A few weeks back, I saw that a friend had posted a quote on Facebook that read, "Pro-tip: Don't give "do-what-you-love" advice to people living "do-what-you-gotta-do" lives."
I knew I should've walked away. Don't bite the bait, Bay. She didn't post it for you, or for your comment. Just let it go.
But I couldn't help myself. I *had* to comment (I didn't have to, but I surely did, anyway). I bit. I wrote:
"I think we're all pretty much just working on balancing both, most of the time."
And there was commentary back and forth. She disagreed. I disagreed back. We disagreed. Politely. I've included my response:
"Disagreeing is okay. We (all humans) can disagree. There's no "right" here; it's subjective. These are my beliefs, not The Truth.
I don't think people are really telling us what we should do or should not do. We might hear it that way. Someone saying, "Do what you love," may not be dispensing advice, even if it lands on someone in that way. In my mind, the freedom of speech means someone can say "Do what you love," or anything else, whether or not I agree with it. Just because I don't agree, or it doesn't land on me right within my experience, doesn't mean they shouldn't say it. I'm responsible for my interpretations/reactions.
Saying, "Do what you love," may not be necessarily be intended as give up your day job and paint unicorns. It could be as simple as being sure to doodle, if you like to draw. Running or triathlon if you enjoy a challenge. Writing in your spare time, because you love to write. Cooking new dishes, because you gotta make dinner anyway.
For the record, I grew up in an extremely do-what-you-gotta-do world. I know fear, scarcity, and single-parent, no-child-support, on welfare, brother-in-foster-care, social-services-involved life. It was pretty desperate and frightening. And, I know my mom's devotion and love for her family was driving her to do what she had to do (and still to encourage us to go after our dreams). So, to my mind, some of that was what she loved. Nobody loves every aspect of what they do, whether they're "doing what they love," or not. People love their kids, but there's parts of being a parent that suck, too.
I hope people are able to find some love in what they do, whether it's following their dream or putting dinner on the table. Sometimes, it's one or the other; sometimes, it's both at the same time. And, I'm grateful for the opportunities I have to live where I live, where the relative freedom to make my life is a by-product of me being born in the country I was born.
It's a perspective I choose. It's right for me. Not saying it's right for anyone else."
Now, I still count this person as a friend. I think she is brilliant and witty and kind. I hope she is happy, more often than not, even if she doesn't like the idea of me holding that space for her. I completely respect her, and her right to her own opinion.
And, I still think I'm right. Which is just fine, since I'm pretty sure she thinks she's right, too.
That's kind of how it goes with opinions. And advice. After all, free advice is worth the price you pay for it. But what if what you're interpreting as advice is actually just an innocent idea or intention? It's kind of like trying to read the attitude of a text or email. We often miss the point.
It's been a month and I even soapboxed emphatically about it to my coach, in an impassioned delivery of the possibility I see for a world that is as full of heartbreak as it is love.
So, what got me? What's the hook?
"Argue for your limitations, and sure enough they're yours." ~ Richard Bach
I think there are lots of places that this gets my ire. I can't help but think about someone getting insulted because someone wished them a happy Christmas when they don't celebrate that particular holiday. Or the type of person who, when a passerby tips their hat and says, "Good morning," or "Have a good day," retorts, "What's so bloody good about it?" or "Don't tell me what to do with my life!"
I mean, good grief. It can be hard to be friendly and neighbourly these days, let alone state a hopeful wish. There are even articles about why "doing what you love" is an idiom to avoid. That's pretty sad, I think.
I've said this a million times: We all find what we're looking for. If you want to be offended, you will be.
What I know is that life can be hard. I know this first hand. I grew up in a pretty broken-up version of the world, and even knowing that, I can't help but think how grateful I am that it wasn't a thousand other situations that would've been even harder.
We can translate a positive wish into shitty advice, if we want to be resentful. If we're looking to be insulted, we can find insult just about anywhere. We can interpret a little positivity as patronizing, disingenuous and offensive. It's totally our right to choose any meaning we want.
But why choose a crappy one? Like life isn't hard enough?
"We all find what we're looking for. If you want to be offended, you will be."
What if "do what you love" simply referred to finding some joy in what we do, no matter how hard life seems? What if it means that sometimes, we're doing what we need to do, because we do it for someone we love (children, spouses, parents, friends, etc)?
What if the aforementioned "love" isn't in blindly quitting our day jobs to "follow our dreams" (and how is it that following dreams has gotten a bad rap?), but making sure we find an outlet for our creativity? For playing soccer because it's fun, filling adult colouring books because it's satisfying and pretty, and we love to create beauty.
There is challenge, difficulty, and according to Liz Gilbert, a "shit sandwich" in everything we can choose to do. No matter how much you love what you do, there will be a part that sucks, even just a little bit, sometimes. Following your dreams, or doing what you love, doesn't exclude the tough stuff. From what I've seen and experienced in this world, the people doing what they love and following their dreams are making some pretty huge sacrifices (time, money, security, pouring emotion and passion into what they do).
I didn't see any small print after "do what you love" that read: "because you're a lucky bastard with a horseshoe up your butt."
Do what you love. Please, dear Lord, I hope you are getting to do some of what you love, while you are doing what you gotta do. I hope you remember to do both.
What if we didn't decide to take everything as an affront against our personal situation? What if we could accept the goodwill with which a phrase is offered?
Maybe we just need to add "I hope" to the beginning of the phrase.
As for me, over here, I'll just keep hoping you do what you love, as much as you can.