This blog post first appeared over at www.allisonvesterfelt.com - you can read more about Allison there!
I know. You hate your job. You try to pretend like you don’t but you do. You get in the car every morning, with your coffee in hand, and take a deep breath. Right there, in the quiet of your front seat, you have the same conversation with yourself day after day. It goes like this:
“You can do this. Just one day. You can make it through.”
photo: Creative Commons, woodleywonderworks
Of course, you know that. You know you can make it through the day. You’ve been “making it” through days for months now, even years, by repeating this very same routine, this coffee and breathing and driving and numbing and “you can make it” routine.
Does everyone feel this way?
Chances are, you’ve worked a handful of jobs and most of them have felt this way. In the beginning you think, “great opportunity,” or “exactly what I need for now” or even, optimistically, “this one is going to be different.” There’s always such a freshness and excitement and urgency and enthusiasm when you begin something new.
But then, after a few weeks, or maybe months if you can hold out, this old familiar feeling starts to sink in: Exhaustion, depression, loss of motivation, the fear that you’re just pushing papers or sitting in a cubicle or barking at a room full of students to calm down. The feeling you have to drag yourself out of bed in the morning.
What about the thing you want to be doing? The thing that gets you out of bed in the morning and keeps you up at night? Why can’t you get paid to do that?
Never mind, you resolve. Nobody really loves their job. Do they?
It must be an attitude problem, or a gratitude problem, or maybe you were just born lazy or entitled. Maybe it’s because you live in a rich country, or because you grew up in a rich family, or because you grew up in a poor family and you always wished things could be different. Maybe this is a “first world problem”.
At least you have a job, you tell yourself. Some people don’t even have that.
It’s okay to hate your job, and it’s okay to want a new one. It’s normal. You’re normal. You don’t have to hide it or feel guilty anymore and you don’t have to talk yourself out of it. What you want is saying something. It’s trying to tell you something. It’s a special message for you from deep inside your gut.
When you’re hungry, your body tells you by sending signals to your brain. Your stomach growls. You crave something. Your mouth waters. You respond by giving it food.
What your body craves isn’t always best for you. Anyone who has dieted knows this. Sometimes our bodies are addicted to sugar, or to fat, or to salt, or even to chemicals, and we have to recognize and intervene and feed it something different than what it craves. But we don’t do this because hunger is bad. We do this because we know what’s best for our body.
Because what we really want is to be healthy, to have more energy, to live longer, to lose weight.
The worst thing you could do, when your stomach growls, is give it no food at all.
Instead, ask yourself what you really want.
What do you really want out of life? What is the most important? You can’t have it all, so you have to prioritize, but it’s okay to want stuff. It’s okay to want a different job, a different city, a different vocation, a different way of life. Different wants crop up in different seasons (career, family, marriage, friendship, healing, etc) but wants always help us to zoom in and focus and feel thankful and see progress and find meaning in our life.
So, what do you want right now? What matters most?
If you woke up this morning and are dreading your job, take heart. You’re normal. This is normal. It can be hard to find meaning in what you do, no matter your job title. But it is possible. Everyone doesn’t hate their job. And it’s not irresponsible for you to ask yourself the questions you need to ask to find work you love. (Like, what do you want?) You may discover you need a new job. You may find you simply need a change of perspective.
Either way, what your feeling is not bad or wrong. In fact, it might be trying to tell you something important.
Don’t ignore it.