I’ve come to a realization this past week. It’s important to understand that you can’t always be perfect at your number one talent. Here’s my advice on how to come to terms with that.
Everyone has a project that they love, a talent that they’re good at — their thing. The thing that they’ve been praised for by relatives and friends, with compliments like “you have a knack for this”, “have you ever thought of doing project A or B? Or doing this for a living?” If you’ve reached that point (and it’s okay if you haven’t yet) where you’ve found your lifelong passion, I’ve got a rude awakening for you: you’re going to hate it at some point.
A big part of the American dream that is taught in schools and families is that we all end up in a job that we enjoy. Trust me, that’s all I want in the world. I want to have a stable, successful career that allows me to do what I love and not making me feel like I’m just at a mindless job every day. And I still plan to do that. But there is a certain amount of stress that comes with fulfilling all of those checkmarks. Making sure that you get all the correct qualifications, all the experience, and then eventually a well-paying job that allows you to do your favorite thing. But that’s not always the reality.
The reality is that I’ve found myself a couple times hating doing what I love. I’m working at an editorial internship and am involved with the college magazine on campus, so I have the experience, but still there are times where I want to give up on the thing that I like to do. But that’s okay. That doesn’t mean I’m a failure or that I need to right away change what I’m doing. I feel like there are a lot of times when people are getting involved in a major and at some point during their college career, they mess up, and then they think “well this means I suck at this so I won’t do it.” But you’re supposed to suck. Even at what you like. Especially at the beginning. And even when you get good at it, there it’s okay to be completely sick of your job, because that’s how you learn and you grow your skills.
Doing stuff like freelance work that is your passion is especially frustrating because you basically need to force yourself to feel passionate about it all the time. If I don’t feel inspired or excited about a piece or writing or a writing assignment, chances are it’s going to be harder for me to make it good. But that’s not always the case, especially if I’m trying to make it as a freelance writer. I need to put myself in that mood all the time, that whatever I’m writing about for whatever client or publisher is the most exciting thing to me, even if it isn’t. Because otherwise, I won’t produce my best work.
But that’s honestly emotionally draining. And that’s okay. It’s okay to say that you’re emotionally drained by the work you enjoy. It doesn’t mean you’re a negative person, and it doesn’t mean you should right away drop what you’re doing and find a different passion. It’s important to be self reflective, and definitely not perfectionist. It’s important not to assume that you’re always going to enjoy every part of what you do, even if it’s your dream job. And I know, you’re thinking about all your role models and inspirations talking on podcasts about how they “love their job constantly.” They’re lying. Any job that you care about that much, you will hate at some point, because you will mess up and it will get to you. We’re never told the reality of this — that even if you get the most perfect job, it will sometimes be terrible and stressful. So we should be happy and passionate and driven, but not so blinded by rose tinted glasses that assume everything is going to go our way.
I love writing —but what I’ve realized recently is that it equally fuels me as it drains me. Sometimes, I have such bad writer’s block that I want to fling my laptop at the wall. Or I’m so frustrated by deadlines and editing that I never want to pick up a pen again. Because that’s reality — and the reality is, there will be bad days, missed deadlines and moments when you have no motivation. It’s an important part of self care not to hate yourself for admitting that something is hard and taking it’s toll on you.
The reason I’m writing this is not because I want to convince people to drop what they love. I just want them to have a good relationship with the things they love. Kind of like our relationships with people, right? We always fight with significant others, and sometimes we’re genuinely annoyed with them — and that’s natural. I’m writing this because I’ve been feeling the weight of writer’s block more than ever before lately, mostly because I started an internship where I have to write because I have to. A lot. Which is hard, but also it’s proving to be an extremely valuable life lesson.
I’ve been so used to succeeding at writing, reporting and journalism because I kept telling myself this is is my thing, this is what I need to be good at. And bam, in that way, I become mean to myself. I put myself on this pedestal that I’m done growing and I should be successful in this thing because it’s my passion in life, and if I fail, then I’m worthless. I’ve always felt such low confidence about the things I’m genuinely bad at — math, chemistry, cooking, etc — so when I found something I excelled in, I held onto it for dear life. But along with that came this assumption that I will always be good at it no matter what. This is a dangerous thought that can break you really fast. Simply because of the reality that you always need to be open to learning and improving.
It’s okay to sometimes dislike your passion. I know that’s sounds like weird oxymoron, but admitting that we’re all mortals who aren’t perfect at everything is an important part of growing and becoming better at what we do. But this is why you need to hate it. Because you need that frustration, and stress and anxiety to help fuel your drive to do better.
This kind of state of mind of glamorizing our “thing” can also close you off to other opportunities in life. Sometimes you start perceiving “your thing” as the “only thing” and it’s important to open yourself to other activities, career paths, and work habits. There are other things to invest yourself in. There are new ways to make yourself be more productive. Don’t just go based off your skill. I mean, there are those people who don’t need any improvement because they’re so amazing at what they do, but those are rare and honestly, quite boring people. Because you need those learning experiences, you need to sometimes get better through trial and error. Sometimes you need a break from your main thing, or else you’ll drive yourself into a hole. And you should never, ever think you’re done improving a talent or a craft. Even if it’s yours. Especially if it’s yours.