Good morning, friends and neighbors.
A few days ago, my sister Stephanie sent me a copy of her latest ebook on what to do before you try going on a diet to lose weight. It was a really good read, and you should check it out if you’re thinking of trying out some new diet (without medical necessity, that is.)
In the book, she talks about me and my weight-loss journey a bit (as well as plugs my book #shamelessselfpromotion,) but she couched it in a way that I really hadn’t thought of my journey- and lifestyle- in a long time:
“My brother lost over a hundred pounds so that he could enjoy his dream job.”
That’s right… at one point in my life, what I do now was my “dream job.” Like a lot of people, though… my career hasn’t always been exactly a dream come true. That doesn’t mean it’s gone bad, or “not my calling.”
What it DOES mean is that just like we keep changing from day to day, our lifestyles and what we want from them are bound to require some reflection.
Where I Was
When I was six years old, I knew exactly what and who I wanted to be when I grew up.
Obviously that did not happen- not least because I hardly look like Harrison Ford, I’m sure. Instead, my first jobs were with the Boy Scouts. Then came life as an EMT, a nurse’s aide, and finally- a baker.
I started this blog shortly before I was hired to bake for a casino in Atlantic City. It was big news and a big deal- I had a college degree in psychology, but I never really did much with it. Now, I had gone to culinary school, and I was actually working in my field of choice!
There’s no shortage of stories of people my age trapped in work they don’t enjoy and never really wanted- or where their education doesn’t really apply- simply because they need the paycheck. In that sense, I was one of the lucky ones. Even looking back now, there aren’t too many of my culinary school classmates still in the kitchen, though some have found their way to using their skills in a side hustle or two.
The “honeymoon” phase didn’t last, of course- after a year or so, I was frustrated by my first job. My efforts to transform my body paid off in spades. I was healthier than I’d ever been, stronger than I’d ever been, and well-equipped to do the extremely physical work of professional baking… and yet, I was frustrated and angry, getting increasingly sick of the place I was working.
When I started exercising, I told myself that my “Big Why” was so that I could work in a bakery as long as I wanted- that I’d quit when I was tired of it, not when my body couldn’t take it anymore. After only a couple years, was I really done? That soon?
Of course not. Perhaps a change of scenery was needed…
Where I Am
As I write this, I have been living in Portland Oregon for a little over four years. In four years, I have had five jobs, all baking. I started (and failed at) a home teaching business. One of the positions was as perfect a job I’d ever had, until it wasn’t. The others I was fired from, or simply was never called in again.
I have been in my current position for the last 10 months. The baking we do is more in line with my personal tastes and philosophy, and I’ve trained a number of others effectively in the work.
It is as close to a “dream” job as I’ve had since the one I quit- and if I could manage to make a decent living as a food writer, I wonder if that wouldn’t actually be the ideal working life for me.
Yet, six years into a career of my choosing, with varied experiences and finally beginning to bear fruit… I can’t help but feel that frustration again. Compounded now by my awareness of my mental health, its fluctuations, and the apparently-endless moving of my personal goalposts, I still find myself waking up and saying “Oh god, here we go again…”
I remember a few years ago writing about a challenge my sister had put on her blog. “For anything on your schedule today, ask yourself ‘I would cancel [blank] to do [blank] instead.”
At the time, I felt oddly proud in saying that I was doing everything I wanted to do, every day. My priorities were in line. Even if I wasn’t necessarily happy with the place I was working at, I was still doing the work I wanted, spending my time as I wanted, and made a decent enough living with no compulsion to do things that didn’t serve me.
My days were filled with anything I wanted at the time.
“Anything I wanted at the time.”
This is the logic that plenty of others, myself included, follow:
Doing work you want
+ doing activities you want
+ making enough to stay alive comfortably
+ freedom to change as you see fit
= Dream Life
“But then… why am I stressed out/ unhappy/ frustrated/ exhausted?”
Well, part of that could be the fact that dreams and goals can change as much- and as often- as we do. Your dream life may very well be what you wanted five years ago, but not what the person you are now needs.
Another issue could be that our current culture demands constant evolution and growth. You should always be going for more, bigger, better- absolute perfection, and “enough” is a word for lackluster, low-energy quitters.
Sadly, the most likely problem is this one uncomfortable truth…
Dream Jobs Aren’t Dreams
No matter what job you have- working for someone else, or for yourself, in any context- at some point, it is going to feel like work.
Run your own business and you’re your own boss? Awesome- but inevitably some of the very unfun parts of that are going to crop up, unless you can pay someone trustworthy to handle those bits for you. Even the FUN bits will get annoying sometimes… hell, it’s taken me most of a day to write this post, because I couldn’t quite whomp up the will and energy to write something on my weekend.
Besides that, there will always be the inherent stress, anxiety, and messiness of being alive. As I was reminded the other on my way to the dentist- we are bundles of energy piloting giant robots made of meat and untreated leather. Something is BOUND to go wrong.
I can’t exactly give advice here, as it’s clearly stuff I’m learning to deal with myself- along with how to set healthy boundaries, and paying more attention to my side work.
What I can tell you is everything I intend to remind myself of-
- The world (and us) keeps changing. What we dreamt of being before may not be what we need now.
- Even if your job is “perfect,” life absolutely is not. Prepare for the messiness of piloting a meat robot.
- The difference between “stagnation” and “contentment” is all in your head. Unhappy with where you are? You are stagnating. Fine with what you have? That is the definition of “contentment.”