I was a cranky Kat last week. Come to think of it, I was kind of cranky the week before that, too. I think I realized tonight what was making me Mrs. Cranky McNastypants.
Ironically, somewhere in the last year or so, just as I found myself in the admittedly enviable position of being able to do what I really enjoy for a living, I stopped enjoying it. I was so darned determined to prove to people that I’m good at what I do, I turned what should have been a calling into a “job.”
When you’re in your calling, what you feel should mostly be joy. Something about the work connects with something deep inside you. You’re doing what you were made to do, and that should feel good. And I know this because I have felt that over the last year or so. But for the last few months, it was becoming less frequent, just as the progression of events in my vocational life should have made it more often.
I’m not saying you don’t have aggravations and frustrations when you’re working in your calling. There will always be jerks, and weenies, and infuriating technical snafus. But I wasn’t enjoying the work itself. It had become labor.
I did a little etymological research. The root for the word “work” is related to “activity” and “accomplishment.” “Vocation” comes from the root word for “voice”–meaning something is calling to you; which is why “vocation” and “calling” are such close synonyms. “Labor,” however, comes from a root word that means “totter, slip, or sleep.”
When you’re awake to your calling, your work does give you a sense of accomplishment. You feel that you’re getting somewhere, that you’re completing your opus, or at least contributing to it. But when you’re slipping out of touch with your soul, your deep inner self, you totter into labor, and you lose consciousness of why you’re putting forth that effort.
Okay, enough with the big words and the heavy stuff. That’s not the main point of this post.
Have I ever told you the story of how I got involved in social media, online communities, and blogging in the first place? No? Maybe elsewhere? It’s an interesting story, that. I’ll probably share it here soon.
At any rate, there was a time when talking with other folks online, getting to know them and letting them get to know me, was fun. Sharing stories and hearing what people had to say about them was fun. Figuring out how to write a title so that people absopositivenlutely had to click on it and read the post, was fun. Learning and teaching and mentoring and being mentored online was fun.
And then, sometime after I started getting paid to do those things, I think the guilt hit. I love my parents and grandparents, but quite frankly, growing up I got the very strong impression that work was supposed to be a miserable, hard, difficult thing. If it wasn’t, you probably weren’t doing it right. Or, more to the point, if it wasn’t, you were probably not putting in a hard day’s work. This meant you were, as my granny would say, a hippie. Or just plain lazy. Let’s just say my elders did not really grok Csizsentmihaly’s concept of flow.
I also have a large number of loved ones who would very much like to be doing something they really enjoyed for a living. As much as they’ve tried to be happy for me as my vocational life kept getting better, I can’t help but feel an undercurrent of envy. Whether it’s a true reflection of their feelings or not, I kept imagining them thinking “What on earth did she do to deserve this?” So anyway. Guilt. Lotta guilt.
I started trying to make my work seem more like, well, work. I got deadly flipping serious. About everything. I lost the playfulness, sense of exploration and lighthearted curiosity that made this work my métier in the first place.
Part of this is a function of my personality type. When I’m in a healthy place, my humor and idealism shine through. When I’m in a less-healthy spot, I get increasingly “heavy” (metaphorically, spiritually and physically–I gain weight when I’m down).
So this week, I’m resolving to unload the guilt, recapture my joy and start having fun again. Online. Offline. At work. In my marriage. With my kids. With my other relationships.
Because truthfully, that’s the only way I can be really good at any of those things.