The lesson I have to keep learning and relearning is that I don’t always have to do something about it when I’m unhappy with a situation.
Take jobs, for example. Before you start and in the first week or two, it’s like I’m seeing the job through rose-colored glasses. And that’s not just a one-sided misperception; it’s one that I think employers actively promote. Especially around here, there are so many places looking for workers that they try to sell you in the beginning on why they’re so much better than other companies and on all the perks they offer.
But the reality is that jobs are jobs and if they didn’t pay you to be there, few people would show up. They’re not supposed to be fun; that’s why they call it work.
Yet I also think there’s this myth in our culture that the ideal exists and we can find it if we look hard enough. Whether it’s a job or a partner, we’re sold this idea that we can find the perfect one. The “dream job” is out there and so is the dream partner. I fell into this trap for a long time regarding jobs and I thought that if I just found a full-time writing job, that would be my “dream job.”
The truth is that now that I found a full-time writing job, one that combines many of my biggest interests (medical research in particular), it still falls short of being my dream job in many ways. Now that the shiny luster of the new company and new working relationships have worn off, things look a little different. In some ways, they look a lot different.
There’s bureaucracy and incompetence and people with less than a tenth of my writing experience telling me outright that they know more than I do. There are some mean personalities and people on the team I like more than others. Particularly with my health being what it is, there are a lot of days when I just don’t feel like I can go in but I have to anyway.
And from the other side, I’m sure they’re disappointed that I’m quieter and more introverted in reality than I seemed during the interview process. I’m sometimes impatient and I don’t like being held back from doing work that I’m certain I’m perfectly capable of doing, just because I haven’t had time to prove myself yet.
On some level, I thought that because I liked the general work I’d have to do (which I do) and I wanted to work outside the home that it meant I wouldn’t have these other frustrations to deal with, too. But unfortunately that isn’t the case.
I thought I found my “dream job,” but I’m learning that there is no such thing. People who feel that their job is a ‘dream job’ which doesn’t feel like work are a statistically tiny minority. That’s why marketers like Ramit Sethi and the multi-level marketing companies from Beachbody to Plexus to Lularoe (which I think is now defunct) are able to succeed. Everybody wants to be rich and to not have to deal with ineffective bosses and obnoxious coworkers.
Everybody wants to wake up every day feeling excited to go into work. The best of those marketers try to convince us that finding a truly fulfilling job is not only possible, it’s our birthright. But if we all operated on that principle, who would do the work that our society truly needs?
I’m lucky in that I finally got really close in the ballpark of what I wanted; many people never do. Writing full time about healthcare topics is still way more interesting and better suited to my particular skill set than working in collections would be, for example.
Just like you can find someone really attractive and not have to act on it, you can be frustrated with aspects of your job and not have to quit. I know that’s probably pathetic in its obviousness and likely speaks to some immaturity on my part as well.
I’m just realizing that looking for that one thing, whether it’s a job or a partner, that makes you 100 percent happy 100 percent of the time isn’t realistic. Note that that’s not saying you should settle for something that’s not what you want at all or that even has more bad than good. But chasing perfection can be pretty empty and it just leaves you alone and continually starting over from ground zero.
Sooner or later, you have to stop burning everything to the ground because you’re never going to be able to build something that meets all your criteria. Sometimes it just takes looking around with your eyes open and realizing that what you have is pretty close. Good enough. That the ideal dream job isn’t going to be out there.
It’s up to me how much I want to suffer as a result of the things I don’t like. But it just seems like it’s smarter not to take on problems I don’t need.