As I get ready to move across the state, without a job secured, I’m encouraged and remembered by those around me that this truly is the right move. As fearful as I am, I have never for a moment regretted my decision. But when others encourage me to follow my dream to move to Austin, the one thing I do disagree with is the notion of “doing what you love.”
The Atlantic recently posted an article criticizing the “Do What you Love” advice, in regards to work. In my quest for full-time employment, I’ve read through hundreds of postings promising fully-stocked kitchen cafes, weekly office happy hours, and brand new Apple laptops. I’ve seen dozens of Twitter and Instagram accounts with employees enjoying impromptu food truck lunches and the unveiling of ping pong tables. There’s an image in millennials’ minds that work has to be fun in order to get fulfillment from it.
I really feel like it comes out of post-World War II prosperity. The Protestant work ethic is work, work, work—work is a calling, work is virtuous. I felt like that was with us for a long time, but pleasure never factored into that much.
But then come the Baby Boomer generation—you have the wars seemingly over and there’s a lot of prosperity, though it’s been spread pretty broadly throughout society. And that gave people the opportunity to indulge themselves a little bit. And within the U.S. particularly, there arose a culture of self: thinking about what makes me happy and how to improve myself. [I argue that the] virtue strain of work and the self strain of work combined in the late 1970s and 1980s, and in a way pleasure-seeking became the virtue.
An interesting point from the article is the question of what it is you aren’t seeing in the Twitter and Instagram pictures. It’s only the glamorous work that gets glorified, so what does an average work day look like at a particular company? What is it they aren’t showing, and what is it that makes the company’s employees come to work each day?
I do want to find work that I love each day, but that doesn’t mean I’ll actually love what I’m doing. If I did what I loved, I’d be sipping spiked-lemonade on the beach or travelling around Europe. Work is called work for a reason, but we don’t have to hate clocking in each morning. Most job postings list ideal traits as “open-minded,” “curious,” or as the article points out, “passionate.” How do these translate into personalities conveyed in interviews, though? How can I prove I’m “open-minded” or “passionate?”
One reason for this requirement, the writer points to, is because employees don’t want employees to complain. Another chimed in saying we are greedy, always demanding happiness, and not accepting someone having a bad day.
I feel like this whole culture of feeling good too is just really kind of hedonistic. And I also feel like it’s a little bit dark. There’s almost something in it to me that speaks of like addiction or something. We can never be at just baseline contentment. We always have to be relentlessly seeking these “good feelings.”
I don’t believe in the notion of “doing what you love.” Soon enough, the pursuit and need to work will overshadow the passion you feel toward the hobby or activity, and you are left with one less thing you enjoy.
Instead, I want to find work that makes me grow as a person. I want a job that challenges me, teaches me new things, and forces me to struggle at times. I’m not going to love all those moments, but I’m going to appreciate them; I’m going to feel a sense of accomplishment from my work.
Why do you think people need an excuse to work? Why can’t we just go to work to make money?
I have wondered that. And one of the things I want to do is celebrate the job that just pays the rent. I feel like that is so maligned in our present culture.
I think work is where we spend a lot of our lives. And we wed our identities so tightly to our job titles in the U.S. You don’t want your identity to be someone who just puts in eight hours and checks out.