Follow your dreams. Do what you love. Pursue your passion. Does this narrative sound familiar?
Person X quits her 9 to 5 office job and fulfills her dream of mass-producing artisanal toffee from grandma’s secret recipe. Sure the hours are long, the work is hard, but she is doing what she loves.
Or what about Person Y, putting in long hours at that innovative tech start up, working in an environment without all those traditional barriers to collaboration and innovation, putting forth new ideas that will change the world for the better?
It seems like us millennials can’t turn around without some story of someone doing something outside of the traditional career box, succeeding, and loving life.
Well, if you were looking for another narrative like that; sorry to disappoint you. This isn’t a “quit your job, follow your dreams” story. It’s a “how I learned to love a job I used to hate” one – which I feel like is a lot more applicable and attainable story to most of us.
*Disclaimer: If you’re reading this blog and you want to offer me a lucrative book deal that might enable me to walk away from my 9-5, I’m still open to that…
Anyway, now that that’s out of the way….
If you follow me on instagram, over the last few months, you would have seen some of the crazy costumes pictured above, along with numerous shoutouts with the hashtag #mycoworkersarebetterthanyours. You might assume that I love my job (teaching, in case you hadn’t figured it out) and have a ton of fun. The answer is yes – NOW (and if I’m being honest, not 100% of the time – but what job is?).
But it wasn’t always that way. I’m about 7 years into this gig, and truthfully, when I started, and for probably the first 3 years, I hated teaching. Sure, I had moments of triumph, glimmers of hope; but spent a lot more time feeling defeated, crying, and trying to figure out what else was a viable career option.
I wanted to love teaching, really I did. After all, you can’t beat the hours, job stability, benefits, etc… But I just couldn’t get myself into it.
So how did I go from crying and trying to escape to wearing costumes, laughing it up, and loving life? And, more importantly, how can you learn to love a job that’s maybe not your favourite? How can you pay for those little luxuries like food and a roof over your head while not constantly watching the clock and thinking about life outside of the office?
I’m no expert. And I don’t know where you’re at or what you’re doing. But here’s what worked for me…
- Find a hobby you really really love. Something that gives you life, de-stresses you, and that you can’t wait to do. For me, that’s Crossfit. That hour (and sometimes more) is often the best part of my day. It does wonders for me both mentally and physically. If you have something waiting for you – whether it’s the gym, crafting, seeing, cooking, hiking… it’s a lot easier to shake off a bad day at work. Sure, most of us will spend a lot of our adult lives at work. But if you’re looking for work to be your everything, somewhere along the line, you’re gonna be disappointed.
- Speaking of not letting work be your everything, that brings me to my next point: create some boundaries. Teaching is a profession where it’s easy to take on extra responsibilities. You can always come early or stay late. And sometimes you need to. But I’ve learned that my quality of life is so much greater when I come to work, do my best while I’m there, but then leave at the end of the day (in good time) and leave work behind me. Work is work. Give it your all, but then go home and enjoy the rest of your life.
- Explore opportunities within your career. This one I can be trickier depending on what you do. But for me, a lot of how happy I am right now has been about finding the right fit. I have taught at different schools, different subjects and different grades. It took a lot of figuring out what I DON’T love before arriving at a job that I do. So if you find yourself doing something you feel like isn’t exactly the right fit, look at it as a learning opportunity. Why don’t you love it? What would you change? What are the good parts? And if an opportunity at work comes up to try something new – go for it!
- You do you. This one is HUGE. I believe that a big part of why I was so unhappy early in my career is that I was trying to teach like everyone else. I am blessed to have a huge network of close friends and family members who are teachers. I respect and admire all of them – but maybe a little too much. It’s one thing to get inspiration and steal ideas from mentors within your career (and in teaching, especially those early years, I’d say it’s necessary). But you need to take those ideas, given them your own spin, and make them work for YOU. I’ve seen people be successful with a big range of teaching styles and personalities. I am way happier teaching as myself, rather than trying to do it as someone else.
- Don’t compartmentalize your “work self.” This goes hand in hand with point #4. Sure, you have to keep work life and personal life separate to certain extent, I get that. And you obviously have to do your job with a certain degree of professionalism. But constantly putting on an act to maintain a professional persona that is vastly different from who you are as a person is exhausting, and, at the end of the day, sort of disingenuous. Take me for example. In real life, I’m a huge goofball, love bad puns, and laughing all. the. time. So I carry this over to my job (see above costumes), and laugh and joke with both students and coworkers. And honestly, I have the best time being me.
- Find your why/what you love about work. Having taught as many different students and subjects as I have, I’ve realized that for me, my favourite part of teaching is building relationships. What I teach truly doesn’t matter to me as much as pouring into the lives of my kiddos (and coworkers too). I love getting to know what makes them tick, and adapting my teaching strategies accordingly. I love our little inside jokes, giving them nicknames, (and even receiving my own from time to time). If you know why you are where you are, and can find a favourite part of what you do, it’s easier to go into work every day, and, more importantly, believe you’re making a difference.
As always, I strive to be 100% totally real and honest on here. It’s not always rainbows and butterflies. Teaching is hard work. There are things I have to do (yard duty, report cards, dealing with crazies) that I do not love. Not even a bit. But teaching is where I’m at. So I decided I might as well make it something I love. It wasn’t easy. It took time. But I did it.
If I can go from crying at night and trying to find a new career to laughing and loving life, you most certainly can too. Millennial or not, you don’t have to quit your job to follow your dreams. You might not realize it, but you can pursue your passion right where you are.