I’ve been thinking a lot about the catch phrase, “do what you love” lately. Is it a choice? Is it a luxury? Is it within reach for everyone, or only attainable for some? I’m finding myself sort of split between thinking it’s a worthwhile mantra to model your life after, and thinking it’s an unrealistic dream for most people. Positioning it as a choice might make the most sense to me because not everyone is able to do what they love and earn a living from it, but if money wasn’t your main motivation than maybe you can do what you love with some compromises. But what about the people who feel they can’t leave their jobs in order to pursue their passions? Should they stay in their jobs if it makes them miserable just because it’s safer and more responsible? No, I’m not arguing that at all, but I think “do what you have to” might be a more accurate depiction for many of us.
When my girls talk about what they want to be when they grow up, they always count off the things that they love to do. It’s not surprising, is it? As children, it makes perfect sense to think that the things we love to do is the way that we’ll be spending our days as adults. Personally, I do believe I have always tried to pursue what I want, but what I want and what I love aren’t necessarily the same things or the same path. I want to provide a good life for my family, to earn enough not only to provide the basics of what we need, but also enough to enjoy the extras and secure our future, but the path to get there isn’t necessarily doing what I love.
Lately, I’m feeling like my overwhelming sense of responsibility in creating financial stability is the thing that is making me feel a bit stuck. I know that we aren’t your typical corporate, 9-5 office type family, but I still feel what many people feel – trapped in a job or career because it pays the bills. Our choice of self employment isn’t without compromises either, namely a steady income and in my case, career mobility and possibly more earning power, but it is a choice that we continue to make (maybe I didn’t “lean in” enough. Sorry Sheryl Sandberg). Still, as fortunate as I feel that we can afford to have all the trappings of a middle class family – an apartment, a car, savings, a yearly vacation – all the things that I want and work hard for, I can’t help but question that there has to be other ways of getting there.
Something that I read in this New York Times article about an elderly woman who finally followed her dreams of becoming an artist really struck me – how “those dreams were derailed long ago by her duties as a wife and mother.” Inspiring to see someone so passionate about their art, but bittersweet because it took her so long to finally be in the right time in her life to fulfill what she’s always wanted to do. We do what we have to, right?
These days, I’m trying to see if a balance exists. Mostly, I feel frustrated with myself for becoming so cautious for the sake of stability that I don’t allow myself the space to even think about unfamiliar waters. This isn’t anything new if you’ve been reading here awhile, but some days it burns a hole in my soul more than others. What am I afraid of? A failure to prove that I can earn a living doing what I love (which I am still searching for, by the way)? Maybe, yes. But I don’t want to live a life, afraid. Because it you can’t learn to love what you do, then maybe the answer is to close the gap between doing what you love and doing what you have to, even with some compromises.