Jul 1, 2009

Working Girl Blues

So...in the ongoing saga of my working girl blues, in the past couple of weeks I've had some breakthroughs. The first involved some advice from my mother, some good news from my boyfriend, and finding this fantastic tidbit from Zen Habits:

So the question is: Do I care?

Sure, sometimes you may have to do things you don’t really care to do. You probably don’t care much for cleaning litter boxes and filing your taxes. That’s a given. But we’re talking about the big things here, like the work you devote your life to.

Do you care about it? Be honest with yourself. Do you really care?

If you don’t care, allow that to be okay. At least you’re acknowledging the fact that you don’t care. Now you know that it’s not a water-tight productivity system you need to get you motivated. What you need is work that you give a damn about.

Now let me be clear. There are things about my job that I do care about. I care about performing well enough that I maintain the respect of my coworkers. I certainly care about performing well enough to keep my job. I care about the fact that this is the entry level experience I need to progress in my field. Do I care about the work that I do? Um...

No. Not really. And I don't mean this to be callous or ungrateful at all. I just work for a mega-corporation that sells products I'm simply not interested in. The entire scene--the endless rows of cubicles, doing work that almost any grunt with a basic knowledge of html could do, the being part of a corporate machine I don't always respect or agree with--has never really been my thing. In fact, it was the very thing I spent my teens and early twenties stating (rather firmly) that I would never be a part of. So, no, I don't care about my work in that sense.

But I do care about some parts of my work. I love coding. But I want more. I want to do more design, be more involved in the creative process, have greater control over the product I turn out. And there are other things I'm interested in, too. I'm interested in marketing and branding and social media. I'm interested in making things, doing things that help people on a very personal level, that helps to build community (local, global, whatever), that does something to add meaning or value to someone's life. My job doesn't and will never provide that, and that's not to say there's something wrong with my job, but rather, that because my job doesn't really do what I'm interested in, it's probably not the best fit for me.

Knowing this, I think it's okay for me to stop beating myself up over the fact that I'm not feeling fulfilled by my job or satisfied by the kind of work I'm doing. It's okay not to care. That doesn't mean I get a license to blow off my work or be a slacker. What it does mean is that I can stop investing so much in my work emotionally, that I can stop being upset because I'm not a "perfect" employee. I'm not meant to be perfect in this position. It's not what I'm cut out to do, and I can't make myself better suited for the work any more than I can make my job what I want it to be.

The best comparison I have is my ex-boyfriends. While most of my exes were nice guys and, yeah, for the most part we all got along and had some things in common (some more than others), there was always something that didn't click, something that didn't quite fit. And I couldn't be mad at myself for not being a better girlfriend to them, when I just wasn't the right person for them, or them for not being a better boyfriend to me, when they weren't cut out for me either. Neither of us was going to change, and neither of us should have to. We should be allowed to like what we like, be what we are, and walk away from the things in our lives that aren't compatible.

The thing is when the right guy came along, I knew, and I have to believe I'll know when I've found the right job for me in much the same way. And lord knows if I can find someone to spend the rest of my life with, I will be able to find a career I love, too.

So. The good news is that Kellen is going to be able to graduate early, and in six months, he will be getting a job. Whether that means we will be moving or not, it will definitely mean that I will have an opportunity to look for other work, including work that doesn't pay as well as my current position. I have no intention to quit anytime soon, and, who knows? Something brilliant may open up at my company and I may get shifted into something I love. But. I'm not counting on miracles. So my focus for now is on figuring out what it is I want to do, and how I want to get there. I've already got some ideas about where I want to go in my future, and the things I need to do to prepare.

Of course, that's a second breakthrough that maybe I'll talk about next time. For now, I'll leave you with a pretty fantastic quote from Po Bronson's book, What Should I Do with My Life?

Some people are born into their passions. Some never get them and don't care. But I think if you're really struggling to find it...it's almost certainly for a reason. I think the depth of your struggling is the sign there's something there. Something in you that's trying to get out. People who don't have passions don't struggle.


  1. This entire post = exactly what's been on my mind lately!

  2. Interesting post that touches on the central issue of our blog, which is about the effect of choice overload on today's women. I linked to it here:

  3. i feel exactly how you feel!!! thanks for putting it into words cos i confused myself out of it :(
    i think it's rare that you enjoy coding and i hope you eventually will use your talent and interest in something you care about. Sounds to me you deserve a much better job with a much better pay :)