We’ve all heard it before, especially if you’re a Millennial. It’s something we’re told from the time we’re young. I think the first time I heard it, I was in elementary school. I was probably asked way too early what I wanted to be when I grew up. How do you answer that as an eight-year-old? You answer it without a care in the world. “A crossing guard!” “A trash man!” “I want to be a janitor!” All you knew was what you saw, and if sweeping floors or directing traffic looked like fun to you… well, in your mind, you had officially realized your destiny. Yet somewhere down the road, you would eventually learn that this dream career of yours probably wasn’t going to cut it. For example, you might hear… the pay is terrible… the benefits are non-existent… and only those people sweep floors. So we go from wanting to do what we love to wanting to do what makes the most logical sense. And then… someday… we cycle right back around after hearing the ultimate mantra of Millennial society:
“Do what you love and you won’t work a day in your life.”
Wow. What a shimmering beacon of hope, right? It was to me. I clung to this promise like it was all I had. If I just did what I loved… I would never have to work. Life would be beautiful. I would be happy. Nevermind the whole issue of actually finding what I loved. I just knew what everyone told me. If I just did that thing that I enjoyed, I wouldn’t be miserable going to work everyday. It wouldn’t even BE work! It would just be fun! And easy! And worry-free! Because I was doing what I loved, I would never work a single day… right?!
It would take me years to learn just how wrong that saying really is. Twenty one and a half years, to be exact. In fact, it was just a couple of weeks ago that somebody finally told me the truth: Work is work. You can absolutely LOVE teaching, being with kids, helping them grow, and being a mentor to them. But to tell someone that teaching will never feel like work? It would be a lie! I don’t know any teacher who hasn’t had bad days, been extremely exhausted, gotten impatient, or who hasn’t wanted to toss in the towel on their teaching career for at least a split second. It’s called life. It’s hard. It’s physically and emotionally challenging, no matter what you’re doing. That’s why people with billions of dollars still get sick, have psychological disorders, or are just simply depressed. There is so much joy to be found in knowing that as Christians we’re headed for somewhere so much better than here… but this life is, by nature, WORK. So when I was told for years that if I just did what I loved, I wouldn’t have to work a day in my life, and then I got to the point where I was indeed doing what I loved but it absolutely felt like work in every sense of the word… it felt like my world had been flipped upside-down. I felt depressed and lost. I wasn’t sure if I just hadn’t found what I loved yet or if I didn’t know what the truth was anymore. What could be trusted? Should I doubt my ability to find what I “love,” or should I question the accuracy of what everyone had always told me?
I think as humans we’re constantly chasing after a level of happiness that just doesn’t exist in this world. And it’s so relieving to realize and accept that. There is so much freedom to be found in knowing that I’m never going to be 100% happy. I can do what I love, but somedays (probably most days!), it’s going to feel like really, really hard work. It might actually be easier to do something you DON’T love because then you probably wouldn’t care as much when you make a mistake. When you do something you love, you commit a part of your heart and soul to your work that by nature makes it that much more challenging to do. When you make a mistake, it’s that much more disappointing because you really did try. When you aren’t “as good” or as experienced as someone else at doing what you love, you take that much more of a hit because it feels like your thing that you are supposed to be good at. It’s WORK to keep doing what you love when there might be an easier route that makes more logical, financial, or physical sense. It’s even more work to do what you love and make it a successful venture. I wish the teenage version of me had known that, because it might have changed how I looked at my future and what I chose to do with my time and my talents.
I wish I had known that I might indeed find fulfillment in what I do, but that I also might not… and that’s perfectly okay. I wish I had known that I didn’t need to stress over finding what I “love” out of fear of being unhappy. I wish I had known the cost of believing there’s only one path to living an enjoyable life. That finding what I love and doing it was the end to all of my struggles. Oh, how I idolized the glorified promises of entrepreneurship. I wish I could go back and tell myself that life is going to be hard by nature because we live in a world marred by sin. WORK is not a result of sin… because it existed before Adam and Eve disobeyed God and committed the first sin. ““Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to tend and keep it.” We are creatures made to serve and to work! So for me to believe all these years that I could escape the difficulties of work if I just did what I loved… well that’s just plain silly.
It is so freeing to accept that doing what I love is going to feel like work somedays. It’s such a relief to know that just because I get tired of being creative somedays doesn’t mean that I haven’t yet found what I love. I could go off on this journey to find happiness in the one perfect job that would allow me to “never work a day in my life” and guess what? That search would be never-ending. There might be some people in this world that truly never work a day in their lives, but I’ve definitely never met one. This lesson I’ve learned goes beyond just taking that “do what you love” saying too literally. It’s a false doctrine I believe we as Millennials are especially at risk of falling victim to. It is totally okay to have bad days. That have mornings you don’t want to get out of bed. That some nights you just want to quit. Because honestly, who doesn’t have those days?
So I’m going to continue moving forward in my work even though most of the time, it feels like work. Aren’t victories so much sweeter that way? Isn’t life so much more rewarding when your accomplishments are ones you’ve fought for, cried for, pushed for even when you weren’t sure it was worth it… and worked hard for? This life is always going to require you to work. It’s just a bonus when you’re able to do something you reap enjoyment from in the midst of that work. So if you’re where I was, having an existential crisis in your mind nearly every day because you’re all, “this can’t be right because it’s really hard and shouldn’t I wake up chipper every morning with a smile on my face excited to do the same thing I did yesterday?”
You’re not alone. It’s going to be okay. Work hard at whatever it is that the Lord has you doing. Enjoy the simple pleasures in life. Love your friends and family deeply and take the time to make them feel that love. Because no matter what job you hold, it likely isn’t a 24/7 deal. Be diligent in your work and passionate in how you spend your free time. We are beings of labor but also of love. If we just remember that, we’ll find the JOY we so desperately seek in the midst of the struggles of our daily lives. Because we know what we’re told:
“What do people really get for all their hard work? I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God.” Ecclesiastes 3:9-13