Real Talk: What Are You Working For?

We give all our precious time to our careers -- is it all worth it?

Just before I reached my senior year of college, I told my father I wasn’t going to law school. I declared I was going to be a writer.

He blank-faced me. “That’s a hobby, not a career,” he said.

I tried to persuade him with my best arguments: I’d been a magazine junkie since I was 12, I enjoyed writing and reading and researching so much, I’d completed all of the credits in my major (English) by Junior year, and my professors all said I was really good at it. And, I loved doing it. I’d be happy.

More blank stares. “A job,” he began, “isn’t supposed to be liked. It’s supposed to pay the bills.”

Is it?

I hadn’t thought about that conversation in years -- obviously I didn’t listen to his advice -- until I was reading a Huffington Post article by Jessica Pearce Rotondi, “I Wish I Had Enjoyed It More': Is Working So Hard Worth It?”

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After hearing Barbara Walters lament that she wished she had enjoyed her work more, Rotondi began to ponder what women are working so hard for and if they're giving up family, friends and fun in the process.

"Is it worth it,” one woman pondered, “to work this hard at this point in my life and give up time with my friends and family or just having a weekend to myself so maybe in my 30s I can take a breather and figure out my next step and have a really substantial chunk of money to help me figure it out?” one of the women Rotondi quoted wondered. “I don't know."

Like Rotondi and plenty of other women, I’ve found myself wondering what’s worth it. I've concluded the answer depends on whether you enjoy it.

As the sign above my desk, and taped to my door (so it’s the last thing I see when I leave the house) reads: “This is your life. Do what you love, And do it often. If you don’t like something, change it. Life is short. Live your dream. And share your passion.” (The author is anonymous.)

That doesn’t mean quit your job today. (Although that actually is a suggestion on the sign for people who don’t like their jobs.) It does mean you should be working toward doing something that fulfills you and gives you purpose -- at least as a side hustle.

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I spent last evening with a friend from college. B. and I moved from Maryland to New York around the same time, when we were 23, bright-eyed and dreaming big. I was an assistant at a government job, he was making ends meet by helping out a party promoter. I was freelancing at night as a writer, he was working 16-hour days trying to build his own clientele. Between the day-jobs and the side hustles, we spent our 20s working non-stop. Seven (or so) years later, he owns one of the most popular nightclubs in DC; I became an editor, then an author.

Was working so hard toward a dream worth it?

Unequivocally, yes... to us.

Is it worth it to you?
 
Demetria L. Lucas is the Relationships Editor at ESSENCE and the author of "A Belle in Brooklyn: Your Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria) in stores now. Ask her your dating and relationship questions on Formspring.me/abelleinbk

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