recently, i had dinner with a couple of old friends – women i’d met during study abroad in 2006, back when we were wee babies just testing the waters of the world – and we got to talking about what we’d all been up to the last few years. ashley, who i hadn’t seen since 2008, had finished up her time at yale, gone on to tour the world with her a capella group, and then spent 2 years in the peace corp in malawi. from there, she’d traveled the world some more, and done all together “good for the world” things. martha, who i’ve stayed very close with, went back to boston to finish her nursing degree, went on to work in head trauma, you know, saving lives and shit like that, and just spent the latter part of a year doing an incredible kidney disease research project in nicaragua.
and it got me thinking: what the fuck am i doing with my life? see, as a kid, i thought i’d be doing great things. i went through a phase where i exclusively read lurlene mcdaniel novels, convinced that it was my destiny to be a pediatric oncologist. then there was my foray into songwriting, with a stint at a couple open mics, when i thought i’d be the next fiona apple, a teenage lyrical genius (guess that crown went to lorde). then i got into writing, really into writing, and i thought, i’m going to write stuff that will change the world.
i thought people would read my writing and feel things, that my words would give people goosebumps, that they’d make people laugh and cry and fight and make up again. i thought i’d do something great with this one singular talent i’d been given (especially since i’d failed so miserably at pretty much everything else i’d tried). i thought that if i couldn’t save the world with what i did, i’d save the world with my writing.
and here i am, 28 years old, working in PHARMACEUTICAL ADVERTISING. while my friends are doing things like attempting to cure kidney disease in sugarcane workers and bringing relief and calm to places in crisis.
and i know that we don’t all get to do great things. we don’t all get to change the world. we don’t all grow up to be the sorts of people that little kids look up to, that young people aspire to be.
but i sort of thought i was doing to, you know?
couple that with the fact that the internet and the blogosphere (i’m looking at you, pinterest) is FILLED with mantras like the one above, constantly reminding us that if we don’t do what we love, we’re failing. that if we DO do what we love, we’ll never work a day in our lives. that if we’re not doing chasing our dreams and making our passions a reality, we’re doing it wrong.
it can get overwhelming. it can make a person with a perfectly reasonable career and a great job feel like absolute shit. because here’s the truth: not all of us get to do what we love. the single mom who’s trying to make ends meet? she doesn’t get to do what she loves. she just has to go to work.
i’ve been doing a lot of thinking about how we got to this place in society – a place that so relishes our ability to say, fuck a career, fuck a stable salary, fuck benefits, i’m just gonna DO WHAT I LOVE. how we got to a place where pinterest-pretty is pervasive, where everything is about showing just how beautiful and perfectly styled and amazing our lives are, each and every day.
here’s the thing: that shit? it isn’t real. as my friend molly said the other day, “not all of us save the world. some of us just wake up and go to work.”
or, as my mother said to me this weekend, when i explained that i was feeling kind of shitty about my job, “some of us save the world on the side. that’s what you do.”
it’s true, isn’t it? that sure, some people do amazing, incredible, life-changing, world-changing things. and i should be proud, thrilled, amazed, to call some of those people my friends. they inspire me to be a better person, to ask more, to learn more, to do more – but i don’t have to do those things in my day job. i don’t have to wake up each morning and say, goddammit, i am so fucking THRILLED to go to work today. sure, i can say that some days (and honestly, some days, i do), but the rest of the days, i can just be satisfied. satisfied to have a great job, to work with great people, to have a job that enables me to live in the greatest city in the world, one that pushes me and teaches me every.single.day. of my life. i can be satisfied to have things that others in the world can’t take for granted. things like a 401k, and health insurance, and the knowledge that i’ve got a paycheck coming in every 2 weeks.
those things aren’t glamorous, and they aren’t pinterest perfect, and they most certainly don’t amount to saving the world. but they are a luxury, and they make me lucky. because someday, my boring job will enable me to give my children the sorts of experiences my parents gave me. they’ll allow me to send my kids to summer camp, to take them on vacation, to show them the world, to give them perspective. and maybe i wouldn’t have those sorts of luxuries if i worked at a tiny non-profit.
so what if i haven’t written my life-changing novel yet? so what if i don’t save lives daily? instead, i get up and go to work, and i get paid to write each day. my 16 year old self – she’d be pretty proud of that, pharma advertising or no pharma advertising. do i feel uninspired sometimes? sure, but that’s why i started this blog. do i feel like i could do more sometimes? sure, but that’s why i volunteer, and donate my time and on