I feel “meh” about working — am I supposed to be more passionate?

A reader writes:

I read all the letters here, and it feels like everybody loves their job and are passionate about it. need to be honest: I don’t love mine. I fell into it and just kept going with it because it paid decently and allowed me to not to have to worry about what I was going to do after college. Now, 15 years later… I feel almost stuck, like it might be too late to change what I am doing with my life (and to be honest, I have no idea what I want to do with my life; I work to live, and that’s fine by me).

However, I am okay with that. I am not particularly ambitious with my work. Middle management is fine with me, and I dream of the day I can retire. I like my coworkers, my job is fine. However, I feel guilty that I am ok with “fine,” like I should I be ambitious, and wanting more, more, more.

Nobody ever admits to this and it even seems bad to admit out loud, but am the only one out there who doesn’t really love their work and their job? Who just… does it because they have to? I even googled books but it’s all about being career-oriented and professional goal seeking. Is there anything out there to validate my feelings of being “meh” about work?

I guess I just want validations that there are others like me out there, and since I read your blog every day, I thought I would turn to you.

You’re so very, very normal! In fact, as far as I know, you’re actually in the majority.

Most people work to live, aren’t especially passionate about their jobs, and aren’t super ambitious.

Most people work to get food and housing, not for emotional or spiritual fulfillment.

There are people who are passionate about their work, but they’re the lucky exceptions, not the norm.

Keep in mind, too, that that the people who read and comment on a work-related advice site are more likely to be particularly interested in work and career issues than the general population. So you’re not necessarily seeing a representative sampling here.

If you are reasonably content and able to earn a living that allows you to support your life outside of work (and it sounds like you are), go on doing what you’re doing.

“do what you love” is not great advice

{ 314 comments… read them below }

  1. Jerzy*

    I’m someone for whom a job needs to be fulfilling in more ways than financially. My husband does not share this point of view. He just wants a decent paycheck and to not HATE his job. And you know what? He makes a better living then I do, and we’re both getting what we want from our jobs.

    1. Honeybee*

      My husband is like that too. He’d like to be able to do something personally meaningful, but he doesn’t really care – as long as he doesn’t hate it and he can cover his basic needs with the paycheck, he’s fine.

    2. the gold digger*

      I used to want spiritual fulfillment from my work, but then I realized I really just wanted to make enough money so that I could do what I wanted to do with my free time.

      1. LiptonTeaFor Me*

        I’m with gold digger. Most of the time I have a job to finance my life away from work. Lately I have a job to finance the new roof, new appliances, blessed insulation in the attic…etc.

        1. A Manager*

          2008 changed everything for me. My company and the passion I had closed down with the recession. I moved laterally to another company basically making the same money and for that I am grateful. It took awhile, but I found that my passion comes from what I do in my spare time that makes me happy. I remind myself of that every day when I get out of bed. You are not alone.

    3. Chinook*

      I once had a profession that I am still passionate about (teaching) but got laid off and have had trouble finding my way back to it. As a result, I strive now for jobs I don’t hate or that aren’t toxic and have come to see that I can take that passion and push it into aspect of my “blah” job (I rock in computer interface designing and tech support of our field guys) but also realize that being able to eat and have a roof over my head is more important. It took a long time to accept that as being part of my life but it also means that I will never go back into my passion career if I can’t be guaranteed what I have now, which is a non-toxic work environment that pays the bills,

  2. Amber Rose*

    Yep, definitely normal. I like my job because my coworkers/boss are great people and I have a lot of freedom. I don’t particularly care about the work I do, beyond the care I need to do it well.

    I have non-work passions, and I work to pay for those.

    1. hermit crab*

      Me too! I also like the general feeling of accomplishing things/being a productive part of society, but that sort of satisfaction can be derived from any number of actual jobs (and you can get it from things that aren’t jobs, too).

    2. Sleep*

      Yup. I don’t like my job. I don’t hate it, but I don’t particularly give a flying f**k about the welfare of my company or if I’m able to save them money.

      I’m just looking to put in my years and pass quietly in my sleep.

    3. Rmric0*

      I applied at a financial services firm and they saw all this line artsy creative stuff on my resume and responded – well, we think this would be a bad fit because it is not a very creative position. Duh! But you pay money that will let me do creative stuff.

  3. aNoN*

    Hi OP! Thank you for writing in. I feel the exact same way about my job. I got a degree in this field because of the stability and paycheck. I like my job well enough but I too dream of the day I can retire. This is what funds my lifestyle and enables me to retire in Hawaii someday. You are not alone!

  4. sunny-dee*

    I think my most content friends are the ones who don’t really care about their jobs aside from it having decent hours, decent environment, and paying the bills.

  5. Jamie*

    You are so normal and I’m jealous. When you’re super emotionally invested in your job it’s great when it’s great and when it’s not great it’s really Not Great.

    I know way more people like you than I do people who are super passionate about what they do and tbh I’ve been consciously striving to be more like that since moderate seems a lot healthier from my pov right now.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Good to see you!

      Agreed about when it’s not great. You don’t want something that is so all-consuming that when it goes bad it sucks all the joy out of everything else.

      1. Bluebirds Fly*

        I’m in the process of adjusting my POV, but it’s so hard when management makes foolish / uninformed decisions, and almost impossible when they make stupid / fast but “short-term fix” decisions which are potentially illegal or become long-term problems. Or sometimes the decisions seem to be made with the objective to demoralize the passionate ones.

    2. BRR*

      I never though about the bad side of being emotionally invested in my job. Working in nonprofits, the cause is important (basically a good/bad type decision, not breaking down each specific cause I would like to support with my work) and I’ve always relied on the good side as aiding me through the day.

      1. afiendishthingy*

        I do human services work with a vulnerable population and my supervisor has coached me several times on not getting overly emotionally invested. It leads to burnout, and me being stressed and sad and anxious about my clients’ problems does nothing to ease their stress. Easier said than done, but accepting that I’m not going to be the answer to all of someone’s problems – and that sometimes I won’t be the answer to any – is really pretty comforting. It’s good to care, and to do my best, but there’s so much going against most of the people I work with that I won’t last if my emotional state is dependent on theirs.

    3. Jessica (tc)*

      I hadn’t thought about that. I just quit my job to pursue a career that I will be more invested in (instead of “just a job” that I’m not really), but I hadn’t thought about moderating that investment. On one hand, I was overly stressed about a job that I shouldn’t have been, because of health problems combined with just being done with it. On the other hand, there does need to be some kind of balance.

      (I’m glad to see your avatar in the comments again, Jamie! You have definitely been missed.)

    4. Lizzie*

      “When you’re super emotionally invested in your job it’s great when it’s great and when it’s not great it’s really Not Great.”

