A young friend of mine just contacted me to let me know that he received two jobs offers before he has even graduated from college — and he picked the one that is what he really wants to do for work instead of the one that everyone thinks he’d be great at.
I am so, so happy for him for working as hard as he has to get to this point – and for going with his heart in making the decision. And I also want to warn him – there is a downside to doing what you love for work.
I have always been that person who wondered why anyone would ever do anything that they didn’t love to do. I figured out as the editor-in-chief of my high school yearbook that I loved putting words and pictures together on a page, so I was one of the lucky ones who knew what they wanted to major in (advertising and communications) before they even got to college.
The hardest decision was whether to focus more on the writing side of things or graphic design. But that was only because of the pressure I got from my graphic design professors. Words have always been my first love, so it was a decision that was already made in my heart.
After a year in an advertising agency in Boston, I realized that it wasn’t at all the glamorous profession it seemed to be – and I didn’t love writing copy for financial institutions. BOR-ING. So I bought a one-way ticket to Colorado and decided to write the Great American Novel. Halfway through writing the book, I met a boy and got a job at a dude ranch. So long, Great American Novel.
I fell back into marketing when I left the dude ranch, and spent many years writing and managing in-house campaigns for international standards, dental products, and health information software before I realized that I was right back where I started. Bored.
A successful career transition into human resources kept me happy for a few years, as I helped employees manage work-life balance, find flexible jobs — and I became a career coach on the side. I had seen so many employees waiting for HR to create their career path for them, when they weren’t even happy doing what they were doing, and it drove me crazy, trying to understand it. But seeing the underbelly of corporate America – as you unfortunately get to see in HR — did nothing to help me feel like I fit in the corporate world.
So again, I came back to my first love of words.
But here’s the thing. The downside of having spent the past few years getting to write and edit articles for a living is that I can no longer pretend anything else will do.
I can no longer settle for anything less.
I absolutely love having the privilege of editing other people’s precious words. Every day, when I open the articles, it’s like Christmas. I get so excited about what’s going to be inside the little presents I receive as submissions.
It’s not perfect. Some days, it’s like unwrapping a present and finding socks. I recently had a day when I had a few submissions that were from writers whose first language is something other than English, and I spent a lot more time editing than I normally do. Sometimes, I feel victorious at the end, like I’ve helped massage the words just enough to let their message shine through without losing their voice.
Other times, one whole paragraph makes perfect sense, but the next one is like reading Shel Silverstein’s book, “Jabberwocky”. A struggle from beginning to end, with a whole lot of nothing making sense in the middle.
But most times, it truly is a gift. I will open up a mindful article full of beautiful language and heartfelt thoughts – and it seems like the exact message that I personally needed to hear that day. And I am filled with gratitude to get to love on these words and change them only when I have to in order to make the message as clear as possible for the reader.
There is so much variety in the articles I get to write and edit every day, and I’ve learned that variety is very important for me to have on a daily basis. But then there is a certain amount of routine, detail-oriented formatting that goes along with editing. Making sure I craft just the right title, pick the appropriate tags for the post, and then choose a photo to go with the article that will make people want to click on it even more. It’s a great balance of creativity and routine and I couldn’t ask for anything more.
The downside of knowing all this about myself is that now I know better.
I know what it’s like to do a job I love – and now I refuse to settle for anything less.
When I am looking for more gigs, and a dear friend suggests going back to work in corporate America, I can feel my skin crawl. Or someone else suggests editing technical documents and I can’t help but make a face. And I know they’re only trying to be helpful.
But now I know better.
I know what my soul wants to do for work. What it’s wanted to do all along. And now there’s no going back.
No matter how frustrated I am that I have yet to find that one more gig that will help me pay the bills. Because now it’s all about words, and until I can find that opportunity, I might entertain some other side hustle that has to do with words. A bookstore maybe…or the library. Two of my happy places.
Meanwhile, I will keep my young friend, Jackson, in mind — and the amazing example that he is setting for all of us in doing what he loves.