Your Job or Your Passion: What Defines You?

Since we can't always love what we do, we need to find a way to still do what we love.

By , Columnist

The other day, one of my friends shared a New York Times op-ed piece which addresses the misconceptions some people more "experienced" in the ways of the world think are ruining the expectations of new college graduates. The author of this particular piece says, "Today's grads enter a cultural climate that preaches the self as the center of a life. But, of course, as they age, they'll discover that the tasks of a life are at the center. Fulfillment is a byproduct of how people engage in their tasks, and can't be pursued directly."

For me, this brings to mind a scene in the musical Across the Universe, wherein a stuffy uncle, sitting at the Thanksgiving dinner table, tells his nephew that "what you do defines who you are." His nephew, a college kid with dreams of freeing his mind and moving to Greenwich Village, retorts that, instead, "who you are defines what you do."

The author, like the stuffy uncle in the Beatles-inspired film, seems stuck in this antiquated mentality. He says that "Most people don't form a self and then lead a life. They are called by a problem, and the self is constructed gradually by their calling." If that's true, then I need to find a new job.

Adaptability is an invaluable trait in the job market, particularly one that's as tenuous and challenging as the one most college grads -- and thousands of other job-seekers -- have recently been dropped into. You must learn to evaluate the skills you possess and find creative and innovative ways to apply them. And yes, that often means sucking it up, suppressing some part of yourself or your dreams, and taking a job that will bring in a regular paycheck. The idea that what we do for nine hours per day, especially if it's something we're not passionate about, should be allowed to define who we are is an absolutely miserable one, and one that I refuse to accept.

The beautiful thing about being young and adaptable is not only that we can fit ourselves into just about any job out there; it's that we don't always have to choose between making ends meet and loving what we do. One of my friends, a web designer by trade, teaches cycling classes after hours because she's enjoys biking and helping others; another, a data analyst, makes wedding cakes because there's a certain kind of happiness that numbers just don't bring her. Me? I'm a marketing exec by day and a freelance writer and blogger by night, because there's no amount of client interaction that brings me the joy that writing does.

Since we can't always love what we do, we need to find a way to still do what we love. Discover even small ways to cater to your passions -- those things that make you feel like you're hopped up on caffeine because you're so happy to be doing them -- because otherwise, you're doing yourself a grave disservice: otherwise, you're not really living, just surviving.

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Emmie Scott is an English major-turned-marketing exec, with a passion for writing, humor, sharing knowledge, and "pink drinks." After hours, she started Are Toe Rings Professional Attire?, a blog for college grads and twenty-somethings looking to find their way through that daunting labyrinth called…

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