      Ugh, yes, this. It’s great to love what you do, but it’s also *really* hard. You start to personalize and if you’re not careful, your sense of self-worth gets tied up in your job performance. In a field like mine particularly doing the kind of work that I specifically, failures are inevitable — we lose contact with victims and find out they’ve died, they go back to their trafficker, I’ve even had rescued victims recruit inside residential programs and leave with people who are being revictimized in tow. You take that failure so much harder when you’re wrapped up in and in love with what you do, and that can be dangerous in a lot of fields.

    5. spocklady*

      YAY Jamie you are back!

      I have been feeling this way a LOT too, recently; I’m about to start a new job and one thing I want to work on is being less emotionally invested in the work. I think I got fairly unhealthy at a couple of points while I was at the job I’m leaving.

    6. Random Citizen*

      Long time lurker, first time poster just to say OH MY GOSH JAMIE’S BACK!!!!!!! We love you, Jamie. :)

    7. Jamie*

      As soon as I posted I got called away – miss you guys! This whole being too busy to even finish a post is ridiculous!

  6. NickelandDime*

    This whole, “You have to be passionate about what you do!” thing has people all messed up and making bad decisions personally and financially. It makes people unhappy and dissatisfied when they shouldn’t be.

    It’s okay to work, be good at what you do, but if you won the lottery today, you wouldn’t be back in the office tomorrow.

    I work to provide a comfortable lifestyle for my family. I don’t live to work, I work to live.

    1. PontoonPirate*

      Yes. I sunk an ungodly amount of student loans into two degrees I don’t even use. I’m at the point where, should the latest REPAYE proposal pass, I’d have to divorce my husband because we couldn’t afford the monthly repayment for my student loans if we were forced to file taxes jointly.

      I don’t love what I do, but I don’t feel like I’m in the financial position to start over so … I deal. I have hobbies. I socialize. I meditate. But I resent every year that passes without even a COL increase at my job, and to counter that resentment I try to do at least one thing every day at work that I can smile about.

      1. NickelandDime*

        I feel you. No COL here either, and I’m still paying for one of my degrees. If I strictly “followed my passion” I’d be broke.

      2. Slippy*

        If you are not freelancing, try it. It ain’t always fun but it works for chipping away at bills that are years away from being paid off. Try some of the cheap freelancing sites like eLance to try out other careers. eLance’s rates are so ridiculously low for anyone living in the U.S. that you can afford to make mistakes, learn, and experiment.

    2. MegEB*

      I COMPLETELY agree. I admire people who are passionate about their jobs, but there are plenty of people out there who don’t particularly care about “doing what they love”, and simply want to pay the bills and live comfortably. I think this idea of having to be in love with your career can be really frustrating and demoralizing for people who don’t feel that way, and wonder if there’s something wrong with them (such as the OP).

      I have two jobs, and while I enjoy both of them, I certainly don’t love them – I have hobbies in my life that provide that emotional fulfillment, and I see my jobs as a way to fund those hobbies. I believe everyone should have something in their life they’re passionate about, but it doesn’t have to be work.

    3. Nina*

      IA. This goes along with the “do what you love” stuff, and that can be dangerous. It’s fine for work and your passions to be separate. Hobbies and passions work for most people because they can do them on their own time and their own pace, but when there’s a boss telling you when and how to do it, the hobby ceases to be fun and becomes a chore.

      1. Abby*

        Totally agree. I like to draw, and people seem to think I do it well enough to make it a career, but I’m glad I didn’t (I work in a research lab, instead). As a hobby, I can draw and paint whatever I want, whenever I want. Having that kind of freedom is what makes it so enjoyable for me, and I don’t eally want to sully that with the pressures of professional artistry.

      2. Corporate Crapola*

        I got into film because I wanted to make documentaries with powerful messages that would really made people think… and learned that most of the jobs in video production that pay anything close to a living wage involve cranking out corporate garbage videos (or, uh… porn) at a grueling pace.

        I also learned that this field is VERY SMALL, so even when I’ve switched companies, I’ll still run into those colleagues I can’t stand again and again and again.


    4. INTP*

      I agree. I couldn’t decide on a career until I totally let go of that idea. I thought I needed to do work that connected to my soul in some way – but when I thought about the day-to-day grind of any job relating to any topic I felt passionately about, frankly, I saw myself being absolutely miserable. I was able to decide on a career when I considered “What do I absolutely hate in any quantity at work, what do I burn out on quickly, what am I better than most people at, what do I want to do with my life OUTSIDE work, and so on.” Basically, I failed miserably at things I attempted based on passion and am doing well at a job I chose because it doesn’t involve much of the tasks that I hate, incorporates some of my natural skills, and most importantly, allows the type of lifestyle I want outside of work.

    5. BRR*

      “This whole, “You have to be passionate about what you do!” thing has people all messed up and making bad decisions personally and financially. It makes people unhappy and dissatisfied when they shouldn’t be.”


      I’ve mentioned probably what would be considered ‘often” that my husband is a hopefully academic. I stay informed about that world and so many professors “do what they love” in a place they hate with people they don’t like. Things you love don’t translate to jobs you love. Think of ‘I enjoy cooking” vs” I want to have to prepare food for a revolving door of dozens of people daily.”

      1. Kate*

        I was gonna post this article too. So on point. Especially the potential for the “do what you love” mindset to lead to overwork – wait, you mind working 60 hour weeks? Isn’t this what you *love*?

    6. Jane*

      “It’s okay to work, be good at what you do, but if you won the lottery today, you wouldn’t be back in the office tomorrow.”

      I came here to say this. I enjoy my job; there are even aspects of it that I’m quite passionate about. However, if I won the lottery today, I’d be on a plane to the Caribbean by tomorrow afternoon. I work to live.

  7. Brett*

    You should read the comments sometimes instead :)
    My actual work I do, I love. But my job is awful for all sorts of structural and managerial reasons.
    I love my work mostly because I do a ton of professional work outside my job duties (workshops, presentations, hundreds of hours of professional volunteer work). Basically, I molded my “work” to be exactly what I want, even if my job has some horrible problems with it.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      Right? I missed the day when everyone here said they loved their job. I’m cool with mine now, but I think it’s mostly because I’ve resigned myself to it!

      1. Partly Cloudy*

        I think sometimes on the open thread, there are a lot of “I just got a new job and I luuuuuuuuuv it soooooo much!” posts, so I see where the OP is coming from. I’ve had the exact same thoughts. But on the flip side, there are also a lot of “my job/company/manager sucks” so I feel like it’s pretty balanced here overall.

        Part of the reason why I left my last job is because I’m NOT ambitious, and I saw how miserable some of the executives seemed with their lives and thought “I don’t want to be them.” I feel medium about the actual work I do, but I have a MUCH better work-life balance now and am treated a lot better on a day to day basis.

      2. phillist*

        I think what the OP means is that the commenters here have a great deal of investment in their jobs, which may or may not be the same thing as loving it. As Allison said, because it’s a career blog, it’s kind of a self-selecting group: people whose primary emotion toward their work is apathy aren’t going to hang around here.

