What do you do when you have a job, but it’s just not your passion? August McLaughlin responds to a reader’s query.
I’m a believer in following one’s passions. I know some of the things I’m passionate about, but I’m not sure what I can realistically do with them. I love writing, for example, and am pretty sure I have several books in me, but most writers I know have a “regular” job. I don’t seem able to write while keeping the job that pays my rent and bills. I don’t hate my job, but it’s not my passion. I want it to be. Pointers?
Aimless but Hopeful
Contrary to how you’re feeling, you are chock-full of one of the most important aims one can have: for a more gratifying and meaningful existence. If we never ask those questions, we can’t possibly find the answers. So kudos! Truly.
By nature, I’m a leaper. Earlier on, I leapt into and out of serious relationships and jobs with little thought—numerous times to my detriment. Thankfully, I’ve learned a few things since then. (Think first, leap smarter.)
My dad, on the other hand, is the classic example of a smart leaper. Before he retired from UPS where he’d worked for nearly forty years, he had a plan in place. He gradually stepped into retirement so that by the time it arrived, he was already thinking and living as a vocation-free man. His life seems full of passion now, and the adjustment period ran smooth.
I’ve also known folks who never leap and go on to regret it. The actress who clings to her secure waiting tables gig until she becomes a server who acts on the side, rather than vice versa. The lawyer whose screenplay-in-progress sits dusty in a drawer. Anyone who falls asleep at night worrying, “What if I never…” or “I wish, I wish…”
If you wait for “ready” to come knocking at your door, it may never come. If you leap too soon, however, you risk extended periods of Top Ramen and dollar store finds. (Trust me, I’ve been there.)
Here’s what I’d do. Begin taking at least one step toward your dreams every day. You don’t need to know the specifics of those dreams just yet. If you trust the journey, it will fill in the blanks.
Each morning spend at least five minutes journaling whatever comes to your mind, before you hit the day job. This teaches your mind that your passion comes first. Jot down story ideas. Begin writing one, even if all you can manage is fifteen minutes at a time.
Meditate regularly. Very often, our subconscious has a much clearer idea of our heart’s desires that we realize at the surface; for at least a little while, don’t let everyday clutter obstruct that. (If you’re new to meditation I highly recommend the Simply Being app and How to Meditate by Pema Chodron.)
As far as discovering what to do with your passions, here are some questions I’ve found helpful along the way:
- What makes your heart dance?
- If you weren’t afraid of what others would think, what would you dive into?
- If success as you define it were guaranteed, what whimsical dream would you turn into a tangible goal?
- Describe your ideal weekday from start to finish.
- If I never _______________, I’ll regret it one day.
Don’t judge the answers. Blurt them out. Let them flow. Take good notes. All of the answers you seek lie within you. I promise you that.
As for requiring a “regular” job or two if you decide to pursue writing, toss that notion to the curb. While there’s nothing wrong with having both temporarily or long-term, that is not ideal for everyone. (It certainly isn’t for me.) You can grow financially through creative work, but only if you first see that as a real and feasible thing. Artistry is a lot more practical than many people think—and I suspect you have it within you to accomplish whatever you put your mind to.
Cheering for you,
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Photo: Logan Ingalls / flickr