Sunday, April 16, 2006
"I work at [insert name of company here]," I said. "I manage part of the Web site."
"But I'm planning my escape."
She nodded politely. Conversation turned to astrological signs.
I haven't written much in this blog about my job, because I don't know how to write about it without being specific about where I work, and I don't want to get in trouble, like so many other bloggers. But if you haven't noticed, this blog has stagnated lately -- and it's because work is what's on my mind. "Work" in the fullest sense -- "work" as in "occupation," as in "my life's work," as in, "Where your talents and the needs of the world cross, there is your vocation" (Aristotle). Or, to quote the book I'm currently reading:
So I've decided to write about my efforts, past and present, to find work I love. I consider this a lifelong process -- just like a relationship with someone you care about, your relationship with work needs attention if it is to remain vital.
Many people I know -- good friends, casual acquaintances, 20-somethings, 40-somethings -- struggle to varying degrees with how much their work should be an expression of their identity: whether 9-5 should be dedicated to what they love, or just a way to support their life outside of work; whether it's realistic to expect fulfillment from work; whether it's possible to make a living doing work you love.
I don't profess to have answers, but maybe by sharing my story, I can help other people find their path.
First, a quick look at where I've been, so you know who you're dealing with:
- Flash back to college, when I was beset with angst about the challenge of living meaningfully. In retrospect, this existential struggle was probably made all the more desperate by my undiagnosed depression. At graduation, I beseeched my fellow students to recognize the responsibility that comes with a fancy Ivy League degree; I felt a great obligation to give something back, but I had no idea what that was. And it never occurred to me that I should enjoy myself.
- First job out of college: the first day on the job, I learn success is measured in productivity points. People say things like, "let's double-click on that idea." I write angry poetry in staff meetings. I quit after 9 months and take a few months to get my shit together. I decide I want a job that allows me to be creative, and to use my communication skills, while doing something socially responsible.
- Through Google, I find the resume of a local woman who seems interesting - she's worked at NPR, Discovery and the Washington Post. I email her and she writes back immediately, and invites me to meet her for coffee.
- We meet and she introduces me to her colleagues as a friend and content producer. Within a week I am working for a major Web site. Unfortunately, the partnership I'm hired to support never materializes, so I spend my days surfing the Web.
- Another company I'd interviewed with previously calls to see if I'm interested in a job that's opened up. I am. Six years later, I'm still there.
Amanda's library of books on finding meaningful work (listed in the order read):
Zen and the Art of Making a Living
The Artist's Way
The Artist's Way at Work (never finished)
What do You Want to Do With Your Life?
How to Find the Work You Love (reading now - about halfway through)
Also, this blog by Tranquil Space's Kimberly Wilson provides relevant inspiration (just tune out the stuff about being hip and fashionable - there's advice about living mindfully that relates to the search for meaningful work...):
Hip Tranquil Chick
Are there books or Web sites on this topic that you'd recommend? Let me know, and I'll add 'em to the list...