  8. J_Mo*

    I am right there with you, OP. I don’t care–just pay me. I’m going to retire the minute I’m eligible, if I can afford to.

    I’m very fortunate at the moment, because I’m freelancing. Jobs on my terms.I’m not making a mint, but I’m paying the bills, and I’m invested in my outcomes.

  9. ThursdaysGeek*

    I enjoy my work part of the time, and go through periods of boredom or frustration. I like my co-workers. Parts of my job are incredibly fun.

    But, I still only want to spend part of my life here. There are a lot of things outside of work that I also enjoy doing, and people outside of work that I also like. 40 hours a week is enough. More than enough really, since I have chores that need to be done before I can do anything fun.

    I know I won’t get ahead by not working extra. I think I could be a good supervisor or manager, except that I’m not willing to put in the extra hours. I’m lucky that I’m in a job where 40 hours is enough.

    1. Regina*

      Here’s the thing though. I really get the sense that we are heading to a time when 40 hours won’t be enough for anybody. You have to work more just to maintain. And that’s what eating at me. I would be content to never move up from my current position. It’s frankly more than I want even now. But when everyone around you is working a minimum 60 hour week, you ARE the slacker who will be let go.

  10. Lucky*

    I have a friend who is like this reader, and I’ve told her before that I am straight-up jealous of her.
    She goes to work, does a great job, and the moment she steps out of the office she is *done* with it. She doesn’t answer emails on the weekends, doesn’t stay late and doesn’t worry about projects once they’re out of her hands. If she receives some criticism about an issue with her work, she accepts it and moves on. Her identity isn’t wrapped up in her career, how it’s advancing, and how well she’s doing. I like that I have a passion for and enjoy what I do, but all the other baggage that comes with my type-A personality can be so exhausting and emotionally draining.
    I don’t think her approach would fly in every position and with every employer. She’s lucky, in that she does great work and is very well liked. But, if you can do it and it fits your personality, it sounds like a pretty awesome life.

    1. Coloado*

      Her identity isn’t wrapped up in her career, how it’s advancing, and how well she’s doing.
      I really like that statement. That is a hard one for me sometimes.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      This is my job, too. I don’t have to think about it after hours. It’s why I do not want to advance — I get paid enough to live on and even have a little fun once in a while. I get the other with writing: rejection, endless waits for responses, comparison, professional jealousy, spending hours of my own time on it, etc.

      Um….remind me again why I’m a writer…..?!?

      1. Sleep*

        Yes. I see emails from my manager and my manager’s manager that are sent at 12:00 AM and at 4:00 AM. They must either not sleep at all, sleep very little, or wake up intermittently during the night to send emails/work. I get in on Monday morning and there is a weekend worth of emails in my inbox already. And my boss wonders why I don’t want to be promoted. I work to live, or at least work to sleep — my superiors don’t even sleep!

        1. Hiding on the Internet Today*

          I wake intermittently or can’t sleep until I get that one last thing written down and sent off.

          It’s not good. I try to just draft things and wait to send until Monady morning because I don’t want my staff to feel as though nights and weekends are work time. I don’t expect it of them and I don’t want them to feel pressured.

          But anyway, let me join the chorus of voices encouraging actual work life balance and some space between work and your real life. It’s a very healthy approach. I’m trying to learn more of it and struggling.

    3. Kara*

      So much this!
      I do love my job exactly because it’s what @Lucky described above. I am good at it, I can enjoy being good at it, but at the end of the day, I go home. I’m not on call, no one lives or dies by my choices, I make enough money to live comfortably and enjoy the things I’m passionate about outside of my work.

    4. Regina*

      She doesn’t get in trouble for not answering emails on the weekends? My culture is one where you have to. I used to never do work outside work hours, but I would get penalized for it here. Well, I think. My SO tells me to just disconnect and try, but when even the assistants and coordinators are working into the late evenings and weekends, I just look bad when I don’t.

      I get this might be a culture of my company thing, but from all we read and see here, this is becoming the norm, isn’t it?

        1. Regina*

          I guess. I just don’t think I have enough power to say no. Once you say no, you become the lazy/difficult/not-a-team-player employee.

      1. Windchime*

        It’s not the norm for me. Some managers here do it all the time, but others don’t. I chose not to get my work email on my phone; I just do not need to be connected 24/7. I honestly think that MOST people don’t need to be; it’s just that some people feel pressured into it because others are doing it so they feel they must also, in order to not “look bad”.

        I work hard while I’m at work. (Unless I’m waiting for a program to run and I’m reading AAM, like now). When I’m at home, I am at home. I will sometimes log in if I want to, but nobody expects me to unless I’m on call.

        People in our society are becoming slaves to their phones. Just because we can be connected 24/7, doesn’t mean we should be.

        1. Regina*

          But here’s what happened at my job — I was asked to put my personal cell phone on my business card, which I didn’t want to do. Because I didn’t want to do that, they gave me a work phone. If they give you a work phone, the expectation is you will use it. There is no way to say no in this situation without being completely out of step with the culture. I also think this type of work culture is becoming the norm, and people who don’t adhere will get left behind (promotions, job offers, whatever).

          What irritates me is that this seems like the type of thing you make sure the prospective employee knows during the interview process. In my case, I asked about these expectations, and they lied, so I guess there was nothing I could have done. But I know I’m not alone in this boat.

          1. Kara*

            I also think this type of work culture is becoming the norm, and people who don’t adhere will get left behind (promotions, job offers, whatever).

            I responded to your other comment before I saw this one. Honestly I think you’re pushing your frustration and ire over your situation into justifying it with “no one will ever get promoted if they don’t do it”. But I”m sorry, it’s simply not true. I work for one of the largest telcom companies and in the world and in my 11 years there I’ve never been put in that position. If they lied to you about your on-call responsibilities, then it’s probably time to look for another job. It’s not the norm with a lot of companies.

      2. afiendishthingy*

        Reading comments on this site I’m really grateful my organization emphasizes work-life balance. I almost never answer my work cell or return emails after hours, and in fact one of the first things my supervisor told me when I started was that I wasn’t expected to.

      3. Rmric0*

        That is one thing that makes a blasé attitude about work tough, you have all these cultures and institutions that create norms that make just being able to walk out the door and forget about work impossible. What the solution is, I do not know.

      4. Kara*

        this is becoming the norm, isn’t it?

        Nope. I haven’t had to work outside of my scheduled business hours in years and years. If I do, it’s my choice or because I feel I need to complete something. But there is no penalty for not being on call 24/7

  11. Elizabeth the Ginger*

    OP, this is super normal. I think it’s important to feel excited about something in your life, but it doesn’t have to be the same thing that produces a paycheck! Is there something else you feel fired up about? Cooking, your weekend ultimate frisbee team, hiking, knitting, playing with your kids, having long conversations with good friends? If you feel “meh” about all the activities you do in your life, I’d encourage you to find some that interest you. But you don’t have to find them at the office.

