The ‘job-that-you-wake-up-excited-for’ propaganda

job that you wake up excited for

Modified CC image, original by Flickr user noodlepie

I’ve got to say, I’m a little tired of people advocating for us all to go out and find our dream jobs. Jobs that you wake up excited to go to. Jobs that you sit bolt upright in bed in the middle of the night grinning about at the sheer thought of. Jobs that you would happily pay to do. (Don’t you know that nothing less will do?!)

Surely I can’t be the only one who can’t think of a job that fits this description. No matter how awesome, ultimately a job is a job.

I get disproportionately excited over little things. Dessert. (Heck, almost anything to do with good food). The way the sky looks at sunset. A good hair day. And these bursts of excitement are sharp, yet short. But I don’t actually wake up excited for anything, barring a concert or maybe a trip away somewhere. Least of all, work (although there are days when I can actually gush “I love what I do”). And yet, my job is, more or less, my ideal job. Meanwhile, I freelance ultimately not so much for the love of writing but for the experience and money.

I “followed my passion”. So where is this soul-shaking, ear-to-ear grinning, electrifying feeling? Did I go wrong somewhere along the way? Or…is this increasingly popular concept simply setting the vast majority of us up for disappointment?

I know the mantra goes “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life”. I always knew I would work with words; that was what I enjoyed, and what I excelled at. But sometimes, the sheer fact that you are doing what you supposedly love, eventually takes away something from it. (This hasn’t really happened, but I feel sure that this would be the case with any other path. Heck, I fell so out of love with guitar I stopped playing for three years, because I made it too much like work. I got frustrated with my lack of technical progress and lost sight of why I started in the first place).

Would I be happier doing something else on a day-to-day basis? No. And nobody would pay me for any of my hobbies either, be it amateurish baking or photography or travel. Sure, I could try to turn any one of those things into a job too, but why would I? That would suck the simple pleasure out of it. For example, I don’t want to rebrand myself as a travel writer; the places I want to go are, honestly, places other people have been to millions of times before and written about.  Also, I wish to enjoy my travels, not spend time thinking about story angles and making pitch after pitch. And becoming a location-independent nomad isn’t a lifestyle I want to pursue.

It’s a little depressing when I talk to harried colleagues who are looking desperately forward to their next holiday (“As long as I’m not here!”). I’m not at that stage, THANKFULLY, and pray I never will be: but honestly, if I could choose to come into work only when I felt like it, you can bet I wouldn’t be there five days a week.

I’ve said plenty of times that I can’t imagine what people do in retirement. I mainly said those things while I was a stretched-thin student with no time for myself. No time to rediscover doing things just for me, just for the sake of enjoyment. Going to a 40-hour work week has enabled me to live a much more balanced, healthy and sane life. I do get professional satisfaction through my work, but equally (and perhaps more importantly) I get personal satisfaction through the interests and relationships I devote my spare time to.

I never thought I’d say this, but I think I could happily live the life of a lady of leisure, if such a lifestyle could be funded. I have so many books to read. Songs to learn. Movies to watch. Recipes to try. Places and friends to visit. I might work or volunteer a couple of days a week, and that would be enough for me. Doing exactly what I want, when I want. I don’t believe that’s in any job description, though 😉

I may have veered a bit off topic here but I think you get the point I’m trying to make. Enjoying my work is important, but I know I’m not the only one who thinks that loving your job wholeheartedly is a bit of a myth. (And for those who might see fit to chime in with “why don’t you work for yourself instead?” I will point you here courtesy of Paranoid Asteroid.) I also value a job that I can mostly leave behind when I leave the office, stability, decent pay, low stress levels, autonomy and regular working hours. And if you’re one of the people like T, who hasn’t “found their passion” and have read Barbara Sher, you’ll be familiar with the concept of the “good enough” job, which pays well, doesn’t demand too much of you and allows you to pursue your interests in your spare time. And there is nothing wrong with that, either.

No doubt there are plenty of people out there who loathe their work, and are stuck for one reason or another. I just wish the propaganda machine would tone down the selling of a somewhat unrealistic myth – Gen Y rhetoric, IMO, overstates expectations of the “perfect” job, which I find hard to swallow. (Don’t we already face enough pressures to create the ultimate existence – great friends, great love life, great sex life, great body, etc?) By all means, PURSUE THE DREAM, but don’t feel like a failure if it doesn’t actually have you leaping out of bed in the mornings and screaming from the rooftops every day.

