Wondering Why We Work at Jobs We Hate

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Recently a friend of mine got in touch with me, and had just discovered that hubby and I walked away from the conventional life. Several years ago, she was actually one of the people who inspired us to change our life, when she sold her house and traveled overseas to India on a sabbatical. She has since moved back to the states and joined the working world again, but is having some dilemmas with the career thing. She asked me in an email:

“Do you think you would or even can ever go back to the “professional” career? I feel so ready to make the leap to a low-pressure, non-leadership, more concrete type job. And then to just enjoy life.”

I always feel like a fish out of water in professional settings, but keep landing management and leading roles. It doesn’t feel authentic. Is it a skill to learn, or a message that I’m on the wrong path?

. . . I don’t have romantic notions like I did in my 20’s, like working in a cafe. I know I need more variety of intellectual engagement than that, and I want to earn a decent living. Yet, doing something more tangible and concrete, and being satisfied as a team member and not a leader, is the draw.”

Could I ever go back to a professional carer? Without hesitation, I say: Never!

Hoeks Death Metal Pizza Sixth Street Austin TexasWhen I finished college, I swore I would never work in a traditional office setting. Sitting at a desk and answering to suits was my worst nightmare. I slung coffee. I interned as a print journalist. I cocktail waitressed. And I even volunteered at NPR to try to land a radio gig. I did everything I could to avoid a traditional office job.

The jobs made me happy, but they weren’t paying my outrageous college loan bills or credit cards. I surrendered, and joined corporate America to pay off my debt.

I felt such like a sellout. Wearing the outfit, putting up with the politics, and taking orders from higher-ups killed my spirit. I yearned for the days I had fewer responsibilities, but I fell into the trap of thinking that this was as good as work life got. Later, when we started our business, I found my true happiness as a free agent.

accumulation of stuff when living in a in stick houseUnfortunately, to make our business thrive, we needed to borrow money. So back into debt we went. We bought a building and equipment, then worked our butts off to grow it. Along the way, we accumulated too much stuff. When we finally got out of debt and sold everything, I sure slept better at night. The debt free lifestyle gives me the ability to explore the kinds of work that make me happy. As long as I stay out of debt, I’ll do what I love, and I know the money will follow. With my writing and our websites, we are making it happen.

And while having money and a real income can be nice, I finally accept that all the money in the world isn’t going to make me happy as all of the experiences, good and bad, that we encounter on a daily basis as a fulltime traveler. It might make some of you happy, but it’s not for me.

Many people who aren’t passionate about their work just trudge along, trying to fill that void by acquiring stuff, digging themselves deeper into that consumer debt hole, and blindly focusing on that “someday” when they can retire. But I ask; what’s the point? Traditional full retirement is going to be pretty unrealistic for many of us, so why are so many of us working ourselves to death during the prime of our lives?

cranes in flight over Arizona ranch sunriseI think my friend can figure things out by asking herself: why do I “keep falling into management roles?

Are you drawn to them because you: want the challenge? The money? The self-esteem from being a leader? To pay off debt? Because you’re afraid to try something new?

I think that if you are unhappy with your chosen career, before you try to answer “what should I do with my life?” maybe it’s best to step back and ask yourself: what’s keeping me from doing what I love?

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