    1. Blue_eyes*

      This is a great way to look at it. If nothing in your life is enjoyable or satisfying, then you need to take a look around and change something. But work does not need to be the enjoyable, satisfying part of your life.

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        Hopefully it’s not a terrible, soul-draining part of your life, either. But it’s okay for work to be a moderately pleasant place to be paid to go, even if not one that you wouldn’t go to without being paid.

        1. SevenSixOne*

          Some people seem to think that work has to be miserable drudgery that slowly erodes your soul. I think that attitude is stupid and toxic in a different way. Especially when it makes people think that there’s no reason to even try to find a “moderately pleasant place to be paid to go” or put up with awful, abusive, or illegal working conditions because they think every job is like that, since WORK SUCKS is an inevitable fact of life.

          I think “do what you can tolerate” is much better advice. You don’t have to LOOOOOVE your job, but it sure helps if you don’t hate it!

          1. Windchime*

            Exactly. I sometimes love what I do, but if I’m being honest, I mostly love it because it comes with a nice paycheck. If they started paying me minimum wage tomorrow, I am guessing I’d love it a whole lot less.

            Conversely, I could probably love washing dishes 40 hours a week if it paid what this job pays. It’s really ultimately all about the money. Unless it’s a horrible job, like yelling at innocent kittens, then I could probably learn to like it if the pay was right.

  12. Lauren*

    You are SO, so normal. I spent a long time beating myself up because I don’t LOOOOOOOVE my job like others seem to. I think social media is a huge culprit in this – we’re so inundated with everyon’s highlight reels that it makes it seem like they absolutely love every day at the job and love all the people they work with and blah blah blah. For most of us, that’s simply not true. While there are parts of my job I genuinely love and enjoy, I’d quit if I won the Powerball. I work to live, not the other way around and actually like it that way.

    1. OriginalEmma*

      To hop onto this thought, there may be confirmation bias in the type of jobs and people who comment here. Predominantly white collar, office-based, computer-tethered roles that encourage that sort of passionate dedication to one’s work. We have the luxury of commenting, vs. someone who may be doing a more blue collar job (machinist, office cleaner, road worker) who is not passionate but who is also not commenting.

      Not to miss out on lucky folks who both are passionate but not tethered to a computer, like I imagine FWS workers tagging fish out in Alaska this summer are. Le sigh…

      1. Chinook*

        “We have the luxury of commenting, vs. someone who may be doing a more blue collar job (machinist, office cleaner, road worker) who is not passionate but who is also not commenting. ”

        I grew up in the latter environment and learned that either you lucked out and found a job that is your passion or you were normal and found a job that helped pay for your passions.

    2. Honeybee*

      I was thinking the same thing this morning, when I was reading my Facebook feed and inundated with all of the teachers waxing poetic about how much they love teaching and what a joy it is to enlighten young minds. I was like “Seriously?” There are, of course, some really great parts about teaching – I love it. But there are some ugly parts that nobody talks about.

      1. hermit crab*

        Meanwhile, my teacher friends on facebook seem to mostly be wondering how much wine it will take to get them through the school year ! :)

        1. afiendishthingy*

          Yup, I worked in schools for 5 years. There are a lot of burnt out bitter teachers out there.

  13. Feline*

    The OP would be surprised to know how common this feeling is.

    My company recently rolled out an internal web site that has a heavy “love what you do” theme, and the number of eye-rolls and comments it generated helped to make some of the numbers apparent here. I think it’s easy to underestimate because like the OP, people don’t necessarily have conversations about not being passionate about their jobs.

    1. MK*

      I think the last sentence is key. People feel the need express it if they love or hate their job, but there is usually no reason to comment when it’s just OK.

      1. Kyrielle*

        In fact, in our culture that says “love what you do”, it can be taken almost as negatively to say “hey, my job’s okay, it lets me live, whatever” as to say you hate your job. Plus, as conversations go, it doesn’t make for a very exciting one, because there’s nothing to expand on, so for small talk it’s also grim. :)

    2. Chinook*

      “My company recently rolled out an internal web site that has a heavy “love what you do” theme, and the number of eye-rolls and comments it generated helped to make some of the numbers apparent here”

      I can’t think of too many people here who are passionate about pipelines and digging holes only to refill them but you will find a lot who are passionate about where they get to live because of what they do (and what their job does to help protect those places). I swear most of these field guys picked their careers because they get to live out in the middle of nowhere and be paid while doing it. You may be digging a ditch in -15 weather but atleast you get a view that most tourists pay big money to see.

    3. Jennifer*

      This reminds me of the first big boss I had here, who said “Nobody ever grows up wanting to work in the _____ office.”

  14. CrazyCatLady*

    My husband just wants a job to pay him enough to be able to enjoy his hobbies and not interfere with them. He does very well but is definitely not ambitious at all (refuses to go into management). He’s also one of the happiest people I know.

    1. Jennifer*

      That was pretty much my original goal, but sadly it’s starting to pall on me.
      Then again, my job has become much more draining than it used to be, so.

  15. Ugh*

    I’m with you but even worse I hate working and wish I didn’t have to. I find going to work soul-sucking and I do like my coworkers. The job itself is easy and I’m good at it, I just hate having to sit in a cubicle all day on my work days. It’s depressing and it makes my anxiety and depression worse than it already is. And I work part-time! I don’t know if I could go back to full-time work unless I could find something I enjoyed. but there’s the rub – I can’t figure that out. Does anyone feel this way? I feel like I’m way extreme but I can’t help how I feel.

    1. Just Visiting*

      This is me 100%! I also work part-time and take the pay/lifestyle hit because 40 hours is too much for me. It’s not the job itself, it’s been this way with every job I’ve ever had. Sitting at a desk, talking to coworkers, never seeming to have enough work to fill up a full day… it all feels way too draining. I have ADHD, which I think is a big part of it, I’d probably be happier as a firefighter or EMT or something, but it’s too late to do that now. If you are happy at part-time and can afford it (I am so, so grateful that I can afford it), then stick with that, IMO.

      (I do have freelance gigs that I find much more fulfilling. I think it’s because I’m being paid for my actual WORK, instead of being paid for desk-sitting and chit-chatting. The work feels much more tangible and real.)

      1. Ugh*

        It feels like jail in a sense. I’m very sensitive to environment and have found most offices are drab and depressing. Couple that with how freezing it is in there year round and I’d just rather stay home.

      2. Slippy*

        May not be the best suggestion for an ADHD person but…..have you tried coding? There is always something to do; big or small. Also the fun part about code is that if you can’t think of anything particularly interesting to make at the moment you break a perfectly good program to make it better (in theory….).

    2. Stranger than fiction*

      I hear ya! I also hate being chained to a cube all day and haven’t figured out what I want to be ‘when I grow up’. Now I’m at the age where I have no desire or energy to go back to school and will probably be stuck doing this kind of work til I retire. Unless I win the lottery. I have a great salary and benefits but there’s dysfunction at the top that will never change and has sucked all the passion out of me.

