You hear it all the time. You see the inspirational memes in your timeline and feeds. “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” or “Follow your PASSION” with some icon of a heart or freaking smiley face – but all they make you want to do is track down that happy person in the meme and, I don’t know, maybe punch them in the face. I mean, don’t get me wrong…I get it. I even agree with it to a point, but I also know first hand how hard it is – and that’s if you are already starting from a certain level of privilege and with some dumb luck on your side. The truth is, for most of us anyway, what we love or are passionate about probably won’t pay the bills.
What I want to do is take this from a different angle. Forget about turning your hobby or childhood dream into a billion dollar company for a minute and think about your current profession. Are you happy? Is it “OK”? Or, do you fucking hate every second of every minute of every god damn day?! If that last one speaks most to you, then this post is for you. I have been there. I did it all through my twenties – showed up every day (mostly hung-over) to a job I hated working, for people that didn’t value, appreciate or deserve me, with coworkers that were as unhappy and miserable as I was (or more so). And every day we were there we lost a piece of ourselves we would never get back and fell deeper in to the hole we so desperately wanted out of…
Now, let me recognize something, some people are perfectly happy working a 9-5 and then keeping the things they love for their time off. I have a friend that once said to me that he wanted his epitaph to read, “He hated his job, but he was still better at it than most”. For him, work was a means to an end. He worked so that he could do things he loved in his spare time, like travel, art and theatre. If that makes you happy, if that is who you are, then do it. This post probably isn’t for you. But if not…
You have to do something and you need to start now!
I am not trying to dictate what you should do with your life, and for some people it will be much harder than others, but at the risk of sounding cliché, life is too short! Your misery is destroying you, and probably not only you, but the people in your life that you love and hold dearly. Let me really punctuate this, it is not going to be easy – anyone who tells you it is, is a liar, trying to sell you something, or both. Also, for full disclosure and in recognition of just how hard it is, I didn’t do what I am now going to invite you to do. I was too weak (and probably a little lazy) at the time. I didn’t “do something about it” – the industry I worked in did. It was dying a slow and long overdue death, shrinking from its own inability to change and grow and it left me no choice but to change and grow out of it or no longer be able to feed myself.
So what can you do?
First off, don’t go into your boss’ office and punch them in the face or silently walk off the job flipping everyone off on your way out the door – that is definitely not cool and won’t make your life better. The reality is, you probably need to be strong and keep your 9-5, 11-7 or whatever the case might be. Leverage it to make something better for yourself. If that troubles you, remember there are plenty of people out there who would love to have your job, no matter how miserable it and you are. What if you don’t have a job right now? Well, then keep looking in your current field, but take some time for the following concrete activities toward something better:
- STOP WATCHING TV!: No really, STOP! And that goes for reading the sports page, fantasy football, drinking at your “local” or any other escape activity you currently engage in. Instead, use that time to come up with a plan and to work on and learn new skills to make that plan happen. You can enroll in a community college or, even better, there are tons of cheap and free resources online to learn just about anything. Oh, and BTW, you aren’t too old, so while you are giving up TV, give up using excuses like these too – you can do this!
- DO IT LIKE A BOSS!: You may want to get a better job, but might need to step up and make yourself one. Look at ALL the possibilities and don’t rule out starting a small business. You can even do it part time. Yes, you have a 9-5–what about your 6-11? What about your 4am-7am? Can you do freelance, sales, something during that time to start tipping the scales from your crappy job to your own gig?
- GIVE, AND THE REST WILL TAKE CARE OF ITSELF: So, you learned some new skills, but since you don’t have any “real world” experience, nobody will hire you? Volunteer! Find a cause you love and pour your new skill into a project to help that cause. Help a friend or neighbor out with your new skill. You will make connections, build a portfolio of that “real world” experience to show potential employers, and best of all, you will be doing something good and productive in your spare time. On a side note: I can’t provide empirical evidence of this, but if you ask anyone who has done it, the giving of yourself to others always comes back to you somehow. Don’t believe me, just try it…you’ll see.
- WORK, WORK, WORK AND WORK SOME MORE: I know you are tired. I know when you get home from work you just want to kick off your shoes, crack a beer and watch the game. I get it. But if you do that, nothing will get better. In fact from my experience, things will just get worse. This is going to be hard – if you read this far, you might be where I was in 2002 – tired, miserable and just feeling stuck. Get into the practice of trying new things, balance what you like and have a knack for with what there is a REAL demand for in the world. Finding something you love will help, using the people that depend on you as inspiration can give you the drive. You are going to have to dig deep.
- BELIEVE IN YOU: I know, I know–it sounds a little like one of those inspirational memes I was cracking on at the beginning of this post. I say this, because I know that when I was in that place, it was partially due to decisions I made or stubbornness, some from laziness, but mainly because I believed I deserved to be where I was. I didn’t think I was smart enough/good enough/capable enough. I thought other people had the background, connections, education that I didn’t – that I didn’t stand a chance. But once I started really doing it, I realized they didn’t have anything I couldn’t work hard to overcome or surpass. So, what I am saying is you are good enough and you do deserve it – so go get it and start now!
This post is dedicated to B.M., who made a miserable, dark place a little brighter, made me laugh even when I was spitting mad and was always there for other people–even when it wasn’t good for him. I am sorry you didn’t get out in time brother and am so sorry that I didn’t do more, earlier to try to help you get out–you were definitely more than good enough and deserved better!
Still don’t know where to start? Need some help coming up with ideas or resources? Shoot me a note–I will be glad to try to help point you in the right direction.