PORTRAITS BY | THE COLAGROSSIS
Do you ever have that moment riding in the passenger seat of your friend’s car, when out of nowhere they put words to something so perfectly you just want to explode? Those “oh shit, yes!” moments are some of my favorites. It’s like an exorcism of this thing inside me that I desperately want out so I can dance with it.
Well, now it’s out. So let’s dance.
This might sound like one of those cliche, “I’m entitled to a job I love!” speeches we twenty-somethings are famous for, but it wasn’t that. It was the honest confession of a twenty-something wrestling with some gray-area questions. And she’s not alone.
Vocational values are complex. Are we supposed to love what we do? Is it ‘settling’ if we don’t? Is it a betrayal of ourselves if we don’t? Will it be obvious to the people hiring us if we don’t? How can I ever excel at something I don’t love? How will I ever make a difference if I don’t excel? Is it important to make a difference? Is it even possible? What if all I ever make is a living? Is that enough?
When I started designing, I never asked whether I loved it. I just did it. It was natural and satisfying, and I always wanted more. When design started paying the bills, I got scared. Technical proficiency wasn’t good enough. You had to have “that thing,” this elusive x-factor—inspiration, passion, soul, authenticity, originality. And now it seems like every employer in every industry wants you to have “it.” It all seems to come down to this love of your craft—this supernatural certainty of who you are and this thing you do. If you don’t have it, or lose it, you’re found wanting.
I don’t feel ENTITLED to love what I do. I really don’t. I feel REQUIRED to love what I do. I’m scared of losing this love for it that I’m honestly not sure I ever had.
I wonder if it’s a common fear. I wonder how many people feel this pressure to love what they do. How many people feel like they can’t compete in an industry with other people who love it more than they do? I wonder how many people are exhausted trying to love the thing they naturally fell into.
The purist in me wants to love my craft first and foremost…to never sell out. And I’m honestly afraid if I do sell out, I’ll be exposed as a fraud, and never get hired again. But, here’s the deal, I’m also in love with a lifestyle. It’s a lifestyle my craft makes possible today. If I can love both my lifestyle and craft, great. If I can’t, I have a choice to make, and the gray-area values start competing for head space.
There’s a part of me that begins to see I can’t always have both in my life. I see others struggling with the same dilemma, wondering whether to choose a lifestyle or a craft, or wondering what this love of a craft even feels like. We seem to be a generation pressured to know who we are and what we want most, and able to make a living that fulfills us doing it.
I’ll be the first to admit I don’t have any answers, but I love us—our band of confused twenty-somethings, our international tribe of new adults. I know this pressure, and I have the internal conflict. I want to show compassion for the dilemma we’re facing. Most of us are just trying to make a life with some integrity and maybe a little conviction, and more joy than suffering, without failing too hard or disappointing too many people. Be gentle with yourselves darlings. I see you and I’m here with you.