      1. Michelle*

        This is exactly the way I feel. Like word for word how I feel, including the dysfunction to the top.

        If I ever hit the lotto jackpot, I’d resign before the ink dried on the lotto check.

    3. INTP*

      I feel the same and that’s why my decision to go into my current field was about 75% based on the fact that it’s the norm for people to be self-employed independent contractors who work remotely. When I pictured myself going into an office almost every day for the next forty years, slaving away for some cause besides myself (whether a nonprofit cause or for-profit company), I couldn’t imagine mentally surviving until retirement.

      I wouldn’t say I ENJOY my job, like I would never just do it for fun if they didn’t pay me to do it. But it doesn’t incorporate any sort of task that I hate or find incredibly draining, and I am motivated by the fact that the more I work and the better I work the more my bank account grows. I am not self-employed yet, but I do set my own schedule and work remotely, which is a huge factor in depression for me – when I’m having a rough time I can work less, there’s no “Surprise! you’re working all weekend” when I have an empty refrigerator, moldy dishes, and no clean underwear left, and need the weekend for all the basic life tasks I have no energy for on weekdays, and there’s no office small talk to drain the teeny tiny amount of emotional energy I have on a bad day.

      1. Ugh*

        I think I could tolerate working better if I was at home. I just haven’t been able to find a job in my field that is part time from home. But just being in my own comfortable space (sunny, by a window, non-freezing temperature) would go a long way toward my mental well-being. Mind if I ask what you do? I’m always looking for things I might not have already considered. Because just thinking about spending another winter in my freezing office is enough to bring tears to my eyes.

        As a side note – I didn’t always feel this way. I never loved to work but it didn’t weigh so heavily on my mind like it has the past five years or so. Maybe it’s getting older and questioning what the point of it all is.

        FWIW, it does make me feel better (in a sad way) that I’m not the only one. But I wish none of us felt this way.

    4. Regina*

      Me! I hate dealing with people. Hate it. That’s why I hate working. If you could just leave me alone, I might be okay with it. But that’s not how work works.

      I get we all have to get money to live, but I just find it so wrong that I have to waste my youth in an office for 50+ hours a week instead of being outside, taking on a new hobby, exercising, spending time with family.

      But the Type-A set manages to do all this because they never sleep, so I guess the rest of us are just bad people. (Which is always the message I get about myself, true or not.)

      1. Dana*

        I get we all have to get money to live, but I just find it so wrong that I have to waste my youth in an office for 50+ hours a week instead of being outside, taking on a new hobby, exercising, spending time with family.

        THIS. I make enough money to live on, but 45ish hours a week plus commute does not leave much time for anything. Especially in winter in my area…where I leave before the sun comes up and get home after the sun goes down…and it’ll be here before I know it :(

      2. Ugh*

        I hate dealing with (most) people too. They make your job more frustrating than it needs to be because they can’t follow directions or be considerate of others.

    5. afiendishthingy*

      I think there are a lot of people who’ve been in situations like yours. I’ve had a couple jobs where I felt like that. Fortunately I got out of them quickly because it’s a horrible way to live. I hope things get better for you.

      1. Ugh*

        Thank you. I know I need to change careers and find something I find at least a little fulfilling but that’s been tough so far.

  16. TootsNYC*

    I’m kind of jealous. I sort of wish I could have that attitude. I think it would be a lot healthier.

    1. TootsNYC*

      came back to say: I think we do a real disservice to young workers and prospective college students when we blather on about “find something you love!”

      I think we should be saying, “find something you can enjoy the doing of and hopefully one that capitalized on a knack or quirk you have. Or, if you can’t do that, then find a way to enjoy the doing of any job.”

      1. Turtle Candle*

        Yeah, I think it raises expectations that everyone not only can but should find work that they love in a deep heartfelt way, and that’s just not true. I mean, there are almost certainly more people who are deeply passionate about art and dance and fiction writing and whatever than who are deeply passionate about, say, middle management or sandwich making, but there aren’t more jobs in art than in sandwich making.

        Encouraging people, especially young people just starting out, to Pursue their Bliss feels like a nice, friendly, encouraging thing to do, but if the end result is that they feel like failures if they make sandwiches instead of art for a living (and maybe do art as a hobby) then it’s actually kind of cruel.

        (I say this as someone who was actively told that I was somehow letting the universe down and failing to fulfill my potential as a human being when I chose to take a nice, stable job in technical writing that I enjoy but don’t capital-L Love instead of going into fiction writing or academia, coupled with a lot of dubious “well, I guess it’s okay as long as you come back to academia later….” Then a couple of years later the bottom fell out of the economy and I was really, really glad I’d taken the pleasant-but-not-My-Passion job that was steady and not terribly stressful and paid bills.)

        1. Turtle Candle*

          (And don’t even get me started on “Do what you love and the money will follow.” Argh, no, not actually a law of physics.)

          1. Windchime*

            It’s the work version of, “You’ll find love when you stop looking for it.” Nope. That one’s not true, either.

          2. afiendishthingy*

            Seriously, that has to be one of the biggest lies I’ve been told. Who came up with that??

        2. simonthegrey*

          I think it also highly devalues necessary work and makes people think they are too good to be in certain fields. I’ve never loved a single job I’ve had. I have enjoyed several, mostly because of the coworkers. I actively hated a couple because of the stress. I started a small business to “do what I love” on the side, and it pays for itself but I don’t get a wage from it.

      2. LawBee*

        Yeah, cause what I love is curling up on the couch with knitting, the cat, and either a good book (in which case, no knitting, haha) or good things on the tv. Not a lot of $$ in that!

        1. Talvi*

          I don’t know, with a bookstand and some knitting that isn’t too pattern-heavy (i.e. the 182nd mitred square as opposed to the very complicated lace shawl), knitting while reading is absolutely possible! ;)

      3. Stranger than fiction*

        Agreed! While I wouldn’t encourage a young person to do something they hate, every one can’t be a rock star or movie star or astronaut or whatever we think is cool as kids. My BF says he would never want to do his hobby as his work because it would suck all the joy out of it and I think there’s wisdom in that.

        1. Blue_eyes*

          I especially like your last sentence. I have a cousin who became a doctor instead of a musician for exactly this reason. Being a doctor has made him enough money to live comfortably with his family and have a house large enough to have an entire room devoted to instruments.

      4. bridget*

        I think it’s especially bad with college students, because that runs out. There’s no chance that your college major you’re so-so about will pay you a living wage until you retire.

        I recently spoke with a recent college grad with a new English degree. She said, unprompted, that she had been accepted into the accounting program and thought she would make a great accountant and would like it, but her “real passion” was reading novels, and it’s just “so important to follow what you’re passionate about.” I couldn’t help thinking “great. now what?” She has three part-time retail/coffee shop jobs with no future plans. But hey, she chose a college major she’s passionate about, and didn’t consider being an accounting major with a great book club on the weekends.

