A Job vs A Career

I recently wrote on Psychotic Resumes about deciding between going broke while waiting to do what you love (a career) or doing something you hate for money (a job).

I received a slew of comments from the Brazen Careerist crowd.  Most revolving around, “Look, it’s okay to ‘slum’ to pay the bills.”  I don’t think so.

I have, for the last two years, been perpetually stuck in the cycle I like to call,“This time it’ll be different.” This time, I said to myself – each and every time I started on a new programming job – it’ll be different.  Last time, I had too many bosses.  Last time, I didn’t get the support I needed.  Last time, I hated the constant 50-hour work weeks and crazy, constant stress.  Last time, I just wasn’t good enough to keep up as fast as they (and the economy!) needed me to.

I look at that list of reasons and think, “Oh my god, how do I tell an interviewer these things without sounding like an excuse-filled lame duck?” My only defense is the truth. I have never lied to a potential employer to get a job.  I put my 5 biggest weaknesses on the About page of my blog.  I talk about life, love, money, and everything else on Twitter… I get boisterous and loud, I am never reserved.  I always speak my mind.  I’ve never had a problem owning a mistake.  If I’m one thing, it’s unflappably honest.  So when I say marketing is my passion, I really mean it.

I have been so tempted to find a job – any job, just to make the fear go away.  There are nights I can’t even sleep from the thought of missing rent, missing a car payment, all these medical bills from my appendectomy.  The thought of having to leave Yoda (my cat) behind because dad is allergic, if I ever had to move home with mom and dad.  I have to remind myself that I have the tools to solve these problems.  It’s only really hopeless if I let it become hopeless.

I’m not some Jim Dandy with no skills.  I’m the gorram man.  I aim to win.  It’s not ego. I won because I was able to give 100% – I didn’t stop until I was the best.  I really cared about the things I was doing.  (ps – gorram is a Firefly reference – it’s a swear word.)

And I remember how I feel about a month into every programming job I’ve ever had.  The nagging anxiety that I have a week to learn a brand new language, the depression of not being so busy I can’t even have lunch with Leslie, the frustration of getting home and being so tired and worn out from the day that I can’t bring myself to work on my personal projects.  I can’t do that.  I can’t be like that anymore.  I’ve never felt that way doing my personal projects – doing my own marketing.  I know that if I were doing what I loved to do, I wouldn’t feel like a failure.

You can’t do your best, give 100%, when you don’t like what you’re doing.  It took me two years to realize that.

I’m not going to settle anymore. I’m not a failure. I’m not a loser. I’m not a slacker. I’m… a leaf on the wind. Watch how I soar.

Those jobs I had, they would have been great for someone else.  There were problems, sure – mine and theirs.  There were great people and great things to do.  They weren’t the right great people for me.  They weren’t my great things to do.  The next position I take – the next task I perform for money, will be the first step on my real career.  The thing I’ve always wanted to do.

I can’t go back, because it would mean certain failure.  I can only move forward.