“But I didn’t want to be an accountant! I wanted to be…
Today is my birthday. It is also the first anniversary of my starting work at my current employer.
I wanted to take a moment to reflect on work, passion, and hobbies.
I am fortunate to have chosen a field of employment (software) which has always had a low unemployment rate, and which pays me to write. The stuff I am paid for is not fiction, but it is at least writing something durable and interesting.
My career has spanned almost a quarter century, but I was a hobby programmer before that. Software really was my passion, both in work and in hobby time, for many years.
I’ve written fiction much less consistently: some serial fiction here, a desultory short story there. I didn’t write any fiction for at all for nearly a decade, but the recent spate of writing has lasted nearly ten years so I think it’s going to stick. Writing fiction is my passion now.
But again, I have been lucky: I have a passion. Not everyone finds one, or even needs one.
A friend observed recently that during commencement season many addresses are given which advise new graduates to follow their passion, not acknowledging the fact that for most people a job is work and that that job will pay them money in return for not having enough time to spend in the way they choose. Because most people won’t find their passion in their first job, or their second job, or even in their paid employment at all: they will find it in their hobbies and pastimes.
That’s where most people want to spend their time – playing games, or watching sport, or collecting, or crafting, or tinkering, or gardening. Hobbies are hugely important to give you (as Denis Healey* put it) a hinterland.
Hobbies are important, but that does not mean that the job is unimportant.
My personality is such that if I am unhappy in my job, then I am unhappy. I have had jobs where, for whatever reason, I was unhappy and it was a profoundly corrosive experience. The world turns grey in summer, the night becomes unquiet and restless with the crushing weight of it all.
Even my hobbies became a burden. I would read Terry Pratchett and not laugh.
So, if I have advice to offer in this realm it is to find a job that you don’t hate, and to perform it diligently – even enthusiastically – for as long as it supports your avocation.
But if the job becomes inimical to your hobbies and your personal life, if the psychic damage done in your occupation greys out the joy, then really: look for something else.
For myself, I moved to the States to get away from such a situation, and I have left other jobs since because they were pulling me into waters I do not wish to immerse myself in again. Where I am now is a vibrant place filled with energetic people, and although it is a demanding environment it is supportive.
I can still write.
On this day, that is the birthday gift I am most grateful for.
[*] a British politician of the 70s and 80s who, I am delighted to learn, is still alive.