What do you do if you’re not passionate about your day job anymore? I’ve been working in media for several years. I’m a writer and I used to love my job, but the company I’m working at has pivoted, so more and more I find that I’m forced to write things I don’t actually agree with or want to cover. I do still get to write some stuff that I’m proud of, but the rest of the job is so soul-crushing that I can’t even find passion in the stuff I do like anymore. What would you do if you were me? Should I quit? Try to purse a new career path? Start my own thing?
Confused, unmotivated but ambitious
Confused, unmotivated but ambitious!!! It sounds like you’re coming up on phase two of identity exploration, twenties edition. I don’t know how old you are, but if I had to guess I would say somewhere between 27-and-a-half and 29. I say this with a semblance of conviction because right around the time I turned 27, I started asking myself a lot of the same questions you are presenting. My wheels were spinning and I felt like the ground underneath me was starting to narrow in on itself. I say this in the past tense, but for the sake of full disclosure, I should mention that, on many days, I still feel like this to some degree.
Granted, I had already started my own thing, and was still, by and large, writing specifically about things that I wanted to write about, but the truth is, my lack of motivation and disproportionate ambition had nothing to do with the details of my work and everything to do with a new phase I was entering. I challenge you to inquire deeper about whether you really don’t love your job anymore because of the subject matter that you are covering or because you kind of just feel like you’re growing up, and in doing that, so is your voice. If you find that the latter is your problem, I encourage you to journal. Write your fingers off! Let yourself lean into the voice that no longer represents your ideals. Hate it so much, rack your brain, keep going until it has no choice but to change because, guess what, it will. My favorite metaphor of all time has to do with sharks moving and I’m going to use it right now: Life is like a shark. If it stops moving, it dies. You will not stop moving. It might not be comfortable right now, it might feel really sticky, but instead of getting mad about the discomfort, instead of worrying that your friends are climbing the corporate ladder and you’re regressing, thank your instincts for kicking in and letting you know that you’re ready to change.
Now, the sneaky thing about instinct is that it will tell you something needs to change but it will not tell you what, nor will it tell you how to change it. That work is far less primitive, which is why I recommend writing your fingers out until they bleed. (They don’t actually have to bleed.) Ask yourself the most annoying questions you can think of: Who am I? What am I doing here? What do I want to be remembered for? When do I feel happiest? What gets me out of bed each morning? When do I start to lose hope? What am I doing in those moments? How do I change that? Start answering and I promise, shit will roll out of brain and off your tongue and right onto your computer screen. You’re lucky in that you’re starting with an advantage since you’re already a writer. Lean into that and, for a change, let your talent take care of you. Don’t worry about taking care of it.
If, however, I am wrong — if you genuinely have grown to dislike your work, if it doesn’t satisfy or fulfill you anymore and that has nothing to do with the internal dialogue or emotional state of your relationship with a keyboard, I have this to say: It’s okay not to love every aspect of your job. We’re fed this messaging that work in 2017 is supposed to feel like a Caribbean vacation replete with health daiquiris and photo-taking tutorials, but I wonder if that has completely disillusioned the process of actually, you know, working. You’re not supposed to feel #blessed while filing reports and drumming up numbers in Excel, though if you do, I give you so much credit. I’m not saying this to suggest that you continue working in an environment you are growing to hate, but rather to remind you to go easy on yourself, to really appraise what pieces of your job you have grown apart from and which pieces you still enjoy. Use this information to consider what comes next. And it doesn’t hurt to have a candid conversation with your boss. This is, of course, even more important if you’re producing work that ethically or morally runs counter to your belief system.
And regarding career changing: Most people who get into writing don’t accidentally fall into it. It is hard work, it keeps you on assignment and therefore dry-heaving around imminent deadlines far beyond the time-honored boundaries of your education and, on most days, it can feel incredibly fruitless, giving you nothing but a couple of sentences that you want to scrap anyway, so I would be hard-pressed to suggest that you switch career paths. It is a gift to feel motivated by this work, and one that is worth nurturing.