Recently, I read a post over at Brazen Careerist in which she says that the worst career advice she's ever heard was "do what you love."*
Yeah, I totally agree. Once upon a time, a long long time ago, in a land far far away, I was going to be an English professor. I loved teaching.** I spent hours and hours preparing lessons plans and assignments. And hours and hours grading papers. And I loved every second in front of my classes*** and working with my students. And I was good at it.****
But the thing about doing what you love is that, when you love something, everything matters. Every mistake, every minute, every mile. I would dissect my lessons and try to perfect them (which any teacher will tell you is impossible. Teaching requires students, and the students are different each time, so a lesson that worked perfectly in one class will bomb in another. In teaching, there is no perfect. There is only good.). I poured my heart into it, for years.
And then I quit.
I had to. It was killing me. It took all my time and all my energy and all my love and ultimately, I couldn't do it anymore. And Penelope Trunk is right -- a job can't make your life complete. And what I learned is that a job can't be your complete life. Nothing can.
And sometimes doing what you love can break your heart.
Now, I teach for fun, and I love it just as much as I always did. Maybe more, because it's not my whole life. I can step away from it when I need to. I can turn to my actual job, or to writing, or to my friends and family. I can love it and let it go at the same time.
Don't get me wrong, I love my job now. It has it's moments, for sure, but I like the people and the work is interesting and the money is good. There's not much more you can ask for, really, in a job. And the best part is that I can leave my work at work. I can go home and not spend every waking moment obsessing about it.*****
In other words, I love my job, but I'm not in love with it. That's better for everyone involved, I think.
* It's not a recent post--it's from 2007--but I just read it recently.
** I still do.
*** Including the time my slip fell down in front of the whole class.
**** I still am.
***** If you work with me, I totally spend every waking moment thinking about my job. Really. I only speak the truth in the footnotes.