Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Boomer Calling

Recently, I was reading Penelope Trunk's blog and she talked about not choosing a career based on the often recited professorial advice "Do what you love" and it really got me thinking. Where did this idea of your career being your "calling" come from?

When I was in high school and college - and even for the first five or so years of my career - I subscribed to the notion that you are meant to do a specific job - a divine calling, if you will. Although I did not realize it at the time, this idea made me miserable, because at the end of the day, a job is a job, because they pay you to do the work.

So where did I get this idea from? The "follow your bliss" career advice? Teachers, mostly. Babyboomer teachers to be more specific. The same Babyboomers who are the self-proclaimed workaholics (just google "boomer" and "workaholic" and see how many sites pop up).

I was in church a couple weeks ago and our pastor, who is a feminist nun, talked about how our job is not our calling. Our calling is about the people in our life and our relationships with them.

So if that's true (and I believe it is), then what's up with this "job as calling" thing?

First off, boomers love to work. And by work, I mean work at their jobs. The more hours you put in, the better worker you are. My friend, Julie, who is a boomer herself, even says that boomers love Saturdays because there's no one in the office and they can get more work done.

For many Xers, while our boomer parents were off at their jobs (think the movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off), we were forging friendships. We were laying the ground work for what I believe is a new mindset - something Xers do not get the credit we deserve for. It's the idea that my job is important, but my life is more important.

Now that I understand that my job is just my job, I can enjoy it a lot more. I'm not expecting it to be a cosmic experience. And I can focus on doing things I really love (like blogging) without make it "work."


Anonymous said...

Didn't Marcus Aurelius say that you shouldn't love your work or you will not know what the Gods really intended for you? Something like that anyway...

Anonymous said...

It's always a revelation when I tell Boomers that they are "workaholics" and we Xers do NOT want more work. Even if it means more money, many times. The revelation comes when they think about the "younger" workers in their office and why they are having such a hard time getting people to work overtime. HELLO? That's my time, not your time, and unless I NEED to make more money, I do NOT want to take away from my personal time with family, friends or whatever I'm enjoying at the moment. Right on Xpert : )

Anonymous said...

I grow insanely jealous when I run across people who claim they love what they do and it does not feel like work. Are they lying? Or, perhaps they are just rare birds. If you can declare that statement with honesty then more power to you. But for 99.99% of the rest of us, I feel that "job" or "work" is essentially a monetary contribution towards your calling or what makes you happy. There is SOMETHING that makes all of us happy and we feel it is our calling and I feel for some people it is "work" but for the rest of us it is something else and that is okay.

Anonymous said...

Hey GenerationXpert, thanks for stopping by my blog. Very thought-provoking. I never thought of the idea of a calling in generational terms. I'm looking at it from a pragmatic perspective. If you spend two thirds of your waking hours at work, you might as well love it. Life is life, whether you are working or not working, and spending so much of it feeling like you should be doing something else seems like a shame.

I actually completely agree with your pastor: our job cannot be our calling. A job is just a vehicle for our calling, and the calling itself is about how you are in life and what you want to express with it. Penelope says something like that too in her post: She says, don't do what you love - do what you are, which to me is basically one and the same.

The problem is that we often find ourselves in jobs where we can't do that, because we are forced to check our values at the door and generally forget who we are while at work. That's where the search for the work that you love becomes worthwhile.

That said, I know plenty of people (my Dad, a couple of close friends I have) who say they are perfectly satisfied with viewing their jobs as money-making opportunities. I'm happy they feel that way (though I know for a fact that my Dad loves what he does - he's a scientist, and his jobs allows him to be exactly that; corporate politics is another story). I guess it's the case of different strokes for different folks...

Love your blog and look forward to more convresation.

Eric Zodik said...

I find it fascinating how these boomer can "follow their bliss". a lot of them just wander around cluelessly through the 70's and "fell in" to what they wanted to do... and freely recommend it to everyone... and when I got old enough to actually pursue my bliss (music)... the entire industry had been decimated by downloading, a glut of rich kids pretending to be "indie", and a success breeds success mentality that stripped the craft of soul (dont believe me?... turn on the radio)... it's easy to say when your culture HANDS you everything... we got the "pay to play" mentality... or work 40 hours at a shitty demeaning job so you can beg your friends to come to some lame club at 1:00 am on Wednesday night... my PENIS is my bliss