Does Work Have to Feel Like Work?

Thumbnail image for what if analysisHere’s the news from our guest blogger, the intrepid life-journeywoman Lillian Hunter:

“I have never worked a day in my life,” my uncle told me. He had just retired, after 40-plus years spent as a pharmaceutical research scientist. It took me a minute to catch on to what he was saying.

Recalling that statement still takes my breath away. Why?

I have never felt anything close to that kind of career satisfaction or fulfillment. My experiences have caused me to subscribe to the philosophy that it is called “work” rather than “fun” because it is something that we have to force ourselves to do.

So I looked up the word “work” in the dictionary. It is defined as: “exertion or effort directed to produce or accomplish something; labor; toil.” That certainly doesn’t meet my definition of fun.

My uncle’s remark prompted me to consider: Why haven’t I had any such feelings? What if I had chosen a different career? What if I had spent more time looking for the “perfect” job rather than settling for what I could get? Did I simply fail to choose a career that matches my interests and talents? Was I just unlucky?

I realize that I chose my career at a young age when I really had no idea what I was doing. In fact, I made most of my critical life decisions when I had no idea what I was doing–who to marry, whether to have children, how many and when, what to do for a living.

I once heard a successful vintner say that the most important decisions we make in our lives are “who we marry and what we do for a living.” I tend to agree. Those decisions shape our lives in many unintended ways, especially when we are young. Even if we change careers or spouses later in life, we carry some remnants or residue of those decisions with us for the remainder of our lives.

So I have to wonder: What can I do about my career dissatisfaction at this point in my life? Certainly some sound career advice would be key to improving things. But I believe that understanding why and how I got to this place is also important.

So I will be journeying down the “What if’s” of my career path. I will be going back over the choices that brought me here, in the hopes that it will help me come to terms with where I am now and serve as a guide for charting a better path for the future.

I would love to experience my uncle’s sense of job fulfillment–or at least something more fulfilling than I have now. I don’t want to be one of those people who squander years regretting their past decisions while blaming or berating others or themselves for their current unhappy situation.

In better economic times, I might simply have found a better job or career and avoided this journey altogether. But these days there are few opportunities to switch careers or jobs. Journeying into the past may be the best way, for now, to gain some insight into my professional unhappiness and to develop a better attitude. I’ll keep you posted . . .

(Click here to read more from Lillian’s blog, “The Roads Not Travelled.”)

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