“Do a job you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life!”
As people who love our journalism careers, let us count the ways we hate this philosophy. With BSR’s first-ever publication hiatus coming up August 2 through 16, it’s a good time to talk about this.
“Do a job you love...” is one of the craftiest aphorisms out there. On the surface, it promotes enjoyment, fulfilment, and productivity all in one. How can you argue with a worldview that looks forward to clocking in and insists on getting the most out of life?
Beyond the choice
A successful working life is just like a good relationship. Choose the right person up front—the person who meshes with you, shares your goals, and enjoys the same things—and you’re set for life, safe from the effort and the heartache other people will have to put into their relationships when they realize it’s not a perfect match, but love each other enough to persevere.
Wait. No. That’s not how it works. Even the most compatible partners will field conflict, grief, disappointment, crisis, and the ongoing need for some degree of privacy and autonomy. Anyone who’s had a mutually satisfying partnership of any length knows this. So why do we listen to crap that says a satisfying work life is all about choosing the right job?
We love our work in arts journalism, but when we finish a 10-hour day of fielding and answering emails, writing, editing, formatting, planning, scheduling, consulting, networking, researching, and doing interviews, you better believe we are tired. No matter how much you love your own job, we bet you can relate to that feeling at the end of the day.
Instead of approaching your career as if the most important thing is choosing it (something you love!), how about approaching it with a philosophy of balance? You’re going to get frustrated. Tired. Jaded. But that’s ok as long as you’re building in time to rest and recover.
Are you what you do?
And there’s another reason “do a job you love…” is so slippery. While ostensibly describing a kind of fun-house life where you never dread a workday, it’s promoting the harmful fallacy that your identity and your productivity are inseparable.
When you can’t walk away from your work—when your sense of your own self is bound up in it, when you measure your value as a person by what you can produce—it’s time to reframe. It’s time to reinvest. It’s time to take a break.
Intention vs. the grind
Over the last decade, it’s become easy to buy into what we call grind culture. You’ve seen the memes: rise and grind! Always a hustler! It certainly feels great to “get things done.” But once everything tied itself into that obsession, we got distracted by algorithms and posting every day, and accepted less than our worth. We glorified long work days, as if it was self-actualizing to work a dozen hours a day just to barely make ends meet.
It’s important to move with intention, and grind culture disrupts that flow. Without rest, we aren’t allowing ourselves the time to heal. Without rest, we are losing touch with one of our basic human needs. Without rest, we’re on autopilot, moving without purpose.
This has been a challenging year. A pandemic is unraveling our already-broken systems in America. It’s taken almost 150,000 lives and counting. It’s forcing us to reconsider ourselves and how our world works. We’re facing the fact that we’ve been operating with inequitable, unsustainable means, without support that could exist if we had the time and the energy to push for it. The civil-rights protests sweeping the country since May could never have happened on this scale if ordinary life in the US hadn’t been on pause since March. Change is arriving, and it’s because we had the time to rest, to reflect, and to act with intention.
The spirit of sustainability
The relentless rise-and-grind life isn’t solved by one vacation—and many of us who end up in a punishing work schedule (even if we love the job) labor under structures that systematically devalue workers and their quality of life. But as long as taking a break means not only our own wellbeing, but time and space to activate for justice, rest is an essential part of the protester’s toolkit. Protest can mean a lot of things, including intentional action to broaden accessibility and inclusion in your industry. Protest can also mean elevating standard pay, fighting for better work conditions, and exposing the harm of systemic oppression masquerading as a culture of “hard work.” Everything we do at BSR, including taking a rest, is in the spirit of continuing that effort.
BSR is taking time off to restore our flow, to consider our intention, and keep boosting the arts in a brand new world. For the next two weeks, look out for Wednesday newsletters (not subscribed? Sign up here) sharing some of our most-read and most thought-provoking pieces from the last few years. We’ll be back with new stories the week of August 16, and of course, welcome our readers to 15 years' worth of BSR articles still live during our break.
And in the spirit of sustainability and rest for our team, we’ll mention that your donations power our future—our work, and the breathing room that makes our work possible. We have a job we love, and we’re going to keep that energy by taking care of ourselves. We hope you can do the same.