Friday, May 4, 2018

Doing More Of What I Love

Lately it's begun to dawn on me that I've spent most of my life believing in an employment fairy tale: that for each one of us, there's a job so well-aligned with our interests, knowledge, and experience that it feels more like a passion project than work.

My new job is miles - miiiiiiiles - better than my previous gig. There are many things I appreciate about it, perhaps the most important one being that it doesn't leave me crying in the bathroom during my lunch hour. Then there's the decent pay, the flexibility, not having to deal with back-to-back face-to-face meetings, the lack of commute, my hilarious boss, and the fact that I can take conference calls while cozied up in my favorite (but highly unprofessional) craft beer hoodie. Indeed, there's a lot to like about it.

But I've discovered that this job, like pretty much every other gig I've worked over the past 10 years, is... just a job.  It utilizes my experience and covers the rent, and every now and then I'll receive an email or phone call that inches what I do into the realm of rewarding. But it's not a calling. I know most employers want their employees to be personally invested in the organization, consumed by the mission. I want that, too, because again, I've bought into the employment fairy tale - but the truth is, I've never felt that way about any job where I'm working for someone else.

So lately I've been thinking that I need to spend less time worrying about finding passion in my work and more time doing the things I love outside of work - cultivating those interests, investing in them, enjoying them. Taking some of the brain space currently occupied by work and giving it to my hobbies. Making those interests more significant in my life than my job. Seeing where they take me.

There are two main areas where I want to invest more of my time and passion:

(1) Running: Anyone who's been following for a while knows I am an ardent runner. Fast? No, but damn, do I have heart! I'm particularly interested in ultra running: running distances greater than that of a marathon (26.2 miles). After a year of IT band issues, I'm finally back on the trails and have started to build up my running base. My hope is to run a 50K this year, and I'm in the process of looking for one that is affordable and not too far away.

But besides running for myself, I also want to share it with others. I've been a runner for 20 years, and what the sport has given to me in that time is manifold: it keeps me healthy, allows me to explore the outdoors, and bolsters my confidence. It's also a crucial fixed point for me because I have a mental health condition that sometimes blurs the lines of my self-identity. On days when I don't know exactly who I am because my brain has muddied the waters, I always have an anchor: I am a runner.

Not everyone wants to run or benefits from running, but it can be a life-changer for some people, and so I want to help share it. To that end, I've signed up as a volunteer for a Couch-to-5K program that my running club puts on during early summer for folks who are new to the sport. Every Thursday evening, I'll buddy up with a few of the participants, walk/run beside them, and basically let them know how amazing they are for being out there.

Volunteering with this group is a first step. After that, I'd like to help out with races organized by my running club and get involved with Girls on the Run. In short, I don't just want to be a person who runs in my community. Rather, I want to play a role in supporting and strengthening the local running community.

*Side note, just to illustrate how much I love running:

This is me under normal circumstances:


via GIPHY

Like, were it not for the poodle, I could be convinced that that's me as a child.

This is me when I'm running:


via GIPHY

2) Etsy-ing: My ultimate pie-in-the-sky career goal is to be gainfully self-employed. It's something I've been pondering for the last three years. The possibility of it excites and energizes me. Although I do have a Big Idea in mind (opening a "base camp" to host runners, hikers, and scientists who visit our area), I don't know how or when that would pan out. I figure now is a good time to assess my interests, build upon my strengths, and curate a toolkit of skills and resources that I can use later on if I manage to transform this nebulous dream into a solid reality.

As a (very) small stepping stone, last week I started an Etsy store to sell plastic-alternative cloth beeswax wraps. Just getting to the point of signing up for an account took months of deliberation. First of all, between work, parenting, running, and blogging, I don't have a ton of extra time. And second, as you can tell from the decidedly un-snazzy nature of this blog, I'm not really into building websites or taking Instagram-worthy photographs. That sort of thing stresses me out, which is why I hemmed and hawed for months about what it would take to build a space on Etsy. Finally I decided to just go for it, even if it looks clunky and even if my product pictures are a little poorly lit. I figure I'll improve it as I go along.

The store's been open a week. Much to my surprise, I've made four sales to the tune of $72. I've spent several gloriously meditative hours scouring the fabric store for remnants, cutting out the fabric pieces, ironing in the wax, and thinking about how much I appreciate each person who placed an order and how cool it is that they're going to use less plastic because of a thing I made. Woot! Worth it? So far, yes.

Don't get me wrong - I don't think my Etsy store is going to pay the rent anytime soon! But it's a good playground for me to explore entrepreneurship at a small scale. Plus, it's one business I can actually afford to take on right now. And it's fun.

What I hope to achieve by doing more of what I love is to stop treating work as the centerpiece of my daily life. If I can re-allocate some of the massive amounts of mental space that I currently devote to my job to the things I love, I think I'll feel more rooted in my own life, and less frustrated by the sense that work is stealing my time.

