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Monday, September 3, 2012

Do what you love

In honor of Labor Day, I could have taken the day off from the blog. Instead, here I am still working, writing about work. Fitting, I suppose, since that’s what we celebrate on the first Monday in September.

Besides celebrating the "economic and social contributions of workers", Labor Day is the retailers’ second best sale day after “Black Friday” and it signals the end of summer. Never mind we’ll have more hot summer days ahead. 

For kids in Michigan, Labor Day means back to school. This year, it means first day of kindergarten for my granddaughter. What excitement, and fear, she and her new classmates must be feeling. Trepidation at a new setting, new teacher, new kids. Excitement at a big step on a journey of enlightenment begun in pre-school. How marvelous for teachers to see such eagerness and wonder. Wouldn’t it be great if that eagerness to learn continued throughout a child’s life?

Somehow, we’ve come to believe that work is bad. It’s something we must do. That if it were pleasurable it wouldn’t be work. Maybe it’s that old Puritan spirit America was founded on that still permeates our society. As if it’s wrong to like your job. Of course, there is the extreme “be happy in your work” as the commander in The Bridge on the River Kwai admonished the prisoners.

Work can be what we do to earn enough to enjoy life. For many, including all the restaurant and retail employees who have to work today, work can be drudgery. Wouldn’t it be great if you could enjoy your work? I’m sure you’ve heard the expression “do what you loved and the money will come.” Believing passionately about something and doing it makes the job seem more like fun instead of work. We all know, or have heard of, people who live for their work. Workaholics, we call them. What motivates them? A quest for more money or a passion for what they do?

Our work give us fulfillment, a sense of purpose. For many, it defines who we are. We make cars, design buildings, feed the nation, heal people, raise children. Not surprising, then, the emptiness many feel when their job ends. Job loss whether voluntary or involuntary means the end of purpose. Downsizing, retiring or children leaving the nest leaves us adrift. Until we find a new direction.

Like many of you, I’ve had jobs where I hated to go into work and those that were pleasant or fulfilling enough. I never had one that fired me up and made me leap out of bed ready to get to work—until I started writing. Now, I’m not saying writing is fun all the time. There are good days when the words flow and there are bad days where the cursor blinks on the screen waiting and the words don’t come. Creativity can be elusive. Research can be tedious, as is proofing. How many times can you read past a typo and still miss it? I am so fortunate that I can do what I love. I’m still waiting for the money to follow. :)

In America, we are all fortunate that we can pursue our dreams. We can choose our work. We don’t have a government that decides what we’re good at and forces us into that occupation. In my book, Switched, that is the situation for the hero. Because of his aptitude, he must be a starship commander instead of a farmer where his passion lies. In contrast, the heroine has defied her academic parents and opened a small repair business. Upon learning of the commander’s conflict, she admonishes him to do what he loves.

In these economic times, it’s difficult to even consider pursuing one’s passion when the proverbial wolf is at the door. We often take jobs we don’t like, are overqualified for, just to make ends meet. We do what we must. In the meantime, we keep that passion alive for what we really want to do. We work toward it in our “spare” time until it becomes that full-time job we choose to do.

Happy Labor Day, everyone!

On Thursday, come on back and meet California author Jannine Gallant.

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