When you’re in your early twenties, it seems like everyone has something to say about what you should do with your life ‘now that you’re an adult’. Different people tend to have different ideas about what careers you should have or when the best time to get married and settled down is. Those that are older speak from years from experience. Peers speak from what’s working or not working for them right now (which is sometimes the least examined, but most pertinent, advice). I’ve found that on both sides of the fence, however, everyone seems to champion the idea of ‘doing what you love’.
This may be because I am surrounded mostly by two kinds of people: the creative and the religious. The first camp tends to claim that doing what you love brings fulfillment that means more than any kind of financial gain or security. The second group leans more on the argument of vocation- that by doing what you love you answer God’s call to fulfill your specific and unique goal in His Creation, right down to your everyday work.
Now, I agree with them. But I don’t agree with them in some starry-eyed, blinded-by-privilege sort of way. Way too often I’ve seen people use the ‘do what you love’ mantra as an excuse. “I love writing, so I’ll write all day instead of getting a day job and make my significant other/parent/sibling/friend/government support me”. “I love traveling, so I’ll make sure I’m constantly moving instead of working/finishing college/working on my thesis because someone else will pay for it”. “I love x hobby, so don’t criticize me when I prioritize it over family/friends/relationships/work/charity/etc.”
There are certainly times when any and all of these scenarios are valid. Unfortunately, I more often than not come across this with privileged, able-bodied, able-minded and affluent young people. The idea becomes less of ‘doing what you love’ to be fulfilled or to help discern what will help the individual best contribute to the well being of themselves and others, and more that ‘doing what you love’ is the end goal, in and of itself.
I don’t think that’s particularly healthy. I’m a fairly community-minded person, so right off the bat I tend to disagree with anything that focuses on an individual without a critical look to how this affects others. Seeing the idea of ‘doing what you love’ as an end goal, instead of a tool, also tends to lend itself to feeling-based excuses that shirk responsibility and plays off of privilege.
For me, doing what you love means finding a way in which your deepest passion meets the needs around you. For me, that’s my writing. And it’s also my maternal instincts. I didn’t shirk one to pursue the other. Rather, I looked for ways in which I could nurture both loves while also contributing to my community. So I write and nanny-I publish works for people to enjoy; to uplift. I nanny to make money so that I can support myself, seeing as I am able enough to do so, so that there is more money available for me to donate to those who are not able to work for whatever reason, taking care of someone else’s kids so that they can work and contribute both through work and being less stressed in raising their children after work, making sure that there is less drain on communal resources for those who truly need them, and so on and so forth.
I don’t think about this as looking for ways to do what I love. Rather, I see it as doing what I love so that I have the energy to do more- in the way that I am utilizing myself to my fullest potential (not in that I am shoving busy work on myself). Doing what I love, and looking for new ways to do what I love in harmony with my other work or the work of others around me, is what I think helps me progress the most.
What does ‘doing what you love’ mean to you? Do you feel like you do what you love? What could you do this year to ensure that you do?