Disease Called Debt

19 comments:

  1. There are some people for whom the stars align who can make a good living doing something they love. As far as the rest of us--welll, hopefully we can say good things about our jobs. Mine, when it is good, is interesting, challanging, and involves helping people in a way that changes their lives. At its worst I spend days pushing paper for ungrateful clients whose favorte price to pay is "less than charged". YOu are absolutely right about finding meaning and purpose to life OUTSIDE of work.

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    1. Thank you so much, RAnn! It sounds like we have similar experiences at work :-) - the good and the not-so-good. Mostly my job is good, and I need to keep reminding myself of the MANY positives. Is it my dream job? No, but in many ways it is what I need right now.

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  2. Have you read the Frugalwoods book? This sounds like exactly what she realized a few years into her career.

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    1. Not yet but I really want to! I need to sign up for a free Audible trial and listen to it.

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  3. Where is this Etsy store????

    And I hear you. I'm trying to do the same this year--put more of my heart into things my heart actually loves. And it makes a difference for sure. So glad you're doing the mentoring thing!!!

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  4. Where is this Etsy store???

    And I'm with you on this. I've been trying to put my heart into more things my heart actually loves this year, and it's paying dividends. Not literally, but I'm happier at least. So glad you're doing the mentoring thing!

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    1. I am soooooo glad to hear it! I'm guessing your blog is one of those things? It's fantastic.

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  5. I had decades of jobs that were just jobs. While I'm sure there are people who find their calling, there are lots more of us just trying to earn a living. So we need to find our passion somewhere, and I'm glad you're finding yours. Even better, your passion for running is helping others find their passion for running. And congrats on the Etsy sales...it's a start!

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    1. Thank you, Gary! I really appreciate that perspective. I am definitely in just-trying-to-earn-a-living mode right now with work. :-) Not that I'm complaining - it is a good job. But I haven't been very good about allowing myself to grow outside of my employment. Glad I am giving myself permission to do so now.

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  6. A job is not a passion. Passions you engage in for free! A job is a transaction in which you sell your time for money so you can afford to live. If you're lucky, there are fun bits. If you're not lucky, it sucks hard. Either way, you get money. And you get to decide if it's worth that money. Luckily, there are other ways of making money, and other ways of indulging you passion. I want to see this Etsy shop also!

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    1. Thanks, Beth! My last job sucked SOOOOO hard. At least with this one there are fun bits, and I don't feel like I'm suffocating every day.

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  7. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, all of this.

    I am one of the few people who didn't go to grad school thinking that college teaching was my perfect career, because I'd already been through 2.5 careers and understood that there was no such thing as the perfect job. All jobs are jobs. At the same time, you can have jobs that are better aligned with your interests than others, and academia's been that for me. But it got to the point where it was really interfering with my ability to have a life (because of having to move so often) and so.... Ultimately, you have to be a person first. That person needs to have a job, because, money, but it's more important to be a person.

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    1. I know I keep saying it, but I'm so excited to follow your journey over the next few months!

      My problem is that I haven't been able to find a job since graduating that really aligns well with my strengths, personality (major league introvert), and interests. I didn't spend enough time in grad school really noticing what I enjoyed. I just followed the path I was supposed to take (PhD --> tenure track job). In retrospect, I should have set myself up differently. But se la vie.

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  8. How did you not link to your Etsy store? I'd love to check it out.

    I've been turning thoughts like this over and over in my head for years. I'm lucky I do get to work one of those passion jobs, but it freaks me out that it pretty much eats my life. I don't really get to do much other than it, since I'm on the road so much of the time. There are times I'd kill to be able to join a club or take up a hobby that's not solitary - I've wanted to try out for a roller derby team for like four years.

    But when I think of what else I'd want to do, the notion of having to go to an office and spend 8 hours a day, 5 days a week... I literally just can't. I've recently been thinking over the things I might want to do when I move on from this career path and I'm really just not sure.

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    1. That is a dilemma! It sounds like your job is amazing... but also exhausting. Do you get a few weeks off so that you can recharge?

      I definitely struggle with working a traditional job. I love having freedom and independence, so it's hard for me to get with the program sometimes.

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  9. Whoa, Nelly, does this post resonate for me.

    I have toiled at a lucrative, not stressful, but extremely unsatisfying job for more years than I care to count. Until recently, I was so busy with the work of raising young kids to give much thought to how I feel about my (paid) job, but recently, I've had an awakening. I am not ready to leave this job--there are too many reasons to stay that have nothing to do with personal satisfaction. But, I have been making small changes in my life outside of it to do just as you are--doing more of what I love and not treating my career as the centerpiece of my life. I've been doing a bit of freelance writing because I enjoy writing, and taking a weekly improv class, because it was scary and challenging. Both of these things have helped my morale considerably.

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    1. EXACTLY! It sounds like we are in very similar places, work-wise. And how awesome that you are taking an improv class!

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  10. I also decided to branch out this year and explore other passions outside of work - and I'm feeling so much more fulfilled as a result. My work is my passion (social justice, human rights), but the actual day to day practice of going to an office and staring at reports and spreadsheets is certainly not. Well done on your first Etsy sales!

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  11. i officially love your writing style. true or not, your writing seems so effortless, even your post titles...they're so good... i find myself clicking everything because i want more!

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