A friend posted a meme on Facebook right around New Years. The basic gist of it was “If you’re complaining about going back to work on Monday, maybe you need to find a new job.” I usually scroll past memes, but this one stuck with me (it must have, or I wouldn’t be writing about it weeks later).
I am fortunate to have found a job doing something that I love doing, working with people that I love working with. But I haven’t always been so blessed. I know all too well what it’s like to spend a Sunday evening with that feeling of impending doom. Does it say something about me that Sundays are just another day for me now? I would hazard a guess that it just means I’m really lucky.
Everyone always says “find a job you love.” Which is a great idea in theory, but which would result in a world of unusable public toilets if we all followed through on it. Doing what you love is great, but most people have to prioritize feeding their families.
Enjoying your work is like a secret super power. It sustains long hours when you’re up against a deadline. It stokes your creative fires. It smoothes down relationships with your coworkers. (Most people do not enjoy spending time with someone who is actively miserable. I am constantly amazed that I’m still friends with coworkers I had at jobs that I hated.) Once I figured out what I really loved to do (Crestron programming) my career took off. When your natural curiosity takes over (“What happens if I set up my system this way?” “What does this function do?”), skill improvements generally follow. I read up on the things that genuinely interest me, and I build up a personal knowledge base that has been completely invaluable.
When I was unhappy at work, I assessed all of my job aspects that did make me happy. Which is how I realized that I wanted to be a programmer. Of course, not everybody has that luxury. Maybe you’re in the completely wrong field, but you have kids and a mortgage and can’t afford to go back to entry level. Maybe what you really want to do requires some form of education that you can’t afford (even if it’s not too expensive, not everyone has enough free time to go back to school). But there must be something about your job that you like. Hopefully, that’s a starting point towards moving your career in a happier direction.
And what if it isn’t the work you’re doing, but the job itself that’s making you unhappy? Nobody ever spent a Sunday evening looking forward to seeing an abusive boss in the morning. I think we all owe it to society to find jobs where we are well treated and to use our energy and talents to benefit the bosses and owners who are good to us. Think of it like natural selection, but for assholes. Bad bosses should be forced to reckon with their best talent finding better people to work for. Finding a new job is completely draining, but the payoffs can be so great.
My rewrite of the “do what you love” adage would go a little something like this: If you’ve been fortunate enough to find yourself on a career path that you enjoy, count your blessings. Focus your energy on maximizing your joy. Work can’t be the only thing that sustains you, but spending eight hours a day doing something you hate is just poison for your soul. And, for the love of God, be nice to the folks who have to scrub your toilets.
(Of course, that would never fit on a coffee mug. But that’s why I get paid to program automation systems and not to write adages.)