As I have spent the last few weeks considering what it means to do satisfying work, I have noticed signs everywhere that seem to be pointing me in this direction. A dear friend posted the photo above on Facebook. I’ll repost the text below just in case it’s not legible from the picture:
Some day you may be as old as I am. Take my advice, and don’t waste your short life. Invest your youthful vitality in your art. Share the best of your spirit with the world. Your body will die, but you cannot die. So, don’t worry about petty things like bodies, money and possessions. They pass with the body and are meaningless. Don’t worry what anyone thinks of you. Don’t seek approval, except from yourself. Your art and ideas are signs of your spirit. Your beauty endures forever, as do you.
I’ve been back at work from the Christmas holidays (remember them?) for a month and a half, but I’ve still had a difficult time adjusting. I don’t know what happened in between December and January, but I have found it difficult to do the work. During my first four months at my new job, I dove in with enthusiasm. But recently, it’s been a struggle to get through the workday. Don’t get me wrong, I still do my job the best I can, and work as hard as I can, but I often find myself thinking, how can I spend day after day nose deep in Excel spreadsheets? I alternate between liking the work and not. But unfortunately, the days of not liking it are adding up.
I always identify as a creative person in a non-creative line of work. My best friends are creative (my closest friend in San Francisco is a writer). I tend to fall for men in creative professions (artists in particular). I acted from elementary school through college, enjoying it as a pastime but never as a serious way to make a living. I always enjoyed writing as a child. When I think back on what has been a constant in my life, writing and reading are the biggest ones. I have always been a voracious reader, and when I was little, I fearlessly thought, “I can do that”. I wrote my own stories based on The Babysitters Club (this is before fan fiction was a thing). But the older you get, the more you talk yourself out of these things. You learn to apply your interest in language into a career that allows you to live independently as a woman in the city. My current field, digital advertising, has allowed me to live comfortably first in San Francisco and now Mexico City. I am respected and known in my field, and I appreciate that aspect of my career. It’s one of those things one is not supposed to say out loud, but recognition is an important aspect of one’s professional life. It’s why people like me who have some ambition choose to pursue demanding careers and eschew helping careers like teaching.
But I’m rethinking it all. I’m rethinking what’s important. How can I work at a job where I feel that my true talents and interests are not being used? What’s it for, to watch the clock for 40+ hours a week only to come home to a nice apartment on evenings and weekends? I want to do work from Monday through Friday that fulfills me. Is it possible to do that without taking a vow of poverty? How does this vague desire to find a more fulfilling profession translate into concrete action?
I think it’s entirely possible that I could reread this post in a year and roll my eyes, at how naive it all was. Or, another result is possible. I could reread this post in a year and realize that I was onto something. That it was right for me to listen to my instincts.
One of those other signs I saw recently? Another good friend posted this song by Sade that I had never heard before. It’s all about making a living while not being an office drone. We weren’t born to sit immobile all day manipulating data points and formatting cells. Sade knows that. The old lady above knows that. And deep down, I know it too.