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Do What You Love

We are often told to do what we love. As children, many of us were asked what we wanted to be when we grew up; we were encouraged to see our future profession as a vocation, something emotionally fulfilling. Everything else was supposed to work itself out. And it does make some sense. Doing what you love makes you happier, and it might also help you succeed, because effort without pleasure is difficult.

But even with the added motivation of passion, this idealized notion of earning a living on a dream job often clashes with the reality of a world in which some activities are valued more highly than others, where making a living off certain professions can be seen as an impossible dream. As Julia Ormond’s character Marie Calvet evocatively explains in Mad Men, “The world could not support that many ballerinas.” And there are also other considerations that further restrict our ability to choose our profession, such as lifestyle, geography, and compatibility among the careers of those who want to live their lives together.

We might feel that this is unfair, that we should not have to renounce to our dreams in order to live in this world, or that there must be something wrong with the expectations that we have been raised on. In the end, many of us with more modest aspirations are lucky enough to enjoy professions that allow us to make a living with relative ease. Those of us who love working with language and languages have an abundance of attractive options, such as becoming a translator or interpreter.

As they say, if you can’t do what you love, try to love what you do. Ultimately, being able to pay our bills while doing something we don’t hate is a privilege, although it shouldn’t be. And if we are that lucky, perhaps we should take a moment to reflect on all the ways we can bring value to our fellow workers, beyond mere monetary profits. We should consider how our hard work can improve the world, even just a little bit. We can make other people’s labor a little easier, a little more pleasurable. Even when we don’t love what we do, we can bring love into our work.

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