When people ask me what I do, I give a vague answer: “I’m in admin,” “kind of a PA,” “Just doing this assistant work at the moment.” I hope that they don’t press further or ask whether I’m using my university degree (the answer is no, not in the slightest).
Usually they respond with high eyebrows and a polite, ‘Oh, cool’ (it’s not cool, not at all). Did you move here for the job?’
Yes, definitely. I moved to London from Australia because I have a serious passion for greeting guests and carrying trays of coffees, a passion that can only be satisfied in this big city of high rent and gloomy skies. They just don’t make paperwork at home like they do here!
It’s a natural opener – “What do you do with your time?” I’m guilty of it myself, and it’s not because I’m trying to figure out anyone’s intelligence, status or income. It just seems like an easy icebreaker, and let’s be honest, we’re all just a little bit socially inept. I posed the question to someone I met recently and instead of responding with his job title or company, he listed his hobbies – running in parks, trying new food, swimming. It’s not that he was unemployed, or even that he had a boring job – he just didn’t think what he does for work is as relevant as what he does for fun. Because why should we consider our job more a reflection of ourselves than our interests and hobbies?
I’ve found that my parents’ generation, children to adults, who had lived through at least one war and many of whom were immigrants, were generally encouraged to take stable jobs. There was less emphasis on finding your passion than there was on paying the bills and setting up a solid foundation for yourself. It seems like these days we’re all told that we’re special, that we can do anything we want. We’ll all be stars and never to settle for anything less than thrilling.
It’s a middle class privilege to be able to prioritise passion over stability. I’m well aware that having the option to turn down a stable job for an interesting but poorly paid position is not an option that everybody has.
So am I doing it wrong by not taking this opportunity?
I don’t think I am. My job isn’t my life right now – my job is what pays the bills. What I do outside of my 9-5 (8:30 – 5:30, if we’re being particular) speaks volumes more about me than my day job. I go for long walks and do yoga. I love to write and go to museums by myself. I devour books and I sit and talk to friends one- on-one for hours. I’m still exploring a new city. I go travelling at every chance I get, and sometimes I try to teach myself languages – but you can’t tell any of this from my job title. My job funds my life, but it does not define it.
These days it feels like a cop out to take a job that will do little more for you than fill your bank account. We’re always talking about finding your talents and your dreams, finding what it is that excites you and do it for life. Encouraging people to chase their dreams and explore their options is undeniably a positive thing, but there is no shame in taking a job that’s just that – a job. Sure, hopefully one day I’ll have a job that I don’t mind staying after hours for, that I think about when I’m going to sleep, but I’m also happy to enjoy my life outside of work.
The truth is that I like my job because it’s well located. I like the people I work with and they pay me well enough to enjoy my life outside of work hours. I know that you’re not meant to admit that you do a job for the money or because it’s convenient, but I can’t pretend that I wake up super excited to go and fill out expense forms and book meetings. I have days that I stare at the clock and can’t wait to get out, but I also laugh a lot and feel like I’m needed and appreciated.
I don’t know what my passion is and my university degree did little to get me this job other than show that I could stick to something for a long period of time and prove that I understand basic grammar. But when I think about it, I enjoy each day. Sometime it’s at work, sometimes it’s on my walk into the office and sometimes it’s in my evening activity, but there is something good in each day.
So maybe we should all focus less on finding one passion to base a career on and more on just enjoying ourselves day by day. If we focus on finding what makes us happy and excites us within every twenty four hours, we might just figure out what makes us happiest in each week, month, year- and maybe eventually, a whole lifetime. It might be something different every day and it might be the same thing- it might lead to a career and it might not.
I’ve always said that I’m ambitious- not necessarily in my career, not right now anyway, but ambitious in life. I don’t daydream about being a CEO or becoming a star, but do hope to have a full and vivid life. An exciting career might be a part of that, but it also might not be – and I’ll be happy either way.