        Note: I also have an English degree and am passionate about reading novels. But I was planning to go to law school and now have a career I like fine and don’t love, because there are remarkably few people who will pay one to read novels.

        1. afiendishthingy*

          So true, said the woman with the anthropology degree. Which I wasn’t passionate about even while I was doing it. I’ve been able to pursue my passions for singing, reading fanfiction, and taking selfies with my cat while getting paid a living wage in a job that I like but doesn’t relate to any of those. I hope that recent grad figures out she can pursue her passion for reading novels AND have a job that, you know, exists.

        2. simonthegrey*

          My best friend is the first in her family to have graduated college. None of her extended family could help her pick a degree field; she was good at art and highly praised growing up, so that was what they encouraged her to go into. She is a very talented artist, but surprisingly, her art degree is about as useful as mine in theology. It can be really hard when we don’t actually have conversations with young people about the kind of jobs that are available and the way we can work to pay for our passions.

      5. Abby*

        Yeah, I think it’s disingenuous, or at least dangerously short-sighted to foist the idea of “do what you love/find your passion” when it comes to finding a job and/or building a career. That idea that passion will somehow immunize you from the rigors and annoyances of day-to-day work is really dangerous– people begin to think that if they don’t 100% enjoy every single aspect of their work, it must not be their passion.

        It also suggests that everyone has this big void that must be filled with a single passion (which makes it super easy for people to write about, I guess), rather than trying to find enjoyment and fulfillment in the many little things in life.

      6. SevenSixOne*

        Especially since a lot of “what you love” things are either athletic or creative.

        The things you excel in when you’re 22 and in peak physical condition and invincible can take a huge physical and emotional toll on you in a relatively short time when you’re doing them all day every day.

        1. simonthegrey*

          This. My sister is an athlete (hoping to go pro), but even she realizes that by her mid-30s she will not be able to continue in her chosen sport. Her body simply won’t be able to keep up with younger competitors.

      7. HarryV*

        This 100 times over. I’ve been mentoring a few fresh grads who are disappointed that reality doesn’t match what was preached to them when they were seniors in HS or freshmen in college.

  17. AcidMeFlux*

    Every time I hear Gordon Ramsey babble on about “PAAASHUUN!” I want to stick his head into a pot of boiling stock (or broth?). There are a lot of people who are passionate about some things and are no good at them. Do you do a good job? Congratuations for being competent. A lot of people aren’t. Do you supply a useful or needed service? The world needs a lot of support actions to keep running and if you do your part, that’s just fine. I once had a student (I teach adult level English as a Foreign Language) who worked in high-end glamour event planning. It was the first day of class and all the students were introducing themselves. One woman said she worked in tax accounting, and he rolled his eyes and said “Well that doesn’t sound very interesting.” I said, “J., some day you’ll be audited and I guarantee you at that momen’t you will remember M. here and suddenly think she’s the most fascinating woman in the world.”

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I like him (well, he’s entertaining), but honestly, not EVERY chef is going to be a superstar or needs to be. They don’t get paid a lot and they tend to do better if they enjoy the work. Not every meal has to have Michelin stars all over it.

        And I have eaten at one of his restaurants–he really does have a point about simple food being better. But you don’t have to be hugely passionate to do well at this. Sometimes people just want to eat something because it fills them up and tastes good.

        1. Recruit-O-Rama*

          The British ale onion soup at Gordon Ramsey Steak at Paris in Las Vegas might be one of the best things I have ever eaten in my life, speaking of his restaurants. :)

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I’m going to have to remember that one if I ever go to Las Vegas. :) I ate at the one at Heathrow airport in London–it wasn’t cheap (but not super expensive). My lunch was the steamed sea bass on crushed minted potatoes with courgette pesto, and a side of sublime mac and cheese, followed by a brownie with marshmallow ice cream. I practically licked the plate, it was so good. My only disappointment was that they didn’t have the picnic hampers that day; I really REALLY wanted one. :( Next time….

  18. Ife*

    I think that being satisfied with where you’re at is a very healthy attitude and there’s nothing wrong with it! The idea that one always has to be climbing the career ladder for the sake of climbing the ladder bothers me. We need admins and programmers and data analysts and middle managers. It wouldn’t work if we all climbed up to being CEO’s!

  19. GIS Analyst*

    I have an unusual job. One that people stop and say “You make maps!” I am not passionate about geography. I like data and working with data because I can understand statistics far better than people.

    I am not passionate about my job. However, I am passionate about my lifestyle. I work in a great place, have awesome friends, and can put the work away at the end of the day.

    I am passionate about my life. I love my off hours and the fun I have. I love my hobbies and making a difference. I do not want those hobbies to be a “job.”

    However, when I felt like you I was suffering from mild depression. Not suicidal/several depressed, but just blas that never went away. The world was gray.

    I decided to change EVERTHING. I started slowly getting rid of the things I hated the most. The world slowly started to get color again. Then jumped all/in and changed jobs, countries, friends, hobbies. I am so HAPPY and Motivated.

    I am not saying this to tell you to change everything, but when you have the blas and are motivated try to change at least one thing. Do not live with gray. Try out the red, purple, stripped, spotted, world.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I decided to change EVERTHING. I started slowly getting rid of the things I hated the most. The world slowly started to get color again. Then jumped all/in and changed jobs, countries, friends, hobbies. I am so HAPPY and Motivated.

      I need to do this.

    2. Regina*

      Side note: My bf works with a lot of GIS people, so I actually know what you’re talking about!

      Anyway. Can you advise how to go about getting help? I think I have the same depression you’re talking about, and it’s been this way for a while. I really want to make a change and get out of this rut. But because it’s “mild” I don’t know how to look for help.

      1. starra*

        I saw a therapist for the first time about a year ago, and it was a lot less of a big deal than I expected. She was happy to provide support even though I also probably fell into the “mild” category. I found this person through a search on Psychology Today’s website. Some health insurance companies will also have directories of providers that are covered by your insurance plan. Mental health care is medical care. It’s important.

    3. fretnone*

      An inspiring perspective. My world feels very much greys right now – thank you, I needed your words!

  20. Jen S. 2.0*

    OP, you are not alone. I like my job well enough, and I’m good at it. It’s all about a B+. Now, if I won the lottery, I wouldn’t even go back there to get the picture of my cat on my desk. I’d never give my job another thought. I think MOST people are like that; it’s just that the ones at the ends of the bell curve are the ones we hear from the most. We get disproportionate information about the relatively few A+s and the relatively few D-s.

    I also agree with the person upthread who noted that most of what people publicize is their highlight reel, not the day-to-day. People edit the information they share.

    1. Kara*

      Yes! If I won the lottery tomorrow I would have no qualms about quitting work and walking away. I mean I’m a nice person so I’d probably at give notice and help transition, but as far as feeling bad about leaving the job or not working? Nah. I wouldn’t look back even once.

