, after six years of being a physician, I am tired. My passion has been slowly sucked away by all the things that have little to do with health and everything to do with lawsuits and budgets… not my own lawsuits or budgets, but the system that works in fear of lawsuits and is dictated to by budgets and not patients.
I have a job, a very good one at that; but frankly, I am burned out.
Why? Why has this happened… again? Do I just have a pattern of being unhappy in my work? Am I just a malcontent?
I don’t think so. I know I am not alone. I literally speak to people everyday about their jobs. Many people don’t really enjoy their work. Some do, but most would rather be doing something else. They are glad they have a job. They are glad they have the paycheck. But if you asked them if they could change jobs and do something else, a large number would say yes.
Of course there are exceptions to this. There are many people who are extremely happy in their jobs. I am very glad there are people out there who truly enjoy their work every day. But this is an exception.
So what you do if you had the choice? Most would state that if they could get paid for their hobby, they would be happy. This is what we are told so often by career counselors and our mentors. But is it true? I have often quoted Confucius who stated, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Well, I have done this twice now. I had careers in something I was passionate about. I loved art. I loved to draw. I loved to create something that had never existed before. But once it was a job, it became, well, a job. The love, the passion, slowly faded. The same has become true for me with my career as a physician. I still love caring for and helping my patients. But all the other stuff that goes along with it, the non-medicine things, has made this passion of mine a job. And jobs are not all that enjoyable.
Think of anything you love to do. Now imagine doing it all day long, every day, five to seven days a week, every week after week, month after month, year after year. You end up looking forward to the end of the day, because you are exhausted. You end up looking forward to the weekend, if you get one, because you just need a break. You may end up loathing Monday mornings. You may end up looking forward to your short, two-week vacation and not enjoying your day to day life… always looking forward to the next break, the next holiday, the next vacation, the next space of time where you can just breathe. You may end up getting burned out.
I don’t want that… not any more. I’m tired of it. But what am I to do? What are WE to do? We still need a job. We still need money. We have to pay for our house and property and property taxes and food and utilities and all the things that are truly needed to raise a family. So, are we stuck? Are we destined to feel like a hamster in a wheel. Are we supposed to go through life thinking that there may be perfect jobs for some people, just not us?
I certainly hope not.
I think there is an alternative. In fact, I am pretty darn sure there is another way to live. I am so sure of it, I am going to do it myself. In fact, I just gave my notice last week. I am quitting my job.
I am in the military right now, so this is not a quick process. It will actually take almost a year before my job is officially done, before I hang up the uniform, before I can step off the hamster wheel.
I know that some will say I lack the ability to buckle down and work hard. When things get a little tough or boring, I bail out and jump to the next shiny thing that catches my eye. Well, I say bull. I know how to work hard. When I first started my graphic design business and I was building my client base, I worked part-time as an early morning radio DJ and with a local landscaper to pay the bills. When I decided I wanted to be a physician, I ran my own business full-time while going back to school full-time taking pre-med classes (Organic Chemistry, Biochemistry, Histology, Comparative Anatomy, etc.) and never took a school loan. So I will cut that argument off before it gets started.
Others will say that I lack the ability to wait for my reward. We have been taught to work hard, save our money, and then if we played the game the right way, we will be able to retire with our spouse and walk barefoot on the beach wearing white cotton pants partially rolled up our legs. Again, I say bull! It would be very possible for me to retire from the military. I just have to work another 14 years, and then I would receive a pretty good pension. But you know what? By the time I retire and I am finally able to raise my family in the environment that I desire, my children will all be about ready to move out. My oldest son is 5 years old; he would be 19 by then. My youngest daughter is just a month old. She will be almost fifteen by the time I could retire. I will have spent two decades, some of the most productive and healthiest decades of my life, working for something that I would barely be able to share with those who mean the most to me. I would have given them my spare time and given them no roots. No thanks!
There is another way, but it is not easy. It is against conventional wisdom. I know there are some that will call be foolish. I don’t care.
I want something more out of this life. I do not think it is a fantasy, but then again… maybe it is. Well, then, I aim to live my fantasy. I aim to make my fantasy a reality.
“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”
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