Two of the most conflicting messages I’ve seen is that a) you’re supposed to figure what you’re passionate about and follow it, and b) you’re not supposed to let your work rule your life. While I completely understand why these opposing ideas exist and what they’re teaching us—finding yourself, staying balanced—sometimes it’s hard to know what you’re actually supposed to do.
I don’t think there’s a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer, but what I do believe (and have learned in my own journey) is that sometimes your work defines you. And that’s okay.
Sometimes you are led by your passions, so much so that they become everything—your career, your livelihood, and what you love. There’s excitement that’s sparked in you and you can’t simply walk away from what fires you up. And that’s a good thing.
Sometimes society shames us for focusing too much of our time and attention on work. And trust me I get it. Work-life balance is something I’m learning and constantly writing about. But there’s something to be said for letting what you do shape who you are (in positive ways).
There’s something to be said about following your heart. And when you love the work you do—lean into that, rather than feel ashamed.
We’re constantly defined by the pieces of our lives, but why can’t this be a cause for celebration?
I knew I wanted to be a writer since I was young. It wasn’t until I started creating my online image and building my websites and published pieces, though, that I came to be ‘known’ for and by my words. Now, if you Google me, you’ll see stories and personal essays I’ve published, articles on business-building, interviews on entrepreneurship, and a whole mess of other exciting, messy, and defining content.
My writing has become my identity. It’s what I do for a living. And it’s also what I do for fun.
But if you read business and career articles, you’ll see people cautioning to create space between what you do for work and what you do for entertainment. You’ll see advice that tells you to create space between your job and your personal life. And you’ll see piece after piece on the balance between the hours you spend on the job and the hours you spend doing things you love.
But what if those hours are indistinguishable?
Something I’ve experienced quite often in my journey is what I call ‘work shaming.’ I’ve had people say I work too much, that I should learn how to relax, that I should appreciate the value of my time off, and that I should ‘stop writing and actually do something for a change’ among many other perhaps well-meaning but pretty rude comments.
I can laugh these comments off now, but when I was first starting my career they really hurt. I always felt the need to justify the things I loved, to explain why I was working, and to feel guilty over pulling long hours or waking up at strange times to get my writing done.
But truthfully, people judge what they don’t understand. And if you’re a passionately creative person like me, you just have to accept that there’s some things that will set you apart from the crowd.
But the things that set you apart should will you with pride, not shame.
There’s so much work shaming in contemporary culture. I get why it’s there—some of us really do work too much and have forgotten the value of slowing down. But that doesn’t always apply, especially when you love what you do.
If you love what you do, you shouldn’t feel bad about that.
If you like waking up at the crack of dawn to get projects done, if you like staying up late to create art, if you enjoy spending your weekends painting rather than going out with friends—that’s okay. I’ll repeat that, it’s okay.
Everyone’s journey is so different and not meant to look like anyone else’s.
Some of us work nine to five, some of us work early mornings, and some of us set our own, sporadic ours. Some of us have one job and some of us work multiple. Some of us are good at taking breaks and some of us just like to power though. Some of us are in a place that’s temporary, just hoping to get by and some of us have found the job of our dreams.
But wherever you are and whatever you do, you owe no one an explanation.
Sometimes work is just a piece of your life and sometimes your work defines you—and if it does, be proud of that.