Monday, March 28, 2011

Practical vs. Passionate?

Considering all of the hurdles I've experienced in my professional life since I graduated from University (almost) 3 years ago, career and lifestyle is something that I think (and talk) about a lot. It hasn't been on my mind as much lately since I have been experiencing a tad more stability the past month. However, after talking with my old boss about a possible new permanent job opportunity coming up, and reading this blog post, and various discussions with friends and family has brought the issue to the forefront of my mind again.

I think the eternal struggle (I say eternal because I think it's something most of us struggle with at some point or another and there is no easy answer to it so it won't really ever be "solved") when it comes to career is whether or not to choose a "practical" path or a "passionate" path. Should I base my career goals around obtaining employment that is stable, secure and predictable? Or should I base my career goals around pursuing a passion, i.e. building a career around an activity that fulfills me?

I have struggled with this as well. I've had moments when I have experienced regrets over the path(s) I chose and wonder how my life would be different today if I had taken different directions. I have always loved writing, but in a way I feel like sort of a "late-bloomer" - I didn't really realize how fully I enjoyed it, or that I even had any kind of talent for it, until I was in my 20's. I don't think I even fully realized that I could write AS a career! I didn't know you could make a living from writing blogs and articles, and offering copywriting and editing services! I sometimes wonder, if I had this knowledge back then, maybe I would be doing all or some of these things full-time now. Maybe I wouldn't have had the career struggles I have experienced. Not to mention wondering whether or not I'd actually have "what it takes" to be a full-time writer, or something else artistic.

But then I remember some of the other lessons that I've learned in the past few years. I have learned how much of a struggle it can be to run your own business, to work for yourself, to even get started. I have learned the value of job security (of knowing where you paycheque is coming from and knowing that it will come like clockwork every two weeks and it will be the same amount), of health benefits, of vacation and sick time. I have learned that I am not a very self-discplined person, and because of that I need to be accountable to someone else (a manager or team members) in order to meet deadlines in a productive manner. I have learned I enjoy having somewhere to "go" every day and a team to contribute to/collaborate with. I enjoy having a separate work and home life - I value my personal time and freedom, time with family and friends, and time to just "goof off", relax or go on little adventures - and I like knowing when exactly I can fit these things in.

Is the 9-5 routine boring sometimes? Of course. Is it sometimes frustrating not having complete control over your projects and dealing with the complicated bureaucracy that you have no control over? Of course. But the fact is, there are complications, bureaucracy and frustrations to any job whether you are your own boss or not. Whether you work for yourself or someone else, it's still a job. You are still working. To put it metaphorically, sure you could move to an exotic, exciting, faraway place (Paris, anyone?), but in the end you still need to pay bills, go grocery shopping and pay taxes.

In any case, a 9-5 job doesn't have to be boring. I have been fulfilled in some way by all of the jobs I've had and I have had some really fun, interesting experiences, projects to work on, and I've met amazing people. Sure, there have been things I haven't enjoyed too, but when it comes right down to it a job is what you make of it, and (as I mention in the previous paragraph) generally you cannot avoid the "shitty" side of working.

And when I really think about it, would I want to do something that I see as  a "fun hobby" for my job 24-7? I'm not so sure I would. I think what I like most about my creative hobbies is that I can indulge in them as much or as little as I want, and that I don't depend on them for anything other than personal pleasure. I like that I can submit 10 articles a month to publications, produce 20 drawings or paintings, or I can do NONE. It's all up to me and what makes me feel good. I think if I made my hobbies my "job", it would start to feel like just that to me - a "job". It would feel like work, not fun.

Further to that (according to another thing I've learned about myself), I don't really feel that I am passionate ENOUGH about any ONE thing to make it my full-time career. I have many passions -  or more specifically I have a little bit of passion for a bunch of different things, so it would be really tough for me to pick one thing, or to organize the motley bunch of passions that I have into some semblance of a career wherein I can actually pay my bills. I would end up working 5 little jobs, and that would stress me out even more than working one large one!

I'm not naive - I certainly see the benefits to being your own boss and doing what you love every day. Despite my caution about that type of lifestyle, there is still part of me that hasn't completely written off working for myself someDAY, or that isn't jealous of the bloggers I follow and their super-successful businesses. But the fact is, you never see the whole story of someone's life, only the parts they choose to share, and for that reason you should never use others' success and passion as a meter stick for your own.

What works for one person may not work for you - and I'm slowly coming to the realization that, for me, that's OK. I don't have to turn my writing or my art into a full-time career in order to feel accomplished. 9-5 may  not be for everyone, but for me the benefits far outweigh the frustrations. It's not about being "superwoman" or being "like

Who knows what the future will bring (yet another lesson I have learned), so who knows if I'll feel this way forever, or have the luxury of a secure 9-5 forever (probably not). But this is what I want right now. I'm quite happy with my practical career choice, and leaving my hobbies to indulge in at home when I have time. The fact is, if you are living the life that you want right now and that works best for you right now, you ARE living your passion - whether you are doing it in a cubicle in an office tower, or on a computer in your home.


Allison said...

Writing as a career is extremely hard to find steady work in. You have to be the best of the best to make a living off of it. It's definitely something that works better as a side gig in my experience. But if you tried hard enough I'm sure you could!

Kim Humes said...

You're right - I have tried to get into freelance gigs before and you usually get like 10 rejections before anyone will even publish you - plus journalism as a field is changing so much and there are many job losses happening, so that's another reason I didn't go back to school and get into it. At least if I do it in my spare time I am not dependent on it to make a living. I really admire people who are brave enough to give it a go though-I like having money far too much lol (well enough money to do something fun here and there anyway)

Sara Elizabeth said...

"And when I really think about it, would I want to do something that I see as a "fun hobby" for my job 24-7?" - I went through this and learned my answer was, "No," the hard way. I got a degree in Graphic Design, which is my hobby, and am now not using my degree by choice. I got burned out and attempting to make a career out of my hobby killed the joy in my hobby for me. I am just now designing again here-and-there, it took me a long time to want to design again.

Kim Humes said...

Thanks for your perspective -its good to hear from someone who has been there. Graphic design is something I've always enjoyed too, and I've contemplated going back to school to take a degree or diploma in it, but the fact is I can't bring myself to spend the money and put myself into major debt. I like the idea of going back to school, but more so to add to what I already have or to do something just for the fun of it. Changing careers completely right now is just not realistic for me - well, it's doable but I just don't want to do it badly enough to go through the upheaval it would create in my life, you know? Good to hear you're back to designing again though! Perhaps now that you're doing it for fun, you will get the passion back you once had!

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