Some people pick their jobs based off passion or a need to prove themselves. I picked mine out of fear.
I don’t write often about my day job because, well, it’s not something I love. I like the normal working hours. I like getting paid. I like having the summers off. (No, I’m not a teacher, but I do work in a school.) I’ve certainly had worse jobs in my field in the past. My current job is the lesser of a dozen evils. But do I love it? No. Do I even like it? Well, no, not really.
Growing up, my favorite pastimes involved make-believe and the arts and books. I had parents who took me to the library every week, paid for voice and piano lessons, and encouraged me to expand my mind. They also encouraged me to be practical.
When I finished high school and started college, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. Except write.
“Hon, you can write no matter what job you do,” my mom told me.
They didn’t want me to major in English, or well, that’s what I took from their advice. I also knew the arts were out. They had told my younger sister they would never pay for her to do theater, so of course, they wouldn’t let me do music as my major. Mind you, I didn’t bother to ask them. I was afraid of being told no.
Instead of going with something I knew I loved, in my first year, I fell into being a Classics major. I took a Latin class and enjoyed it, second to my English and Music classes, but still. I thought my parents would approve.
However, one ride on the way to school, my dad asked me, “What are you going to do with that?”
I shrugged. “I don’t know. I just like Latin.”
His question, though, continued to haunt me. It didn’t help that my mom would ask the same. In search of an answer, I went to the career center. They gave me a link to take a personality test and left it at that. No one told me what Classics majors did, except continue to go to school or become lawyers. Neither one appealed to me.
What are you going to do with that?
No one told me about jobs that might be good for a girl who just wanted to write and read books. And I was too afraid to make them.
I changed majors a few more times. I was even, for a brief semester, an English major (going pre-med, of course, because I had to be practical). In the end, though, I left my out-of-state campus to go back home and take up a practical major.
My parents were thrilled with my decision. I had picked a direction. Finally, I had picked a major with real world application. They said it was perfect for me. Except, it had nothing to do with make-believe. Nothing to do with the arts. And nothing to do with books.
I knew, all through college, that I hated it. I spent much of my time in school struggling with depression and anxiety, which I kept to myself, and grasping for time to write. There was one day in particular, when another girl in my class asked, “What would you do if you won the lottery today?”
“Quit school and go write,” I said. She agreed, about the quitting school part, and the conversation turned to safer subjects.
It never occurred to me that maybe I should have heeded my answer. I knew I was doing something that I hated. But my dreams and passions seemed unpractical. And my parents were so happy and proud of me. I should be happy and proud, too. Besides, I could always write.
Those first three years out of school, I didn’t write much. I didn’t finish anything I started. I floundered, and not just in writing, but in every aspect of my life. Sure, depression played a huge part in it. But so did hating my job. In fact, even now, after getting treatment and being in therapy, it still comes up. At least every other month, I return to the theme of discontent about the work I do to live independently.
I’ve been told countless times, “Most people don’t do what they love as a job.”
Being told that let me rationalize staying in a field I don’t like for six years. The idea of change, of throwing my college education and six years of hellish work out the window, is terrifying. Yet every year I don’t change, I can see my future stretch out before me like an unfilled grave. Complacency. Unhappiness. Normalcy.
It makes me want to scream.
Except, I never do. I never change. I wait and dream, because it’s the only way to cope with the death of a thousand cuts you’ve surrendered yourself to because somewhere along the way, someone told you it would make you happy. Besides, “What are you going to do with that?” With your art? With your dreams? Do you think you’re going to change the world?
I never have. Not before. But I think I have to.
What are you going to do with that?
Make art and change the world. Sounds like a good place to start.