I have strong feelings about this week’s topic for Truthful Tuesday by PCGuyIV, so I have a lot to say to answer these questions, based on my own experience!
The old adage says, “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” Today’s questions stem from this bromide. Don’t worry if you aren’t currently working. The questions can easily be answered, and are likely better answered from a reflective standpoint.
- Do you now or have you ever been employed doing what you love?
The first 20 years of my working life, I worked in clerical positions, primarily in export shipping and freight forwarding. I didn’t love these jobs, but some were better than others. I enjoyed being able to use my skills, such as being able to use one of the two foreign languages I speak, and there were some other things I enjoyed, but usually I was somewhat bored and I felt I wasn’t really contributing anything meaningful to myself or society. That’s why I decided to change careers and become a teacher.
I would say that I actually loved my job for about three years out of my entire working career. These lovely three years occurred primarily when I was teaching and I had the ideal working environment: my principal liked and supported me, I got along with co-workers and they respected my opinions, I was working with small groups of students that came to my classroom, and I was doing what I best at. Sometimes I would be at school preparing for the day, and as I wrote on the whiteboard the schedule for the day, I would have a feeling of exhilaration: there I was, writing the date in Spanish and English, something simple like that, because I was good at what I did and I loved using Spanish in my job as well as teaching English to Spanish speakers. This feeling of exhilaration would sometimes wash over me when I was sitting at a table working with three or four kids on reading. I felt like I was really making a difference, I was doing something to help those kids by teaching them to read! When I saw a child make progress in an area difficult to him or her, teaching was the best job in the world!
During my three best years, I did projects with my students that were really enjoyable, and as long as I taught the curriculum and my lesson plans fit the standards, I could expand on it as I wished. I was great help and a good resource for the classroom teachers that my students were in. The kids felt comfortable with me because most of their day was spent in a classroom with native English speakers and that could be intimidating, even when they were competent in spoken, non-academic English. Although I did encourage them to do their work in the language of instruction, with me it was okay if they preferred writing in Spanish at first instead of English. I also tried to make connections between the two languages and we drew on their native culture whenever possible. I told all my students to be proud to be bilingual and not to give up their native language even if their academic work was mostly in English. I told them that being bilingual would help them get a better job in the future. (If I had not been what is considered bilingual, I doubt I would have ever gotten a teaching position in a public school system.) It was clear that I loved and respected their culture, and knew something about it.
These feelings of contentment sometimes happened outside of those three years in which I was truly happy, but three years out of 12+ years of teaching is only 25% of the time – the teaching profession is brutal these days! The other years either I had a principal that didn’t support me or didn’t care, I had either too much to manage or too little control over what I did, and/or I felt that I wasn’t appreciated or respected by the administration or my colleagues. I was only a mediocre classroom teacher – there were too many things pulling on me, I had to keep track of more tasks and more kids than I could manage well. With small groups, especially when they came to me in my classroom that was set up for their needs and mine, I was a better teacher and happier too.
But I have to say, when I was able to leave the profession and retire, I was very relieved and grateful. I hardly ever miss teaching.
- Do you agree with this saying (If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life) or is it a bunch of poppycock, and why?
Doing what you love is still work. Even those three ideal teaching years, I worked very hard – late nights planning and grading papers, early mornings preparing for the day, and I only allowed myself one day on the weekend to completely get away from my work. Ask the health care workers on the front line taking care of Covid-19 patients if they don’t consider what they are doing as work! Most people are not lucky enough to spend their working life doing what they love, and even when they do, it’s still a lot of responsibility. You can’t just take the day off because you want to. Sometimes you will be doing that part of your job that you love, when something you don’t enjoy so much imposes itself on you and you have to take care of it because that’s part of your job too. I don’t believe there is anyone on Earth who loves every minute of every day of their work – not even workaholics!
In an ideal world, we would all work less hours, have more leisure time, and the work we did would be fulfilling and a contribution to society. We would be respected for our labors. However, living in a country which values work so much that there isn’t even a law requiring employers to give their workers vacation time, this adage has even less chance of ever becoming reality!