I was talking to Emily the other day, and she was saying how much she is enjoying her job lately – she works at a little art gallery in Capitola Village, right by the beach near our hometown. The funny thing is, it took her a while to fully embrace it.
She said when she first started there, she kept thinking, “This is only temporary, it’s just a little job while I figure out what my Grown Up Job will be, or what I want to do with my life.” Then, when anyone asked what she did, she would tell them through that lens – “It’s not a forever thing, I’m working there while I look into other career paths and figure out what I want to do.”
Then, one day, she’s working in the gallery, and she just has a moment of happiness and fulfillment. She loves it there. She loves her job. She loves being by the beach and close to her home. Then she thought: Why do I keep acting like this amazing job is only temporary? The more she thought about it, the more she realized how it was perfect for her – she has an art degree and an eye for design and new trends – she’s great at sales and has sales experience – she has a flexible schedule in a beautiful town where it can be hard to find a job… There is nothing wrong with this picture.
Even if she had another job that didn’t line up with her background the way this one does, the bottom line is – if it makes her happy, that’s all that matters. Period.
Now, since she had this shift in how she viewed it, when she tells people about her job they react totally differently.
“What do you do?’
“I work in an art gallery in Capitola Village – I get to use my art degree and see the most amazing local pieces, and it’s just down the road from my house and across the street from the beach – I love it.”
People are all of a sudden walking away thinking, wow Emily has such a cool life! Rather than, well, Emily is still in a transition period right now, I hope she finds what she wants to do. Not that it matters what people think, but it makes Emily feel better to not talk her situation down, and people have a real picture of what’s actually going on. She liked her job this whole time, but realized she had this weird perspective on it for some reason. Once she allowed herself to love it because she loves it, not because of what it might mean on paper or compared to some Pinterest article, everything changed. Why can’t this job be a forever thing? Why act like you haven’t “made it”, when in reality, you have?
I had the same experience. When I moved to Santa Barbara, I figured I would work as a receptionist in a dentist’s office or something – I just wanted to live here. I had no idea there was a tech community, or that I would ever enjoy working in that world. Now I’ve been working in the industry for about 3 years, and I really like my job. However, since I got a master’s in sociology, it feels like a failure somehow to be working outside of what I went to school for, especially since I’m passionate about that subject. But I’m also passionate about living in Santa Barbara and having my own apartment and visiting family and friends. That’s what my job allows me to do, while challenging me and showing me new skills I didn’t know I had.
It took a long time for me to allow myself to be happy where I am in my career. I still have moments where I think, what the hell am I doing here? But most of the time I feel really lucky and accomplished.
Talking to Emily was a great reminder – what we say about ourselves affects how we feel about ourselves – it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s important to focus on where we are now and if it is making us happy, and to not judge our life by some standard that isn’t even important to us. What is more important to me – having a fancy title and making a certain amount per year, or having a flexible schedule, an amazing boss, and great benefits? It’s hard to remember to compare things with my own priorities, not someone else’s. Once I look at what I have accomplished and how it is making me feel, things start feeling better and better. I just need to allow myself to appreciate it, and not get sucked into a narrative (“work shouldn’t feel like work”; “if you’re not doing what you love, quit now”).
I recently went home to visit my family, and went with a couple of childhood friends to a local dive bar in town to catch up. I (of course) ran into a bunch of people from our graduating class that I haven’t seen in almost a decade – it was crazy.
I was chatting with one guy and he asked what I did. I said “I live in Santa Barbara and work at a tech company. I don’t know why I work in the tech industry, but I do! Haha!” (I may have had a beer or two.)
I have a hard time with being self-deprecating, so my knee-jerk reaction was to be like, “My job is so random, right?” instead of remembering how great it is.
His reaction was like, “Oh, bummer” basically. I was like, wait. Stop it. My job is awesome.
Then I remembered my conversation with Emily while I talked with someone else. They asked what I did. “I work in Santa Barbara at a software company. It’s pretty awesome – I get to travel sometimes and I really like it.” Totally different conversation – same job.
Isn’t it weird how we can sabotage ourselves? I need constant reminders.
So here is my challenge to both of us – don’t talk your shit down. Don’t be an asshole either, and brag all night about your life, but be truthful! If it makes you happy, it makes you happy! If it doesn’t, say that too – but don’t rob yourself of a good moment for no reason. Let’s start measuring our success on our own terms, and by what makes us happy – not what we think we should be doing.
Does this happen to you too? Maybe with another category of life? I would love to hear from other self-deprecators!