Ever had a job you hated? Ever worked somewhere that went from awesome to crappy because something just changed? You’re not alone.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve had jobs that were ok, but not great. They paid well, but the work didn’t really use my skills. It didn’t challenge me all that much, though I learned a lot about patience and stress. In the past, I’ve had jobs that were great fun to begin with, then things changed, and they sucked.
Some people just knuckle down and put up with the changes, even though the job isn’t all that fun any more. Some people spend years working somewhere they loathe.
I am not one of those people.
I’ve never been able to stomach spending well over a third of my life, and over half of the time I’m awake, doing something I hate. I try to fix things, to make them better, so that the place doesn’t suck. Sometimes I succeed. Sometimes I fail. Maybe I’m just not skilled or talented enough to do whatever it was that need to be done to fix things. Sometimes, no matter what I try, things just don’t improve and I reach a point where I’ve had enough, and I leave.
I tried to change this attitude in the past couple of years. I thought I’d try to knuckle down and cope. I tried to compensate by finding things to do outside work. I did more photography, went on holidays, started learning to draw. I tried to create a real separation between work and home. Some people can forget all about work when they leave for the day, and never bring their work home with them.
I am not one of those people.
I think about work in the shower. I wonder about how to solve problems during my commute. I celebrate success at work with my family and friends. My work life and my home life are part of the same, continuous, whole. My work/life balance isn’t two carefully divided sections, it is a blend of both; one cup of work and one cup of home, mixed well.
I have tried to change, but I failed. I am just not suited to having a neat separation of work from everything else. I like to think this is what makes me good at what I do: I bring my passion for life to work with me, I bring my creativity and my desire to make the world a better place. I don’t check my brain at the door and spend the day mindlessly passing the time until I can go home.
This is great when you have a job you love, but it sucks when you have a job you hate. If you hate your job, and you’re like me, you bring the stress home. You don’t sleep well, you don’t eat well, you watch bad TV so you can switch off your brain and stop thinking about all the things you wish you could fix, but can’t. Worse, you start to become disinterested in the work that you used to enjoy. You’re not at your best, and your work suffers. Sure, your work might be ok, passable, average, but I’ve never wanted to be just average. I want to be awesome.
The past two years have taught me a lot about myself and how I need to approach work. I can’t have a job that sucks. It bleeds into the rest of my life and makes everything else suck too. I can’t shut it off, or keep it contained, because it finds a way to escape and puts a film of suckiness over all the things I normally find fun. I have to be doing something that gives me a buzz, something that I genuinely look forward to doing every day. I used to think this was the case; now I know. I know it in a way that only the mistake of trying to be something I’m not could teach me.
Happily, I now have a gig that I love.
I have had the good fortune to land a gig that is actually fun. It is the right blend of achievable and challenge that makes it interesting and fun. The past few weeks have been really busy as I settle in to the new place and modify my out-of-hours schedule to accommodate it. I’m doing a lot of new things, like managing people, that I’ve wanted to try for a while. The film of suckiness is well and truly gone.
You don’t have to spend each day at a job you hate. In fact, if you’re like me, the best thing you can do for yourself is to get out of there as fast as possible and find a job that you like, or better yet, love. It may take a while, but believe me, it’s worth it.