I'm convinced a lot of us like to believe the shortest distance from point A to B is a straight line. That's a nice thought though. Really, wouldn't life be so much easier? The reality, I've learned, is that life looks more like a giant, haphazard scribble drawn by my 2 year-old daughter. You can't tell where it ends or where it begins. But it's more interesting and beautiful.
I've had this thought bouncing around in my head lately about not doing what you love. Which is not to say I think people shouldn't follow what they are passionate about. (Side note: "doing" when referenced here is different than "pursuing"). In short, from my experience, to pursue what you love, what really makes you come alive, requires a long road of doing what you don't love. Then, and only then, will you have gained the experience and confidence to know what you do not want to do again. But then, even when you reach the point of pursuing what you love, it still challenges you to do the things you thought you'd never do again. Damn you irony!
Long before there was social media, in the early days of the internet, I walked into a boardroom with nothing but one of those giant black zip-up art portfolios under my arm to present at my interview for a summer graphic design internship. This was the summer of 2001. Between that summer and 2012 I walked a long, hard road of experiences that would help shape and prepare me for what I'm doing now. Those 11 years taught me how to look doubt, fear, and success square in the eyes and not shy away from what they were trying to teach me. That decade was a long damn time. And if you're assuming from my first internship I went on to work my way up in the design world you'd be wrong. I had much to learn.
One of those long, hard roads I've had to walk is getting over my entitlement. I've always had great expectations for life, but lacking the gumption to make it happen. Feeling like I deserve better, but not proving myself worthy. It's probably one of the biggest reasons I worked so many part-time jobs in my early 20's. Everything from shipping boxes to washing golf-carts to selling used books and once for a week serving ice cream and having to sing on queue whenever somebody left a tip. That was how motivated I was. Then coming out the other side of a 4-year service in the military I was afraid of going right back into my old habits. But I'll never forget my AHA! moment while standing in the isle of a bookstore one night where I was working, just a month after settling back into normal life, and knew this couldn't be it. I knew I couldn't go back to the way things were before.
I wouldn't let myself settle.
From then on I've continued to push myself and rise above the challenges to meet my passion in practical pursuits. There is never any secret to someones success. There is only one foot in front of the other. There will always be someone ahead of and behind you. There will always be an unfair advantage. There will always be an excuse not to do it. But you have the choice to just go with the flow and take life as it comes to you, or choose to go overboard, splash around in the water like a crazy person, find your way to the shoreline and start to carve a new path for yourself. And that's how I've felt. Mostly like a crazy person though. It's never a short distance. It's like how I hate running down a straight road, because when I can see the end it starts to taunt me with how far away it is. But when I choose to divert from the path it becomes interesting with each new twist and turn and hill to climb. But then again I'm always up for a good challenge.
So I propose we forget the phrase "just do what you love" because it's exhausting and misleading. We need less instant gratification and more patience in our practice. I am constantly faced with being patient in my work between balancing home life and work life. However, I'm stronger because of it. But I know not everyone out there has a family. So I won't act as if you do. But when we allow ourselves time away from our work to focus on other important areas of life it adds a new perspective.