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34 thoughts on “The ‘job-that-you-wake-up-excited-for’ propaganda

  • Reply SS4BC January 20, 2011 at 07:11

    You’re right – a job is a job.

    I LOVE my job. Do I want to go everyday? No.

    Are there things about my job I don’t like? Absolutely!

    Do I wake up every morning with a bounce in my step ready to get out the front door and be in my office? Heck no! I like sleep.

    But I still love my job.

    A good job doesn’t make life magically perfect – it just makes it easier.

    • Reply Kate January 21, 2011 at 05:20

      I completely and utterly agree with this.

      I LOVE my job. I does get me excited, I feel useful, I feel challenged, and it’s exciting. I couldn’t ask for anything more.

      But there are still days where I drag my butt in, days where I want to pound my head against a wall, and bosses/colleagues that occasionally drive me crazy (I’m sure the feeling is mutual).

      Having a great job doesn’t make EVERYTHING better, it just makes it way easier. A bad job can poison your entire life.

  • Reply Amber from Girl with the Red Hair January 20, 2011 at 07:14

    “I do get professional satisfaction through my work, but equally (and perhaps more importantly) I get personal satisfaction through the interests and relationships I devote my spare time to.”

    Love this line! I DO believe we should find fulfillment and satisfaction in our work but not ALL of our fulfillment/satisfaction should come from it.

    More than saying that I want a job I “wake up excited to go to” I think, “I want a job I DON’T DREAD going to every day”. Too many people actually hate their job and their life when they are at work. Considering we spend 40 hours a week at our jobs (or more!) I think it’s important to have one that, at the very least, we don’t dread going to and find enjoyment from most of the time.

    That’s how I feel about my job! I don’t LOVE it, but I enjoy it. I like my co-workers, my flexible schedule and the work I do fills my time and makes the day go by fast. So I’d say all that is a win.

    Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how I could one day find a job that does not require me to be at a desk 40 hours a week, though. That is the one thing that does get a little tiring and repetitive for me.

  • Reply Maggie January 20, 2011 at 07:15

    Hmmm, this has made me think… I was actually having a thought along those lines when I wasn’t if what I had studied was something that I actually wanted to do anymore and was thinking of something else that I wanted to do/should have studied instead… but then realized, I should give it a go cos who knows, it could be something I enjoy doing..

    • Reply eemusings January 20, 2011 at 09:09

      How far along are you with your studies? Cause if you’re done or close to it, I’d definitely give it a spin first and see if you would be happy doing it.

  • Reply Red January 20, 2011 at 07:20

    Couldn’t have said it better myself! I had my dream job as a journalist, and after a while, it ceases to be a dream and instead becomes work. There were honestly days that I *loathed* my work. And I took it home every night and rarely had a weekend to myself because I had to write or cover events. I was paid an abysmally low wage.

    Now… I don’t *love* my current job. And the boss can be a bit of a pain. But I’m happy here. I don’t think of this job when I go home. I can go on vacation without even considering what’s happening back at the office. Sometimes it’s a bit boring, but I’ll take boring over pulling-out-my-hair stressful any day. I’m paid a very decent wage for what is expected of me. I can afford to pay off my debt at an aggressive pace.

    One of my coworkers once told me I should try to monetize the blog. I said, “But it wouldn’t be fun anymore…” I don’t want to think of the things I do for fun as “work.” I don’t know if it’s a complete myth, but I do think it’s a bit unrealistic.

  • Reply Alotta Lettuce January 20, 2011 at 07:28

    That phrase ‘do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life’ really itches my bitchbone, because it’s trite and patently untrue. The reality is that people who do what they love work all day, every day, for everyday of their life. I’ve worked FOR those people, and they are literally NEVER not working.

  • Reply Life as a Purse January 20, 2011 at 07:47

    I am going to be the voice of dissent here. I respect your opinion completely and understand that for some people, their job is never going to be the locus of their happiness. It sounds like no job would make you as happy as your leisure makes you. That is perfectly valid, and I think you are right to abandon your search for the perfect job if you know this about yourself.

    However, I also know myself, and I know that I am not going to be happy unless I love my job and feel I am being useful. I have an obsession with productivity – and for me that means having learned something useful, having helped another person improve their lives, or having created something beautiful. Do I stay up at night and think about articles I want to write? Yes. Do I have trouble talking about things other than work? Yes. Would I pay to do this job? Certainly.

