Jobs and romance are exactly alike. The same sorts of myths about perfection and fate and destiny are attached to both. In many ways, what people imagine about a “dream job” is a lot like a “dream wedding.”
But do you even have a dream job?
I know I never did, until I did.
I had no idea whatsoever what I wanted to do. All I knew was what I didn’t like about whatever I was currently doing.
I hated getting up so early and commuting. I hated having a dress code and I felt very intimidated by that each day. Roughest of all was managing my attitude and facial expressions around customers and coworkers, no matter what they were doing or how I was feeling.
When I imagined having a better job - not a “dream job,” mind you - all I could think about was earning more money doing basically the same thing.
It wasn’t even in my mental landscape what would be different if I did earn more.
I couldn’t really imagine living in my own place and not needing roommates. I couldn’t really imagine having my own washer and dryer and not having to haul everything to the laundry room. I couldn’t even imagine being able to afford to go on a vacation.
There wasn’t even really a connection in my mind between the way I lived/struggled and the amount I earned in a month or a year. I was thinking one week at a time.
There was a blank cloud in my heart where “dream job” could go, and all that was in there was “earn more money somehow.” Which basically translated as “be less broke.”
I didn’t particularly know anyone who had a great job. If I met someone like a nurse or an engineer, all I knew was that I wasn’t qualified to do those things. There wasn’t anything magnetically attractive about those careers to me.
It’s different now. I’ve met all sorts of people who do all sorts of fascinating things. Opera singers and martial arts instructors, astronauts and surgeons, public speaking coaches and restaurant owners, hair stylists and plumbers.
We grew up.
In your forties and fifties, a lot of people have had time to figure out what they want to do, and they’re either doing it or training for it.
In my twenties I hung around with people my own age. Almost everyone I knew either worked in retail or as a waiter, except for one guy who worked in a hotel laundry and obtained a lot of second-hand tablecloths for our theater experiments. I was one of the only people in our friend group who had an office job.
What I learned to appreciate about my boring, dull office job was that I knew I would have Saturday and Sunday off, not just a week in advance but *years* in advance.
So much of a dream job has to do with the lifestyle around it, not the work itself.
Hair stylists are an example. From my perspective, they’re on their feet all day long! I always ask, when I’m getting a trim, “Did you always want to cut hair?” Almost every time, they answer that they started when they were kids, cutting their friends’ hair, and they can’t imagine doing anything else. There must be something compelling about spinning someone around in the chair to marvel at the transformation you have just worked. There’s also no real upper limit to how much a hair stylist can earn or the level of fame and prestige of their clients.
I learned to cut hair in 2020, first my husband’s and now my own. It turns out that it’s kinda fun. It is satisfying to see that you’re up to at least the level of a $6 barber. It’s also made me even more inclined to appreciate the artistry of a good stylist and eager to pay someone else to do it.
I’ve arrived at my personal dream job after learning about, and ruling out, a lot of other professions. I realized that I didn’t want to run my own business because I’d have to spend so much time hustling and marketing and promoting whatever I was doing. I knew I didn’t want to do anything that involved working nights, weekends, or holidays. I didn’t want to drive from site to site.
As I looked around, I realized that what I loved was the predictability and decorum of the business world. There’s a code of conduct - one that I didn’t understand quite so well when I was younger, but that makes me feel at home now. I think business jargon is funny and endearing, but we can circle back to that.
It happened when I was just an impressionable child. I saw “His Gal Friday” and the arrow struck me in the heart. When I grew up, I would need to work in an office with a typewriter and that’s all there was to it.
What would I be doing with that typewriter? Who cares?
I call my job my “dream job” because I had in mind a specific position in a specific company. When the opening came up, nobody could have been more enthusiastic than me. THIS job! Working for the specific person I had in mind! In the interview, I said I wasn’t even applying anywhere else, that my passion was for sending things to space and becoming part of a multi-planetary civilization. That I could see myself spending the next twenty years there.
Not everyone who works where I work is all that enamored of the space industry. That is strange to me because many of the jobs are prosaic, the likes of which can be found in any industry. Planners and purchasers and managers and recruiters and facilities crew and security and all the rest. Not everyone does orbital mechanics or propulsion engineering, although if you do, DM me, we’re hiring. I just would have figured that every space geek in the world would want to work in a place like this, and there wouldn’t be room for someone who would just as soon be working for a sports franchise or a mortgage bank.
The first secret of having a dream job is to have a field that you find incredibly interesting. The second secret is that the more you learn about it, the more interesting it gets. At that point, even a straightforward and unglamorous role can at least feel like something dynamic and purposeful.
A dream job isn’t like a dollar bill that you find in the street. It’s a starting point. It’s a role. Just like the fabled “dream wedding,” it’s not over when you get your offer letter. It’s a relationship that is just beginning.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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