Do what you love, but make sure you get paid

Most people have been profoundly inspired by Steve Job’s insights way back in 2005 about doing what you love. I have 2 basic, rambling thoughts on this as they regard my own unemployment and period of worry:

First, he declares that he was lucky to find what he loved early in life. Starting young is a nice option for those of you that know yourselves. I thought I knew myself. That academia and the life of the mind was for me. I would read and write all morning, and I would share with keen students in the afternoons, and when possible I would commune with other scholars in a romantic exchange of ideas. This wasn’t how it was. I had a supervisor once, when I in passing to make conversation, ask her about her latest research declare to me “I can’t tell you, lest someone else find out.” Sharing must be done carefully and documented so it cannot be stolen I guess.

I thought loving it, and hard work, finishing a PhD would be enough. But when I got there, I still liked the reading and the writing, but there was student bashing, peer attacks and all manner of problems. No place is perfect. And to top it off, it was a system that was crumbling with lack of jobs and lack of pay. It wasn’t the subject I loved (although I did) it was the actions. The reading, writing, sharing, improving and publishing into the world. So I left what I thought I had been lucky enough to find when I was young.

But now, I’m not that young, not that lucky, and I have to try and dream with my wings cut. I’m doing it, but slowly.

The second point is about loving work in general. See, the way academia can get people to stay is the love. Its not work if you love it, so you should do it for free. Perhaps you remember a while back when this article came out. If your job is what you love does that cheapen it make you have to do it for free or else? The need for a living wage is a thing.

Well, I’m in the middle of reading Amanda Palmer’s new book The Art of Asking and you need to ask for help, whatever the situation really and artists have to demand pay especially in this age where music and words are free. But it is the ‘no’ that is scary. “Please take a chance on me,” I’ll say, “You have no skills, so…no” they reply. I know the popular phrase is: “No one owes you a living” but I’ll never get anything if I don’t ask. Perhaps it is a bit of a stretch.

I won’t find what I love sitting here writing–well, unless the answer is writing. Some jobs are boring, but that isn’t the same as hating it. You can love the paycheck so much that it doesn’t matter so long as you still have a life in the background.

This brings me back, again, to who am I? Am I my job? Why do we as a society put so much emphasis on how we earn money. The thing that we do from 9 to 5 (or longer if you are unlucky) that takes us away from home, family, friends, and other hobbies? Why would we define ourselves by that? I heard once that it has all been downhill since the Agricultural Revolution. We went from gathering what food we needed for the day, hunting, or gathering perhaps a few trinkets, and then mostly chilling, to toiling daily in a field and it got worse with each advancement. More work, less life.

My good friend said, only the rich say money doesn’t matter, because they’ve never been without it. Thats why we define ourselves by our jobs. Our worth is our paycheck. That means my worth at the moment is a big fat zero. I don’t need pity though, because right now, my problem is that I have too much life and free time. Is this truly living? Or am I a parasite? I don’t know what I love doing that will get me paid. I don’t know even what I’m good at.

So I typed into Google a few days ago ‘Unemployment blogs’ and other such depressing variations but I didn’t find much by way of inspiration from it, or further wallowing as the case may be. But I’m starting not to care. I want more than a paycheck, a day-killer, and a sense of place within society. I want to be okay. And I’m getting there.


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