    Honestly, I don’t have many hobbies (outside of personal finance). Leisure makes me uncomfortable after more than half a day or so, and then I want to get back to work. Also, I’m a weird do-gooder that thinks she can change the world for the better, and I’d gladly sacrifice almost anything on the altar of that goal. I do not want a family, I do not want hobbies, I just want to work. I agree with SS4BC, some days it does feel like drudgery, and other days my confidence fails me…but a good majority of the time, my work is all I want.

    That is really hard for me to share because I know it’s probably incomprehensible. Anyway, the dream job is not a useless myth for everyone, although I am also not positing that it should be a goal that everyone is after, either.

    • Reply eemusings January 20, 2011 at 09:13

      Thing is…I have what is basically my “perfect” job (though I hesitate to use that term.)

      But it’s still work.

      It’s not that I don’t believe in dream jobs; I just think popular rhetoric of late overstates things and encourages exaggerated expectations of what a dream job should represent. It’s the espousing of the “nothing less than a job that gets you out of bed” mantra that I have a problem with. I think those who push it actually mean every word of it, and that bugs me.

  • Reply FB @ FabulouslyBroke.com January 20, 2011 at 08:30

    I really, really, really love my job.

    What I do at my job = great.

    What I HATE about my job (or any job for that matter) is mostly all the office politics and paperwork. I loathe paperwork.

    Other than that, 99% of my job is good. There are rough spots but I cannot imagine doing anything else.

    Every time I try, I think : Nah.. what I do is way more fun.

  • Reply Tweets that mention The ‘job-that-you-wake-up-excited-for’ propaganda « Musings of an Abstract Aucklander -- Topsy.com January 20, 2011 at 08:32

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by eemusings, Life as a Purse. Life as a Purse said: Read @eemusings post today about the dream job propaganda (http://bit.ly/eVCJ9H). It is so thought-provoking that I cried. Honestly. […]

  • Reply everyday tips January 20, 2011 at 09:54

    I totally agree with this post. I wrote a long, blabbering post about trying to find a way to like what you do because ‘doing what you love’ just may not be realistic. (I also tire of everyone saying ‘do that job that doesn’t feel like work. Find your PASSION. Well unless reading books on the beach is paying well these days, then I may not be able to attain my dream.)

    Great post.

  • Reply nicoleandmaggie January 20, 2011 at 10:28

    I like to say that so far nobody has offered to pay me to sit around and eat chocolate and read the novels that I want to read without having to write about them too. One of the things I liked about Your Money or Your Life was the discussion of how work is something you do to make money.

    We’ve got a couple of posts on this topic:
    Whether or not to follow your dreams: http://nicoleandmaggie.wordpress.com/2010/10/11/the-whether-or-not-to-follow-your-dreams-post/
    Another comment on doing what you love:

    Hopefully that won’t throw me in your spam filter!

  • Reply Scribbles January 20, 2011 at 10:36

    I was actually having this conversation with my mother the other day. My darling and I have talked and if we can make it work financially I will be staying home with our kids while they are small. Not just a year off, more like five or so years until our kids are close to school age. Not necessarily a common choice these days but one that we feel passionate about. In saying that, I think stay-at-home-spouses these days have a lot more options for earning side income than our predecessors do.
    As a teacher, I’ve been on holiday for almost five weeks already and that really gives me a taste as to what life would be like if I didn’t work. And you know what? I like it 🙂 It’s not that I don’t love being a teacher but I believe that staying at home can be an equally rewarding experience – send me back to the 50’s if you must 😀

  • Reply SassyGirl January 20, 2011 at 17:59

    I COMPLETELY agree with this. No matter what I “love” (and to be honest, I’m not sure about that yet), once it’s a job, I’m bound to love it a little less. It’s the nature of things. Like designing websites. In my teens, it was my favourite hobby. I devoted 50% of my life to it. And then in university, when it became my job, I got a lot less satisfaction from it. And sometimes it’s not about the thing you love anymore, it’s the other aspects of having a job that are tiresome. Like maybe having an inflexible schedule, or having unreasonable clients, or a verbally abusive boss, or unfriendly coworkers.
    My current job is pretty much my ideal job, but if you were to ask me what I didn’t like about it, I could come up with a huge list. Half the things on that list probably have nothing to do with the job itself, like having certain coworkers might just be an act of luck (or unluck).

