It’s no secret that, three years ago, I quit my regular, full-time, 9-5 job to chase my dream of becoming a writer. I was feeling restless and chaotic at the time, a little trapped and bored, and wondered if there was something better “out there”. Besides, I had wanted to be a writer my whole life.
So I pulled the plug.
Photo Credit: Naim Naim, Creative Commons
It was going to be great, I decided. I had visions of myself tucked away in a coffee shop somewhere, gripping a steaming cup of something, committing words to paper as they spontaneously burst into my head. In the movie that played in my head, I was always smiling and sort of looking up toward heaven. It was so nice.
But that dream never came true.
Instead, what I experienced when I quit working for someone else, and began working for myself, was mostly the same stuff: Stress, confusion, chaos, apathy, frustration, even boredom at times.
Except now I was broke. Like really, really broke.
I blew through my savings in the first year, and was living paycheck-to-paycheck after that. There were moments when I wasn’t sure how I was going to pay rent or buy groceries.
After the second year, I had liquidated nearly everything valuable I owned (except my computer, which I needed to keep writing) and, as if that wasn’t enough, I was working double the hours I had been working when I had a normal job. There were a ton of reasons for this, most of which involved my own naivete and error.
But the point is this: Quitting my job didn’t solve my problems.
Lately, things are going much better for me — financially and otherwise. Again, there are a million reasons for this, none of which I have space to explain here.
But it occurred to me the other day that, although I am now successfully self-employed, I have a 9-5.
I wake up early in the morning, make coffee, and get started working about the same time as everyone else. I take a break for lunch, right around noon. Sometimes work into the evenings, or on Saturdays (because I like the work I do) but I usually lay pretty low on the weekends. I even “pay” myself a salary from a savings account at the beginning of each month.
I don’t expect you to care about how often I work, or how I pay myself, but the point is this:
There’s nothing wrong with a 9-5.
There’s so much talk of quitting your job these days, people who know my story often ask me this question: “Should I quit my 9-5?” Up until recently, I’ve had a hard time answering them. I say things like, “Well, it’s not for the faint of heart,” or “It’s not as glamorous as it seems,” or “it won’t solve your problems.”
And those things are all true.
But more recently I realized something I hadn’t thought of before. The problem isn’t our jobs. The problem is the lack of purpose and meaning we feel in our lives.
This is an important realization, because this means two things.
First, it means you might not need to quit your job. You might find your 9-5 to be extremely meaningful and purposeful. You might be wake up everyday excited to go to work and be a part of a team of people who are making an impact on the world.
If that’s the case, count your blessings. You’re among the few.
But, if you hate your job, consider that it might not be about the job itself. By that I mean, perhaps you’ve been showing up for your job everyday for the past weeks, months or years, simply because it pays the rent or buys the groceries. Maybe you are being dutiful and obedient to take care of your family (which is a purpose unto itself).
Or maybe you just want a new car. I don’t know.
What I do know is that, if you haven’t considered the greater impact your work has on you and your community, your job will feel miserable.
If that’s you, ask yourself this question: Why does my job matter? If I stopped doing it, what would happen?
I believe it is possible to find purpose and meaning, no matter what you do. Sometimes we need a change of circumstance, but often what we need is simply a change of perspective.
Meaning takes work to find. But finding it could make all the difference in the world.