I work at a university. Have I ever mentioned that here?
Throughout the course of a year I hear so many students talk about what they will “be” in life.
“I’m going to be a doctor.”
“I’m going to be a business owner.”
“I’m going to be an accountant.”
“I’m going to be an actor.”
After all, they are here for those things. They’re here to figure out how they will make money and support themselves throughout their adult lives (although lots of us end up doing something very far from the tree of our college major).
But as I watch them discuss these things with such assurance, as they put these dreams into words and send them out into the world, I want to give them all a hug. I think making statements such as (and this is the one closest to home for me) “I’m going to be a writer” can set you up for some seriously skewed expectations.
Because the truth is, you’ll will never “be” just one thing. What you major in, what you do for an income, isn’t necessarily what defines you. And yet, we’re sort of programmed to think that way, aren’t we? We’re programmed to think, “If I’m not earning my living doing what I love, then I’ve failed.”
Last year I had an opportunity to talk to some students in a class setting, and I told them this:
“You will wear a lot of hats.”
I see more and more the message of “do you what you love” being blasted into our ears. Yes, earning a living doing what you love is the pinnacle of career/mental well being. But, as my grandmother would say, “Who’s going to clean the toilets?”
The truth is, there are a lot of very happy janitors out there. There are a lot of happy psychologists, bus drivers, accountants and cable installers. They are multi-faceted people who work hard, earn a living, and go home to a whole new set of hats. Maybe they’re artists. Or part time photographers. They’re mothers. They’re fathers. They’re church VBS committee members.
I work as a Program Manager. That’s a very fancy way of saying Office-Manager-Coffee-Getter-Budget-Ballancer-Travel-Event-Planner-All-Around-Supreme-Gopher. This was not my plan. I planned to be writer. But I’ve come to realize these are two different hats, two very good hats, and I get to wear them both. Thank goodness life isn’t an either-or scenario.
You are not a failure if you clean toilets. You are not a failure if you don’t become a self-sufficient artist.
In this life you will wear many, many of wonderful hats.