When I first stepped out of university and began my journey to find a job that I hoped I would eventually love, I came across this quote,
Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life. – Confucius
and I immediately subscribed to its notion. It’s appealing in the sense that at the end of the day, when it comes to finding a job, I sincerely did hope that I would end up doing something that I would not perceive as work at all.
I considered writing articles for magazines and newspapers – that it would be amazing writing for a living because that is what I love to do. I imagined being like Rebecca Bloomwood of Kinsella’s Shopaholic novels: pursuing to eventually write whatever I wanted to, having my own column. And if I could not do that, then I considered editing writing – ’cause at least I get to read what I love and editing is second nature to me – right?
At first I thought the problem lay in what jobs were available, I found a job that was exactly the position I wanted: an editor. But I realised that it was nothing according to what I loved. If I took on the job, I would have to edit policy documents and community brochures for a living – a less than appealing task. And then I considered – if I ended up taking an editing post, will there always come a time that I will love what I am editing? The short and straightforward answer was: no.
That was when I decided to go into teaching. And where I was disappointed once more when I was given the honest truth by teachers in my beginning school: Even though I was appointed Literature as my first subject, there was a high possibility that I won’t be able to teach it because of the demand for English teachers. The even more honest truth? Literature teachers were even made to fill in other roles as Moral Education teachers.
This upset me – because at the time I considered the quote and realised that teaching what I loved most may not be a possibility. And because of this I appealed to have my subject changed – with literature being my second subject.
It was not until two days ago that I came to the conclusion that it was not the jobs available to me that was problematic (although I did have very little motivation to pursue them), but the mindset that a job that is worth doing has to be something that you’re incredibly passionate about – in my case it was reading and writing books, it was about literary analysis.
Sitting in my class, learning how to teach literature (and I hoped desperately that those were the lessons I’d end up loving during my week), it dawned on me the ridiculousness of the situation I was in. Here I sat, with men and women in there mid-twenties, some in their early thirties making career switches, clinically analysing a poem for its lines, stanzas and repetitions. I had “Vietnam-esque” flashbacks to my junior college education where the life of a poem was sucked out from the pages of their handouts. I listened, with a bowed head, as two strong-headed individuals in my class began quarrelling over imagery – ruining the intentions and beauty of the poem. I cringed as the professor guided us towards a singularity point where there was (oh my heart), to her belief, a “right way” of interpreting the poem. And I asked myself, sitting there, “Is this what I love about poetry and is this essentially what I will encourage students to do in the future?”
And suddenly I was grateful – absolutely and eternally grateful – that I had not chosen something I loved and turned it into a job.
I realised that I had very different views of how literature should be appreciated, that I loved poems and prose, but only as they are, not prodded to submission with a stick at its protruding bits and pieces. I loved feeling involved in a plot, in a character and to empathise without being overcritical of the language involved. And I realised that if I had to do this as a living, to constantly be emerged in the things I loved and then analyse them completely, I would no longer love them.
Lastly, I guess this post comes with a disclaimer. I do not believe Confucius was wrong in what he said. I only believe that my initial interpretation of the quote was wrong. And I only hope that I can provide some of my own insight to those who believe it now the same way I did back then or still believe this to be true.
I will never discourage anyone from pursuing a job they believe they will love. I just hope that you do not turn something that you love, a hobby or pastime, into work that you can no longer love. They are hobbies for a reason – they are meant to be respite from work. The inevitability is that when you take something you love and turn it into work, there will be days when it is no longer something you love and just a job that brings food to your table.
For more of a straightforward reason why this quote can be misleading, I suggest the Forbes article by Chrissy Scivicque.
– cumuloq ❤