  21. AnonPi*

    Yeah I found this out much later than I wish I had. Especially if you go to college its all about a “career” (and that may be a bit over-generalizing, but typical of science fields). And I thought that’s what I wanted. When I started grad school I slowly realized that while I enjoy science, enjoy teaching others, I could absolutely not stand the departmental politics/culture. So I didn’t finish and people think I’m nuts for it, but like others I want to work to live, not live to work.

    My favorite job was an admin position in grad admissions. The job wasn’t glamorous, fairly straightforward day to day stuff, though I did learn some interesting stuff. It took me awhile to realize that the main reasons I liked it wasn’t the work itself, but the office culture, great coworkers and boss, and the fact that I went home at the end of the day and that was it. For me having work you like doing would be icing on the cake. Otherwise I’ll be satisfied to have a good boss and working environment at this point (nothing like having a job totally opposite that to make you appreciate it all the more).

    1. Jen S. 2.0*

      This too. The jobs I’ve hated were difficult people and just-okay work. The jobs I’ve loved were awesome people and pretty good work. The degree to which I liked the work wasn’t the determining factor.

    2. Chinook*

      “. For me having work you like doing would be icing on the cake. Otherwise I’ll be satisfied to have a good boss and working environment at this point (nothing like having a job totally opposite that to make you appreciate it all the more).”

      This is me now after having been through toxic work places where I had interesting work and great pay. I have taken a pay cut to work in a great workplace culture and never regretted it because I was happy to go there in the morning. Same for this place now – half of what I do is try to create jobs that make me indispensable so they never think to cancel my contract. :)

      The other side not mentioned here is being able to love the location where you live even if it means you don’t love your job. Growing up, I knew you get to choose where you live or what you do for work but never both. If you have a career path, you move where the work is. If you want to live somewhere specific, you find a job that allows you to be there. Then I would hear people complain about how there are no jobs where they are but refuse to move elsewhere that had lots of jobs because that is where 3 or 4 generations of their family grew up and how dare they have to move to earn a living. In my mind, they got the same amount of sympathy as those who complained that they are following their passion but can’t earn a living – my heart goes out to them for how much it sucks but you can’t have everything you want and you need to choose what is important to you and fix it yourself.

  22. learningToCode*

    Thank you, OP, for saying something!

    I graduated with a math degree a year and a half ago and everyone from career councilors to family members could not believe that I did not feel a calling to pursue a specific degree for a specific career path. All I wanted was stability in whatever work I found post college.

    Now I’m working in tech. I like my coworkers, learning to code keeps me occupied on and off the job, and I try to not be bored. Is this my passion? No, but I’m content and it’s nice to see that someone outright said that’s a norm rather than a sign that something’s broken.

  23. socrescentfresh*

    I didn’t like my job until I got good at it, and that took years. Even now, I definitely work to live, and I’m fine with that. I think about my grandparents and great-grandparents and the respect they had for a decent job done well, and I think they’d be proud of what I do, passion or no.

  24. Somov*

    I could’ve written this letter myself… At 38, I’m still wondering what I want to be when I “grow up.” I’m good at my job, but it was an accident I stumbled onto almost 20 years ago. To be honest, I have no idea what I’d rather be doing. I do know that I’d like to be my own boss, but other than that, no clue.

    1. Emmie*

      Grown people put so much pressure on themselves to have already figured out what they want to be when they grow up. Maybe you don’t need to figure it out. Build transferable skills with a work specific enough degree, and focus on building resume skills and accomplishments for the next level or position or business.

  25. AndersonDarling*

    I LOVE my job, but I think I am just comparing it to the sucky jobs I had before. I could be doing the same job as the OP, but it is just my perspective that makes me excited about it. If this was my first job, I would probably be meh about it.
    In the end, it is good to be passionate or excited about something in your life. It could be family, hobbies, traveling, or personal goals. It doesn’t have to be the job.

  26. Jady*

    You’re lucky to be satisfied. Be grateful for that.

    I’m in the same boat except I’m bitter and resentful about the mere idea of having to work and sell away my soul and hours for dollars. My job is fine, my pay is good, my coworkers are fine, the work is fine. But overall I don’t care and I just hate having to wake up in the morning and go somewhere I don’t want to be.

  27. Bostonian*

    There are really varying levels to “passion,” too. There’s a level that’s inhabited by workaholics and people who found their own companies where you are perfectly content to let work take over your life, and that’s what I tend to think of when people say that they are “passionate” about work.

    But there’s a lot of room between “meh” and that level of passion. I want to have a job where I feel like I’m doing work that is useful to the world, with people I generally like, that is a good match for my talents and which I therefore find generally satisfying. I also want to be able to leave work at a reasonable hour, be paid enough to live on, and have a life outside of work that’s full of other things I enjoy. I’m finishing up grad school at the moment and have all of that first part (the balance and pay, not so much) right now, and judging by the experiences of classmates a year or two ahead, I’m on a good track to get most of what I’m looking for in my next job.

    1. voluptuousfire*

      But there’s a lot of room between “meh” and that level of passion. I want to have a job where I feel like I’m doing work that is useful to the world, with people I generally like, that is a good match for my talents and which I therefore find generally satisfying. I also want to be able to leave work at a reasonable hour, be paid enough to live on, and have a life outside of work that’s full of other things I enjoy.

      ^This is pretty much what I aspire to. I want a job that I’m happy to go to every day and work with supportive, smart and nice co-workers and have projects that are exciting and that don’t bore me the majority of the time.

    2. Cath in Canada*

      You just articulated pretty much exactly how I feel about my job. I have a true passion for the actual science that underlies everything we do, but your second paragraph describes my actual job to a tee :)

    3. Anon369*

      Also, having met a number of entrepreneurs, some of them are probably running from something in their lives, but “passion for my business” is convenient and socially accepted.

  28. INFJ*

    Thank you so much for this letter! It can be difficult to be so honest and aware of your feelings, especially when you feel as though you’re the only one. I’m sure there are plenty of readers who can relate: you are providing the exact support and vindication that you hope to gain from others here.

    Alison is on the nose when she mentions that most people who write in on these kinds of sites are already career minded so it’s not a representative sample . Also, I would like to add that most people aren’t as public about these types of feelings (being OK with not loving your job and/or being OK with not wanting to BE THE BEST) because they fear social stigma or don’t even want to admit it to themselves.

    1. Vin Packer*

      Yes, or (see my comment below), they’re afraid if they admit it nobody will hire them. It’s all well and good to feel this way and say so when you already have a secure situation. If you don’t, though, it can be a downright scary feeling to have.

  29. Vin Packer*

    So, given the response to this question….if you’re a person who feels this way about work, how are you supposed to GET a job? Cover letters, resumes–the advice for all of these assumes that you’re a superstar and you just need help showing it in a paper application. What if you’re perfectly competent, but you’re not the all-time Most Passionate? I feel like these people should be able to have jobs too, but I’m not sure how they get them.

