Owen and I took a road trip last week to visit my sister and other assorted friends and family. And, like most things, conversations turned to work and career and balancing all of it, especially as parents of young children. Even my retired aunt and uncle talked about how hard they thought balancing parenting and work is for everyone now (especially with the DC traffic – holy crap I do NOT know how people sit in that traffic day in and day out!).
In the context of these conversations, I found myself talking with everyone about the positives of my working experience. And it struck me one afternoon: I actually kind of LIKE my job.
It’s true: I don’t love being an accountant.
But I do love my current work SITUATION.
Because it’s flexible. I have one client through the rest of the year. Which means I can structure my work weeks the way I want them. I have been working 2 days a week in July, a few hours here and there from home, and therefore haven’t been stuck in the car for three hours a day, 4 days a week.
I am able to take a week off, like last week, at sort of a moment’s notice. Without needing to apply for vacation time.
I love that about my job. I love that I am in charge of when and how the day to day tasks get done.
Of course, there’s times I am needed onsite, and days where I have my work reviewed and come away shaking my head and feeling like a loser and a failure. And the mornings where I have a 9am meeting and therefore HAVE to get on the road at 7:15 at the LATEST because otherwise I’d be too late and miss it.
And then there are the days where the sheer drudgery of doing a job I don’t love makes me loathe to do anything at all. Where I spend the hour and a half drive home cycling through a list of careers and wondering if any of them might actually make me happy.
In 2005, Steve Jobs spoke at a Stanford commencement, and he uttered a quote which I have not been able to let go since I first heard it maybe 5 years ago. This is what he said:
Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.
Find something you love to do.
For years now, I’ve spent countless hours thinking about what kind of career might make me happy. If you added up all the time and energy I’ve spent on it, it probably adds up to weeks of my life of thinking about what my ideal career would be.
All that time spent ruminating – and I’m no closer to an answer.
I’m 37 years old and I have no idea what I want to do with my life.
I’ve been trash talking being an accountant now, for, what, 10 years? I don’t love it. I don’t like talking about it with people, because they assume I’m good at math (and trust me, I’m NOT. I rely heavily on my calculator!) and am one of those “finance people” who has no personality or communication skills.
And there is always a part of me, deep inside, that wants to cry to these people who think I’m great at math and don’t have a personality or communication skills: But I love to write! And read! I was an English major and I played the clarinet and I have actually cried from the beauty of a piece of music!
The fact is, I AM an accountant. An accountant who blogs and reads and cries when she hears beautiful music.
I envy the Steve Jobs of the world; the people who knew exactly what they were meant to do and do it every day with passion. One of my best friends in college was like that: she knew from the moment she graduated high school that she was going to be a landscape architect. And damn if she doesn’t own her landscape architect business now. She loves what she does, and I often wish I had a career I could focus on with similar passion.
I don’t. But I don’t HATE my profession, either. In fact, I love it right now: Love it for the flexibility, for the freedom to work as little or as much as I want to. I love that I can work from home without having to explain myself. I love that the quality of my work is what’s judged, not the time I spend in the office. I love that it changes and moves and I have to stay on top of changes and figure stuff out on my own.
I love that I can take a week and do a road trip with my fast-maturing 5 year old in the summer before he starts school. I love that I can take him to dentist appointment and swim lessons and have family dinners ready and be able to run miles without having to worry about fitting it all in. I love that when he’s sick (or I am, since I have strep), I can adjust my schedule and not worry about long term career effects.
And you know. Maybe it’s GOOD that I don’t love my job. Because this way, I can be around for my family and run and cook and travel and do things I enjoy, instead of having a single-minded focus on my career, my passion.
And I’m now starting to wonder if my definition of “doing great work” has been too limited. Maybe doing great work, for me, means making sure that Jeff, Owen, and I have dinner together nearly every night. Maybe it means that I keep myself healthy and fit and mentally clear by running long distances. Maybe it’s about having the space and time to blog regularly, cook healthy meals, raise a happy child and have a happy marriage and life.
Maybe that’s enough, and I can stop wasting my energy on trying to figure out the career which Steve Jobs said I should find.