    I definitely appreciate my “personal life” immensely now that I’m a full-time “career person”. Weekends are entirely devoted to staycations with my friends, and Monday to Friday is devoted to planning for and anticipating the weekend. The longer I work, the more I share your feeling that, “Wow, there is so much I want to do, and not enough spare time for me to do it.” But I still believe that I would not function well as a lady of leisure. When I have too much free time, I start to waste away. I’m someone who lives for challenges. If I really did experience a life-altering event that made me permanently unemployed, I’d probably turn “mothering” or “socialite” into a challenge for myself to tackle.

  • Reply Sense January 20, 2011 at 21:29

    I would say i disagree, but I also agree with you!

    I would use my vacation and pay to do what I do in my job. In fact, I have. and I might do so again in the future–I’ve already looked into it. It’s ridiculous how in love with my job I am. and it is still going strong after 2 and a half years. I just know that this is where I am meant to be in my career and what I’m meant to be doing. Everything feels so right and I am constantly amazed by the opportunities i get around every turn. It really just keeps getting better and better.

    But I think I could realize all of that because I had a ‘treadmill’ job for the four years before that–you know, coworkers are fine, boss is fine, the money is good, the work is boring and tedious at times but completely handle-able and you feel like you are making (very slow) progress. so you keep going until before you know it, four years have passed. it wasn’t the worst job in the world by any means, but nothing that ignited any sort of sparks for very long, and it was clearly just for the money. the difference in the way I feel about the two jobs is astounding. I think I was actually downplaying the bad parts of the last job to myself to get myself to go every day. I am grateful to have been so lucky to find my current position, and to find something that suits my interests, future career path, and personality to a T (aside from the public speaking thing, of course). with this job, i do wake up in the middle of the night thinking of new ideas. does that happen every night, or even every week? nope, maybe not even every month. but it happens with enough regularity that I know that this job is making me very, very happy.

    are there things that I don’t like to do as much as other things in my job? yes…but even the most dreaded things I do for my current job, i’d have LEAPT at the chance to do them when I was in my last position. do i take the job i have for granted once in a while and forget how lucky I am? of course. like anyone, I wish I could sleep in longer a lot of days, no matter how awesome my job is. no one can maintain that level of excitement in the long-term, it’s like a relationship. You can know that the person you are with is the One that is Meant For You and still bicker and fight with the person. so yeah, that idea is definitely hyped up beyond belief, but those jobs DO exist for some people. right now, i get to be one of them and i am really really grateful.

    • Reply eemusings January 20, 2011 at 22:45

      That’s awesome. I can feel the enthusiasm all the way over here. And it’s good to hear from someone whose work really does do all that for them and more!

  • Reply Kim January 21, 2011 at 06:51

    This is SO true.

    I’ve just recently come out of a job that was a total nightmare and I’m in my first week at a new one. Currently I’m in the honeymoon phase of this job, but ultimately, if I had a choice to stay home and get paid or to come in, like you, I wouldn’t be coming in every day.

    I am thankful that my job is something I enjoy and that I work with great people that make coming in enjoyable, but at the end of the day, if there wasn’t a paycheque involved I wouldn’t show up.

    As for the getting paid for a hobby thing, back in the late 90’s when I was still in high school I used to make websites for fun. Eventually this hobby turned into a part-time job and it ruined it for me. Never again will I try to make money off of a hobby.

  • Reply First Gen American January 21, 2011 at 07:51

    I too have a pretty good job and I enjoy many aspects of it, but I’d still prefer to have the time I spend be my own. The thing with working is I can’t just decide to not work for 6 months and go back to it. It’s a 40+hour a week commitment that can’t be broken. In many cases it’s an all or nothing proposition.

    Even if you like you’re job, it still feels like a lot of work when you’re trying to prep for the holidays, or or out sick with a cold yet the inbox is still filling up despite feeling like death. Wouldn’t it be grand to just take December off and bake christmas cookies, go to parties, write personal notes to all your friends, make the perfect photo card, hand make the perfect present. Yet, we rush through the holidays trying to cram it in to the few hours in the day that is our own. All jobs are work because it takes away our freedom and in many cases flexibility.

    And Alotta Lettuce is right. I don’t want to ever be the person who’s in love with my job because I would have no life.

  • Reply Jaime February 4, 2011 at 18:30

    I honestly don’t get what’s so great about being a professional and loving work. I’ve never had a job that I’ve liked, then again I am 28 and that could change. Anyway I went back to college last year at 27 as an accounting major, and I’m even thinking of becoming a CPA.

