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Why Being Passionate about Your Career Can Drive You Nuts

A guest post by Simple Life in France

People often rail against giving up their dreams, working a 9-to-5  job they hate and having the life sucked out of them.  But what if you work atypical hours doing something you’re passionate about with an outlet for your creativity?  Are you safe from job-induced insanity?


I’m always amused when people solve the problem of work-induced stress by saying, “Just do what you love,” often followed by, “and you’ll never work a day in your life.”  Not so, I say—and here are just a few reasons:

Often work you love is precarious. Want to be an art teacher, college professor, journalist . . ?  The scarcity of stable, full time employment in these fields can leave you scrambling from one temporary gig to another with spotty health care and benefits.

The politics that arise in environments with low job security can be reminiscent of a snake-pit. I once had a long conversation with a friend who felt he’d sold out by becoming an attorney in some ways, but who enjoyed the cooperation between opposing attorneys during their cases.  I had to admit to this friend that the teachers in the school where I worked refused to share teaching ideas or collaborate because they were in direct competition with each other for their jobs.  Not quite what I’d envisioned when I took up my passion.

When you believe in what you do, you tend to take it home with you—literally and figuratively. Journalists, writers, teachers, musicians, artists (etc.) tend to mull over projects constantly, not simply while they are at work.  You may find yourself putting in extra (unpaid) hours because you enjoy what you do and want to do your best.

Your passion can become corrupted by the employer-employee relationship. When you believe in what you do, you’re likely to have strong opinions about how it should be done. You may have an idea about how you want a specific graphic design project to turn out, but your employer doesn’t agree. You may have a strong opinion on student/teacher ratio that doesn’t jibe with the state budget.  Your editor may request changes in your writing in the name of marketability.

When someone else pays you to do something you’re passionate about, you often find yourself trying to decide whether to compromise, to subvert or to leave.

Passionate about your career? Should you abandon all hope?

That sounds like a personal question to me.  I must admit that for all the drawbacks I found in working in a field I love, I’ve never quite been able to imagine myself doing something else.  Although on occasion, I gaze wistfully at friends who are bored with their work but can come home, put up their feet, drink a beer and forget all about it.

What do you think?  Where do you find the balance between work and passion?

Enjoy these other posts at Simple in France:

The Slippery Smell of Clean and its Costs
Nearing Nine Months in France

Village Idiots at our Table, Pallets Under our Bed

14 thoughts on “Why Being Passionate about Your Career Can Drive You Nuts”

  1. This is wonderful and thought-provoking, free of the “follow your passion”/”do what you love…” cliches. As with anything, passions can change. For instance, I went into academics b/c I loved reading/teaching. The publishing side–not so passionate about. And, of course, no one tells you that the whole profession is about patronage and coteries–like the court of Queen Elizabeth I. Yuk! Same for other professions, I’m sure.

  2. Frugal Scholar–hah! “patronage and coteries–like the court of Queen Elizabeth I” Sounds like an apt description for some of the places I’ve worked and studied (even at the high school level if you can believe it!)

    I didn’t want to burst anyone’s bubble about doing what you love. . .I just wanted to add a little “b-flat” to the music, as the French say.

  3. Hmm, this post really made sense to me. I did a PhD and then lived precariously as a writer, freelancing for a number of years. A non-work-related life crisis led to my jacking that in and getting a regular job in an unrelated field. It was one of the better decisions I have made. I’m interested in the work I do but I haven’t sold my soul to it. I realized I’m the kind of person who can’t really cope with not knowing where my next paycheck is coming from, plus I agree with all the points made above about the drawbacks of depending on your ‘passion’ to pay the bills. Makes me think of that joke about why academic spats are always so very vicious. Because the stakes are so low 😉

  4. This is part of why I quit my job last year!
    Passion for work CAN be nice … but in the end, it’s always going to be a job, and no job is free of politics, paperwork, stupidity, etc. I feel like I was sold a major bill of goods in my early 20s about the importance of finding work I was passionate about. Oh well, now that I’ve peeked behind the curtain, I’m free! 🙂

  5. Kate–whenever I hear that someone has a PhD, I feel slightly jealous–because I love to learn . . .that said, I chose not to get one because I was friendly with many people with PhD’s when I was in the University setting and I heard about the precarious nature of the academic world plus the viciousness–the viciousness really decided it for me. I taught high school and the viciousness was less, but still there . . .

    Emily–“now that I’ve peaked behind that curtain, I’m free!” What a great comment. I’m on (ahem!) an extended break from employment these days. And when I think of going back, I actually think I may try something I’m not particularly passionate about–possibly something with self-employment possibilities. Here in France, there’s a lot of work for people who are willing to check on elderly people and handicapped people in their homes, make sure they have everything they need, etc. While it doesn’t sound like something I’d be passionate about–it’s good honest work that I could feel good about doing, but that won’t be all consuming.

  6. @ Early Retirement Extreme: LOL! It’s entirely possible. I’m pretty sure we weren’t all crazy when GDU hired us. uhmmm….i don’t think….

  7. I find the balance my reminding myself that the work will be there tomorrow, so I should go home and do other things that I like. I make my personal satisfaction a priority.

  8. @ Broke by Choice: Yes! That’s an insight that some of us have a hard time figuring out. I recall it hit me like some sort of revelation…hey! you don’t have to do all this today! It’s still gunna be here tomorrow!! That helped a lot with the stress. And the work got done on time anyway.

  9. I just typed “I’m passionate about the environment but no one else is”, and this article was one of the first hits. Thanks, I needed to see this. So what if I’m the only employee at my school who insists on reusing and recycling? I appreciate the advice that “it will be there tomorrow” — yes it will, and now I can sleep :o) Most appreciated.

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