It's funny how sometimes a casual conversation with an acquaintance can reveal to a person things he didn't know about himself. Or how an offhand comment can pique a person's interest and lead to self-examination.
Something like this happened to me the other night. A close friend had organized a "girls' night out" at a local wine tasting room. This friend has a pretty extensive network of friends. (I often wonder how she manages to keep up with them all). When she arranges an outing, she typically invites several of her closest girlfriends, myself included. Last weekend, the group consisted of me, another close friend of mine, the friend who planned the get together, and two of her close friends who I've met before but don't know all that well.
While talking with one of the girls I'd met only two or three times before, we discovered that we actually work in the same building. Naturally, this led to a conversation about what we do for a living. She seemed intrigued when I told her that I am a psychotherapist. A few minutes into the conversation she asked me, "So, do you absolutely love your job?"
"No," I replied without hesitation. As soon as I said it I felt compelled to elaborate. "Don't get my wrong," I rushed to add. "I don't hate my job. I'm proud of what I do. It gives me a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment. I just don't love it..."
I wasn't sure how else to explain it. Maybe it's because I really don't understand it myself. Most of my colleagues seem to get pleasure from their work. There are even a few who seem excited by it. Why don't I feel that way?
I thought about it for a few days. Ultimately, I began to ponder a quite different and perhaps more basic question: Who says we're supposed to love our jobs? I mean, here I am thinking something is wrong with me because I don't love my job, despite the fact that I find it meaningful and satisfying. But who says lacking passion for one's work is pathological? Yes, there are people who love what they do for a living but there are also a lot of people who don't. Why is one group considered "normal" while the other is assumed to have problems?
Being passionate about your work is one of the pillars of the broader self help movement here in America. It seems like everywhere you turn these days there is some self-help book, magazine cover, talk show host, or website offering advice on how to "love your job" or "find your passion." If you're not doing what you love for a living then you're not being true to yourself, they tell us. We are encouraged to "quit your job and discover your passion." Messages like these are so prevalent that even employers have bought into it. They want to hire employees who are "passionate about the job." The assumption is that a passionate worker is a good worker; those lacking passion need not apply. Once merely a desirable quality, passion is fast becoming a basic job requirement. Americans now see passion as a prerequisite for success.
Yves Smith talks about this in her article "The Case Against Passion." She believes the whole idea that work should be driven by passion is misguided. American society has embraced the belief that the true path to happiness lies in "following your dreams." Those of us who feel anything less than passionate about our jobs are told that we're missing out. We are encouraged to go off in pursuit of "something more," to search until we find our passion. Only then will we know true contentment.
I wonder, though, how many of us "non-passionate" people felt fine until we were told we should feel passionate about our jobs. Perhaps it wasn't until we were expected to feel passionate that we started to wonder why we didn't.
Every person is unique. We cannot expect that everyone will approach work (or anything else, for that matter) in exactly the same way and with exactly the same attitude.