By Buddy Early, January 2020 Issue.
My senior year in high school I wrote in multiple yearbooks: “Watch for me on Saturday Night Live.” That’s when I thought I was really funny. More importantly, that’s when other people thought I was really funny. For more than a decade, though, I actually had the privilege of performing live comedy. The dream of doing it as a career did not exactly rise to the level of a goal. Neither did my dream of being a talk show host. Or a professional game show contestant.
However, I did get to work as a writer and editor for 12 years. I’ve had a love for stringing words together since I wrote my first horror story about an ill-fated trip to the White House with my sixth-grade class – a story that resulted in the brutal murders of each of them. We’re talking decapitations and swallowing IEDs and other red flag stuff. (I was working through some issues … apparently.) The point is, I was able to do what I love for a considerable period of my life, before switching things up and going to work at places that merely allow me to make ends meet.
There’s a popular saying that goes “Do what you love and you will never work a day in your life.” Another saying goes “If you don’t love what you’re doing, quit.” When someone utters one of those phrases to you feel free to respond with a saying that goes “Get the hell outta here!”
Only about 13 percent of Americans are working at jobs they truly love, which is a statistic I made up but sounds totally reasonable. Most of us are working to pay the bills and I’m here to say there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing wrong with quitting and pursuing your dream, either; but do it because you want to, and not because you’ve been shamed into thinking you should want to.
While working jobs I tolerate but don’t love, I have been able to find satisfaction and purpose in them. And I carve out a few hours each week to do what I love. (I mean, you’re reading this, aren’t you?) Having after-hours pursuits helps make the more dreaded aspects of the 9 to 5 endurable, even during those times I wish my workplace had a “Kiss ‘n Cry” area – you know, like in the Olympic figure skating arena.
At the risk of sounding like your high school guidance counselor who told you to look into trade schools, I believe every job has value. Ok, maybe not the ones that require employees to call me 27 times a week with great deals on windshield replacement; I’m not here to defend those people. But the rest of us. Whether we are handling auto insurance claims (like me), or serving coffee, or doing other people’s taxes, or dressing up like a woman and moving your lips to hits of the 70s, 80s, 90s and today … there’s no shame in doing a job that isn’t your greatest passion.
To be fair, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a drag queen say, “I do this because it’s the only job I could get.” But I have met a ton of them, and it seems completely plausible.
Sometimes the worst part of my day is simply being cursed at by someone who has also compared me to Hitler and, honestly, I’ve been called worse. (If you think there’s nothing worse you could be called besides “Hitler,” you haven’t participated in the comments section of an azcentral.com story.) And sometimes the best part of my day is getting an elevator to myself so I can pick my nose during the 12-second trip to the 7th floor. I figure it all balances out.
I wasn’t always this comfortable with my station in life. For years I spent all my free time searching for another job, because the one I had wasn’t my dream career. I used to sleepwalk through my day. But I’ve made tremendous progress. I no longer respond to a co-worker asking me “Why are you still here?” and referring to me working past my shift with “Because I haven’t found anything better yet.” And when a newer employee asks me if I am too busy to offer help, I restrain myself from telling them “I’m currently working on a hilarious meme featuring that blonde lady and the cat. Yes, Gloria, I am busy!”
And even though I still scroll immediately to the bottom of a letter from the CEO to see if there is mention of a monetary award or cake, I have learned how to take pride in a job that isn’t my dream.
Now I’m working on accepting a different phenomenon: how some person you barely know brings in peanut butter cookies or baked mac ‘n cheese and we’re all “Sure, I’ll eat that.”