    Life to me isn’t about work, its a journey and my life is about personal fulfillment. Honestly I don’t care about prestige as long as I get to live a healthy and personally fulfilled life. That’s what I care about.

    I didn’t major in accounting because I just happen to love the subject. I took a look at all the majors and frankly I couldn’t stand most of them. While I love art history and world history I didn’t want to pay for majors that I could study on my own. The best jobs are in specialized majors (accounting, medicine, law, etc).

    I’m not a math genius, I get B’s in math. Accounting is a means to an end, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It doesn’t mean that I’m going to be a bad accountant, it just means that while I don’t love accounting, I can like it enough to major in it and work in it.

    Plus now that I’m 28, and because I’m a woman, and women live longer than men, I want to be able to provide my own savings + retirement and take care of myself whether or not I’m with a guy.

    Oh and as an accountant I’ll be able to actually afford the hobbies that I do enjoy like traveling. I don’t think people should hate their jobs either. Its nice if you can get a job you love, but its not necessary to live a good life.

  • Reply oilandgarlic March 23, 2011 at 05:06

    Great post. I write a lot about working for some reason, even though my blog is mainly about food. I guess money does make the world go around? I think for me the biggest satisfaction from work is the sense of pride and independence, more so than making money or taking on new challenges even though I enjoy those aspects too.

    Because my culture is more conservative and value male children over female (based on the ability to earn money), I feel immense pride from making my family proud of me via my career, and not have them wish that they had a son instead. I’m also proud that I use my education and skills on a daily basis.

    This is sort of a tangent but your post got me thinking, which is a good thing!

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  • Reply Financial Samurai May 11, 2011 at 14:40

    My ideal job would be to work whenever I want and work just 2-4 hours a day.

    Hey, that sounds like Blogging! 🙂


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  • Reply Life [Comma] Etc August 30, 2012 at 02:57

    Well apparently I should have just read this instead of bothering you over email, haha! Glad I did though.

    I started out thinking you had to be passionate about your work, but that burned me out and left some long-term damage. My next job was on the other side of the spectrum and can be just as frustrating. I like your middle-ground attitude…. work as a respite from the insanely awesome life one is living!

  • Reply Dan Meyers September 10, 2012 at 13:41

    Awesome post. I think by the time I found that magical “doesn’t feel like work job” that I love doing, my passion would change and I would want to do something else! My dad has always been like that… he’ll take on a hobby he really loves for a few years, and then he’ll get tired of it and find something else. I’d hate to brand myself a certain way only to get trapped! As long as I can use my job as a tool to get me what else I want, I’ll be satisfied.

  • Reply makeupandmirtazapine November 8, 2012 at 11:07

    When I worked as a homeless officer I had a job that got me out of bed. At least more so than the job i had before that working for a multi-national finance company. It was motivating to me to think that if I didn’t get up and go in some people might not have someone to help them through their emergencies. But I can’t imagine not seeing a job as work either.
    The thing is, it was Steve Jobs who said that you should do what you love and won’t it won’t be work. And I’m sure he meant it, but I think it only really applies to people with his personality type, and it might also be in some way peculiar to computer nerds.
    Steve Jobs had a driven, Type A personality, he lived to work. People like that probably don’t ever feel like their job is a chore. He also worked in computers. All the people I know who work with computers, spend most of their free time doing pretty much the same things they do at work.
    I don’t think his advice translates very well to the rest of us who don’t share those traits. The only other person I know who thinks they ‘play’ for a living runs a martial arts centre, and one of those places where businesses take their staff to do orienteering and wilderness survival things as team building exercises. So his job really is exactly what he’d be doing if money was no object.

  • Reply Layla December 12, 2012 at 14:14

    I totally agree. I think those moments of waking up excited for something should be rare joys, otherwise they lose their amazingness.

    I think this mentality is what made it take this long for me to figure out what I want to do with my life (I think I know what I want to do with my life, but I’m only 23 so maybe I’m wrong but whatever!) If I do anything long enough, I will be comfortable with it, not wake up super excited for, and still be proud of the work I’ve done and the life I’m living and the people I’m sharing it with.

    And if I realize 5 or 10 years from now that I don’t want to be doing this, that I should have picked something else, then I can always save up some money and go back to school or take some evening classes or whatever.

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