Sunday, July 27, 2014

On doing what you love and loving what you do

This morning, while I was in the shower (home of all great ideas and deep thoughts), I found myself thinking of the work I need to do later, and how blessed I am to be making a living out of writing, reading, and editing. I remember that my childhood ambition was to be a librarian, because I thought it meant I'd have all the time in the world to read all the books I want. Even when I was already working and would seek solace in a good book, I'd find myself thinking, "Wouldn't it be great if I could just read books all day and still get paid?" But I had always been afraid of turning that wishful thinking into reality because I thought that getting paid to read or write would diminish my love for it. But the Universe has its way of working things out, and here I am, doing what I love.

And yet, many say that this is actually bad career advice. It leads to discontented spirits who flit from one job to the other, thinking to themselves, "This isn't what I love to do, so this isn't for me." It's almost like being in a relationship (and how many times have I likened a career to a relationship), where you keep finding flaws in the person you're with and concluding that he's not The One. And so you move on to the next, and to the next, and to the next, convinced that The One person or job is just out there, waiting for you, and you'll live happily ever after. It sounds romantic and idealistic, but in reality, all you get is a resume that shows you can't hold down a job and you can't figure out what you want, or the realization that you've been labelled a commitment-phobe. Hardly the characteristic that will attract an employer looking for someone with a sense of loyalty to a company, or someone who's willing to grow with a company for a substantial amount of time before moving on to the next. Even with relationships, it's difficult to grow and move forward when you're too worried about whether or not this person will leave you at the first sign of struggle.

I also read an article before that pointed out that only a select few can financially afford to follow this career advice. Really, how many times have I taken a look around my place of work, zeroed in on certain individuals, and thought to myself, "This person obviously does not need to work for a living, so this really must be his/her passion." But now that I'm in this situation, I'm realizing that this is not true at all. I'm doing what I love, but I'm hardly swimming in money. On the contrary, I find that I have to work twice, three times as hard just to make what I used to when I had a regular job.

It seems that the flip side is the secret. It's not so much about doing what you love. You're very lucky if, like me, you have the opportunity to make a living out of your passions. But not everyone in life is as lucky. Think of security guards, salesladies, janitors-- all thankless jobs, it's difficult to imagine them as a child's ambition. And yet these jobs exist, and we see people who go about these jobs with a smile on their faces and a genuine care for those that they serve. The secret is that no matter what job you're in, be thankful that you have a job at all. And then, fall in love with it. There's always something good about whatever job you have, whether it's the things that you learn, the day-to-day experiences you have, the people you meet, or the kind of person you become because of it.

What a happy coincidence that for today's homily, the priest was talking about the need to be excited again about life and its blessings. His anecdotes were about how people lose their excitement over things --relationships, jobs, studies-- as time goes by, and how important it is to realize that life is not always happy. Life comes with its ups and downs, triumphs and struggles. So when you're down and struggling, it takes a lot of faith to just hang in there and find it in yourself to be excited again.

Truth be told, now that I'm nearing one year in this freelance life, it hasn't always a bed of roses. Sure, there's a rush that comes with seeing your name in a byline, but behind that byline is the stress of finding interview subjects, the difficulty of transcribing interviews, the challenge of powering through writer's block because the deadline is the next day. It's meant days of working in a digital advertising agency during the day, then going home to get more writing and editing work done when everyone else is probably resting already. It's meant weekends of working instead of lounging around. So no, it hasn't been all fun and games. But at the end of the day, I am thankful for the struggles because I know that there isn't anything else I'd rather do. And I know that each struggle will pass-- once I hit the "Send" button to submit my pieces, it's over until the next project comes along. It's faith that keeps me focused on all the good parts of this job. It's faith that keeps me going.

My final thought in the shower was that life is like a game of cards. You're not always dealt a winning hand. But if you already know that you've got a losing hand, you still have two choices on how to approach the game: with a defeatist attitude, sulking all throughout; or with a cheerful spirit, enjoying the game and deciding that you're lucky you got to play at all.

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