Are you doing something you love?
I love writing and traveling. Baseball and music. Meeting new people and exploring new places.
How about you? Do you do the things on your list as much as possible? Could you stand to do them more often? Pursue them more vigorously?
I only ask, because if you don’t do the things you love regularly…what exactly are you doing?
I’m lucky in many ways: First, I recognized my passions at a younger age than most probably do. I knew I wanted to be a professional writer by the time I was learning to drive.
Second, my parents are incredibly generous for emotionally supporting my wallet-emptying trip last year, my insatiable desire to continue traveling in any capacity, and my need to live at home on multiple different occasions since college.
But the reason I write and travel and go to music festivals and coach baseball and meet new people and explore new cities is not because I’m lucky. As much as cheap rent (yes, I pay rent) and an early self-realization have aided in my ability to do the things I love, it was simply a “yes” that made it all happen.
“Yes, I’m going to buy that damn ticket already. I’m gonna go on that trip.”
It was something I’d wanted to do forever. I was not in a great position to do it: serious relationship, good job, a lease in San Francisco; the whole nine yards. But that burning desire to see the world overwhelmed the rest.
It’s the best decision I’ve ever made. I see the world differently because of that trip. I trust people. I’m more optimistic. More open-minded. More eager to learn.
Maybe it’s a family thing. As you all know by now, the little sis is a constant inspiration for me. She’s always made doing things she cares about a priority. When Yelp handed her a cushy city salary and asked her to cold-call prospective clients and bullshit them into paying for ad space, she gently fuck-you’d her way out of the building after a month and never looked back. She is the type of person who won’t settle for working or living in an environment that doesn’t challenge or fulfill her.
Now living in Denver, she’s landed a writing gig and a personal training gig in a matter of weeks to augment her income – two fields she is passionate about. She is the one who talked me into traveling in the first place. She convinced her best friend to do the same, and that one is still out there running around the world two years later.
Here’s the thing. I’ve been asked in recent months about how I’m living: no “real” job, an unusual roommate situation, chunks of my meager earnings spent on music festivals and random flights, rather than better health insurance or a reliable car.
I’ve been straight up asked if I feel like I’m “pushing my life forward” enough.
Hell yeah. I really do.
This life is not a struggle. Even though my salary and living situations have both taken hits, I’m no longer forcing myself out of bed to do what I am told to, but rather, waking up excited to do what I want. The standard expectation of the working person still exists, but it’s also very outdated. There are a million ways to supplement income these days and working remotely is becoming more common.
You can do it. I’m doing it. I’ll take making my own hours, charging my own rates and choosing my own projects any day of the week. Sacrificing an overpriced apartment, a 401K and a faster-filling savings account doesn’t even register on the regret scale.
The last two years have been the most fluid, exceptional years of growth in my entire life. After college, I tried so many different jobs in industries I thought I should be in. I did the “pay an exorbitant rent to live in San Francisco” dance. I saved money and got good benefits and impressed my bosses (well, some of them anyway).
But I was never satisfied with what I was actually doing. Making a good salary and living in a desirable location was never what I needed. I was selling my soul to do it, and was dreading the seemingly inevitable onslaught of years spent working 40 a week and counting down the minutes until 5 p.m. on Friday.
I was literally doing nothing I believed important to me or to the world at large. The amount of dollars on my paycheck couldn’t justify it anymore.
So, I left. I stopped letting the “this is what I’m supposed to be doing” narrative get in my way and blindly leaped off the cliff. Let me tell you – the landing was magnificent. I still have days that feel wasted or times I feel doubtful, but that’s life. Because I’m doing the things I love, both personally and professionally, on a daily basis, those days are fewer and always easier to overcome.
I read a piece on HuffPo recently directed at “anyone who feels like they’re falling behind” in life. A particularly relatable section goes:
“You change when you want to change. You put your ideas into action in the timing that is best. That’s just how it happens. And what I think we all need more than anything is this: permission to be wherever the fuck we are when we’re there.”
To me, those words are profound, though many people don’t heed them. I’ve talked to so many friends recently who absolutely hate their jobs or their living situations, and many more who believe they don’t have time to do things they want to do.
It may be that you are happy with your job, even if it doesn’t ignite your passion. You may be content with jumping from college to the working world and pursuing promotions, or with settling down as soon as possible.
And that’s fine…just don’t forget that “can’t” is a choice. Don’t let the “should” interfere with those little things that light a fire under your ass. Those parts of your day you actually look forward to. The things that make you smile involuntarily and give you incomparable pleasure. Everyone has a few. Not everyone pursues them, at the risk of “falling behind.”
Change it. Don’t be afraid to try something you care about, especially while you’re still on the good side of 30. Do what you really love to do, even if it sounds insane to your family or generates a massive drop in salary or means moving home for a few months. Job-hopping until you find the right fit is the norm now anyway.
I have mad respect for people who are working and living in ways that fulfill them. For people who are pursuing careers that they truly, deeply care about, or chasing personal and professional passions. Now is the time. It is always the time.
And for those who are in survival mode? Props to you, too. I am equally awed by someone who grinds away at a job they don’t necessarily enjoy in order to put food on the table for their family. That’s seriously inspiring. I only hope these same people will try their darndest to also play around with the things they love to do. Find 30 minutes a few times a week to play guitar or teach yourself Italian or tinker with your car engine. Make sure your annual paid vacation isn’t just spent re-landscaping the yard or painting the house.
(If you’re one of the lucky ones who makes a living doing what you love, has time to pursue personal passions and is earning a good salary, teach me your ways!)
As far as I’m concerned, what matters in the end is looking back with gratitude and fulfillment, knowing there’s nothing left over that you “just never made time for.” I advocate being a little selfish in this life: do what you really want to do, before it’s too late.
When your heart stops someday, make sure it’s because you forced every last pump out of it pursuing your passions, raising your family, furthering your career and making a damn difference.
Know that it finally stopped beating only after it loved everything you ever asked it to love, and then some.