Wednesday, August 21, 2013
The Ideal Job
"Tell me about your perfect job. Tell where you want to be in five years."
I've been asked this a lot. On interviews, by friends, by bosses. It seems to be the default question everyone wants to know. And the answers - at least for me - are always about the same.
"I want to do something that matches my capabilities. I want to enjoy my work. I want to wake up feeling motivated by work. I want to find satisfaction and fulfillment in my work. I want to be challenged. I want the opportunity for growth. I want to be creative. I want to be recognized for my accomplishments. I want to make a difference."
And then there's all the unsaid things I don't have to say. Because everyone already knows them. Everyone wants them. Everyone.
I want a good salary. I want good health benefits. I want plenty of time-off. I want good retirement options. I want job security. I want to enjoy my job so much I won't even realize I'm working.
I've been searching for this exotic cocktail of career bliss my whole life. Rewind three months, and I was still searching. No matter how well suited my skills might be, no matter how nice my coworkers, no matter how challenging the work, it's still work. And work - well, work is always work. And there's always something I'd rather be doing other than work.
Rewind three months, and work is a necessary evil to fund all the other parts of life. I work for time off. I work so I can pay for movie tickets, cable TV and internet access. I work so I can eventually not have to work. So I can retire and travel and do all the things I put off during my working years.
Rewind three months, and I have trouble dragging myself out of bed to face the day. I rush through the day's tasks and complete them as efficiently as possible - so I can get to the good part of the day. The part where I have time to kick back and relax. I work so I can get past all the nitty-gritty daily stuff - and get to the pet projects I've been longing after all day.
Rewind three months, and I tackle chores with grim determination. Those painful, boring necessary evils - carpets to be vacuumed, dishes to be washed, toilets to be cleaned, floors to be scrubbed. And by the end of the day, there's nothing to look forward to but another day of more work, more chores, more necessary evils. I just need a vacation from it all.
When I say, "Thank you for my job" I really mean, "Thank you for providing a source of income." Because I am very much aware of the need to hold down a job, to earn money, to fund a retirement (I don't want to be a burden on anyone else). But secretly, I want out. I want to be free from work. Because work is chewing up my whole life, year after year. And I don't want to wait until I'm 70 - I want to live now!
Because no matter how much I love my job - even a job as fun as food blogging - it's still work. No matter how much satisfaction I get from my work, it's still a never-ending series of daily tasks stretching out to the horizon, chewing up every spare moment. Work is in the way - between me and my down time, between me and my sleep, between me and my vacations. Work is in the way of life.
If none of this sounds familiar, good. If you love your job, I'm happy for you. If you love household chores and all the daily responsibilities on your plate - then you already know the secret. And I'm glad it took you less time to find the secret than it has taken me. So get back to enjoying your work!
But if my rewound life from three months ago sounds even a tiny bit familiar and you find yourself grimly slogging through your day's work, I've got something to share. I'm not going to suggest finding a new job or to taking up yoga or listening to soothing music. I'm not going to advocate chasing a dream or figuring out your strengths. I'm not even going to tell you to "do what you love". Three months ago, that's the stuff I was doing! (Except for the yoga.) I was doing what I loved. I was chasing my dream, I was matched to my strengths, I was listening to soothing music. And I still wasn't happy!
I have nothing against doing what you love - in fact, I'm so grateful I get to. I have nothing against chasing a dream - having the resources and capability to do so is a blessing. Yet as wonderful as these things are, they don't make me happy. Because my work is still missing that secret something.
It's missing love. Love that sets me free from obsessing over myself, from constantly thinking about myself. Love, that frees me to serve others. I don't deserve this freedom - I deserve just the opposite. Yet this gift of freedom has already been given to me. And it's because of that undeserved gift that I'm now filled with something entirely new.
I am thankful. And so now I'm filled with a desire to demonstrate that thanks. Not because I have to - I WANT to! I am desperate to show my thanks. I am desperate to use this gift of freedom to serve others. I don't care how boring the work or how tedious the task - just let me do it!
And that's the gift of work. From the moment the alarm goes off in the morning until my head hits the pillow at night - I've been given an entire day filled with opportunities to love. To give the very best of myself out of thankfulness for the love I've been given.
Work - that endless drudgery - is now an endless red carpet of opportunities for love. And all that work is now mine to complete. Not because I have to (although I do). Not because it's the right thing to do (although it is). And not because because I am responsible (although I should be). Instead, for the first time in my life, I work because I WANT to work. I want to say "thank you" for freedom. To say "thank you" for all I have been given - far more than I need. To say "thank you" for the opportunity to serve with the very best of my ability. To finally - FINALLY - be able to show love.
Are there never-ending household tasks? Bring them on! Is there mind-numbing data-entry? Give me more! Do I have a grumpy colleague? An opportunity to love! Ever-persistent weed infestation? A time for patience! Writer's block? A chance to persevere! A schedule so busy there's no time for TV? Thank you!
And when the day is over and I set the alarm for the next morning, I have only one request. It's not for more sleep, it's not for a break, it's not for a vacation. It's not for an easier life or a better career. It's very simple: "Please give me more work."