Thanks to the COVID pandemic, many industries have been greatly impacted and some are likely to never return to their former glory. This means that many people are now looking into entirely new jobs or careers.
Much like there are no perfect relationships, there are no perfect jobs. Every single one will include arduous, frustrating, difficult and maddening elements because every single one of those things is a part of life, and any job is just another aspect of our lives.
All that being the case, what makes one job right for us when another is not? Because the fact that every job will include the aforementioned downsides, means that we cannot love a job strictly in the ‘it makes me happy’ sense. So how do people make it through those tough times?
For us to be truly committed to anything (a job, a person, a cause), we don’t just love it in the caring sense –we must also love it in the way that incites an impulsive sense of commitment in us. It’s a powerful force that even kept soldiers fighting for complete strangers, during WWII.
We want to care for our work the same way we would care for a beloved child or our parent or spouse. Despite whatever frustrations they offer, these are things we cannot help but care about. These are things we need to do. These will not always be things we want to do.
Caring for my parents is the hardest thing I have ever done on every level. What makes it easy is that it’s compulsive. It comes from my core. My promise and commitment to my parents is something I gave them, but it exists within me as the way my love for them manifests, regardless of that promise.
I only made the offer to care for them because that felt genuinely more important to me than what I wanted to do for myself. People who have given up important things for their kids will know this feeling well.
This means I can be terrified of the responsibility, of the costs financially, socially and personally, and yet I still cannot stop myself from doing it because I cannot stand to see it not being done properly. It is simply how my love for them manifests. If I relax into that, I’m fine.
If no one else will protect them, and they cannot do it for themselves, then like some promised Samurai or Knight, a sense of internal honour guides me. It removes my doubts and turns them into actions.
We all know these seemingly irrational choices –where we choose what is good for our ‘tribe’ rather than ourselves. It’s why parents will fight cougars to save their kids. It’s why there are people we would give a kidney to.
As many parents know, entire decades can be sacrificed to the needs of children. Parents can even wonder what the point of being alive is, since they so rarely address their own needs. But despite all of that, looking back, those times are often recalled very fondly, because to be in service of something outside of ourselves is when we are not thinking about life, but we are living it instead.
While it may seem more noble to extend this sort of unconditional love to a loved one, we are our own loved ones when it comes to our work. So we should offer ourselves the same level of respect and compassion. We should look for the work we cannot stand seeing left undone.
The danger a doctor or nurse or support staff face when managing COVID patients is real, but the commitment of the medical staff exists despite it. The danger a police officer or firefighter faces is very real, but their sense of justice and desire to protect can easily override their own sense of personal safety.
But the commitments are just as useful and clear when they are not life and death. If we cannot stand to see something disorganized, and we would take our lunch hour to organize the stock room, then organization is our impulse and we should seek work that makes use of that need, that desire, that love.
If we love to talk we should look for work that involves talking. If we research things incessantly even when we don’t need do, then that’s a telling impulse. If we prefer to be in motion and don’t feel comfortable when we’re sitting still, then delivering things or working in warehouses becomes satisfying.
…we are our own loved ones when it comes to our work.
We want to stop looking for things that will impress us or others. We want to look for things that service our impulses. So our first job is to assess ourselves by reviewing our lives and by asking others. In many cases, others will know our impulses far more clearly than we will.
Once we have figured out what we find it imperative to do, doing it becomes the sort of ‘easy’ that leads to a rewarding life. It’s not easy because it’s fun. It’s easy because it’s ours.
And if you’re like me, and COVID has you considering taking on the caregiving of a loved one, then please know it is extremely hard on many fronts. But for the right person, it’s like the right job. The work itself feels inevitable.
There’s a nice ease to life if we can just come to accept that our most rewarding feelings can come from work we may have felt was either unsuited to us, or even beneath us. Because that’s what humility and a sense of service can give us. It can create greater connections with those around us. And it turns out that having those connections is the best form of care we can give to ourselves.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.