    1. Laura*

      I agree. How are you supposed to sell yourself when at the base level you are not sold yourself. It’s like get to know yous in college classes where you have to say why you are taking the class. It’s required. I finished high school and now I’m here.

      How do you convince an employer you care about being a great worker when you only care about somehow keeping the ends together and that requires a job.

      I don’t even have hobbies any more and with my various health problems, I can’t imagine what kind of ‘excellence’ I’m going to be able to come up with to make my job not look like total a wash on my resume.

      I feel like so much realistic job advice comes down to “be a pretty cool, pretty good worker and indicate that is what you are” but if that is beyond me for whatever reason, does that mean I should be resigned to poverty and exploitation?

    2. A Non*

      I’m in that boat. I usually stress why my skills and personality match up well for the job, and say why I want this job/to work for this company/etc, without exaggerating how I feel about it. Passion is not the best indicator of whether someone can do a job well – being experienced and competent and reliable is.

      In my industry it’s pretty common to have interview questions about what I do to keep on top of developments in the industry, and if I study new stuff in my free time. So it usually comes out that I work to live rather than living to work. From my POV that’s a good thing – if they want someone who will work 60 hours a week, it is not the job for me. It’s a two-way interview. So far it hasn’t been an obstacle to getting jobs.

      1. voluptuousfire*

        After working with a start up that emphasized “loving what you do” to the point of burnout or mental breakdown (well, not really but it felt like it!) , I started asking “what are the expected hours?” and that really gives you a good idea of how the company culture works. Luckily most have been “well, we’re 9-6 and we’re usually out by 6:15 or 6:30 the latest. We occasionally have overtime during busy seasons but overall we value work/life balance.” This was music to my ears.

        1. A Non*

          Yes – unfortunately when companies emphasize ‘loving what you do’, there’s sometimes an unspoken ‘so don’t look too closely at your paycheck’ following it. When it’s a huge part of their cultural identity, be wary.

      2. Regina*

        Would you mind telling me how you answer this? As I mentioned elsewhere, I never stay up to date on stuff (I probably should, but if I can’t get to it during the workday, I won’t spend my limited free time on it. I just don’t really care that much.) How do you handle it, and does the conversation come to a standstill?

    3. Just Visiting*

      It just takes the right fit. Most of my other jobs were gotten through temp agencies or friends, but for my current one I laid it out on the table that this would only be a day job for me. My supervisor said that my honesty is the reason I got the job, it’s not a glamorous position by any means and she was sick of people not being realistic about the job or just treating it as a rung on a ladder. (There is room for advancement, but there’s also room for deliberate stagnation.) I also live in a city with a high proportion of creative people who work day jobs only to fund their true passions, I don’t think this tactic would work on the East Coast.

      1. CM*

        @Just Visiting: That’s interesting, I do like my work and would keep working if I won the lottery (but selectively!), so this is a bit of a tangent — when I interviewed for my current job, I was also candid about wanting to have a life outside of work and not wanting to work nights and weekends. This is not the norm in my industry, but it seemed like a reasonable expectation for this job. My manager said they liked that answer because it explained why I was willing to live with the below-market salary. They had bad experiences in the past with people who left quickly because they couldn’t deal with the relatively low pay. So honesty can work, like you said, as long as you have the right fit.

        I think there is a spectrum. It’s not “live to work” or “work to live.” It’s important to me to do something I care about, and my career is a high priority, but not necessarily #1 and I don’t want to spend all my time on it. And on the “work to live” side, in these comments alone we’ve seen people who are content with their job but not passionate, and others who really hate working.

    4. Christian Troy*

      I work and research and struggle with this a lot. I am passionate about certain fields of research more than others, but getting a job in those sub fields is a completely different story when it comes to funding/availability. So while I meet qualifications for many jobs in my field and at my level, there are applicants who have years of volunteering or were president of clubs or volunteered abroad or whatever and it feels like an endless college application cycle of never being enough.

    5. Kai*

      I wonder about this too, and I wish more managers would drop the line about “we’re looking for someone who’s passionate about [whatever].” Focus on finding committed and skillful employees, sure, but should it matter if they have deep personal feelings to the gizmo you’re selling?

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        I’m reminded of my bf’s last job search. He kept getting responses to his resume from medical device manufacturers and would say to me “how am I supposed to be passionate about catheters?”

  30. Elizabeth*

    I’m also perfectly fine to do my job and then go home at the end of the day, but I work somewhere that really wants to invest in staff (which is good!) and thus it feels like there’s immense pressure to be far more ambitious than I actually am with my goal setting and professional development, etc. I really struggle to balance my non-ambitious personality vs the Type A personality employers think you should have.

  31. V*

    I really enjoy about 10% of my job (the part where I actually engineer and implement things). The rest ranges from tolerable (documenting my solution) to annoying (answering the same question 5 times, with information that’s in the documentation nobody reads).

    If I won the lottery, I’d keep working for a month or two to transition everything, and maybe consult part time for a bit after that to help out, but I’d definitely stop working. Until then, I’ll be working 40 hours a week to keep the cats fed, a roof over our heads, and pay for the more fun parts of my life.

  32. MoinMoin*

    Hi, OP! I actually asked a similar question (mine was about not having real passions or concrete career plans) in the open thread so you may want to take a look and see that you’re not alone in this aspect. I’ll definitely be watching the comments here also.

  33. LeisureSuitLarry*

    I struggled with this for years. I tried telling myself that it was ok not to be passionate about my job and that I was just going every day to get the paycheck. I worked so I could afford to do the things I actually wanted to do. After doing that for a decade I hated my life from 9am-6pm, and I finally figured out that it was no way to live. I went to a coding bootcamp, immersed myself in it for 2 months, and came out with a new career. Now I get to spend all day solving puzzles. I show up when I want, I leave when I want, I dress how I want (I call my jorts my summer professional uniform), and I do something interesting. I’m much happier doing something I enjoy doing than just trying to make it through another day.

  34. LawBee*

    I love my job, but I am definitely not one of those attorneys who can never ever leave it behind. I have a strict “No work on Saturdays” rule (which I bend rarely and only when it’s a deadline), I don’t take work home, and I check my email as little as possible. Actually, the only reasons I check it after work are that I hate that little red dot on my phone screen, and I have one partner who sends emails at odd times, and I like to keep an eye out for him.

    OP, you are incredibly normal. Congratulate yourself for having achieved a level of contentment with your job that many people don’t, and relish your off-hours.

  35. AMG*

    I do love my job, but there are certain tasks and elements that I just want to get through. Even on the things that I love, I don’t get the impression (even before reading these comments) that most people feel the way I do about work.

  36. Bend & Snap*

    I love my current role, my company and my chosen career path.

    But let’s be real. If Publisher’s Clearing House stopped by with a giant check tomorrow, I probably wouldn’t subject myself to the grind that is the working middle class.

  37. Esquire47*

    I feel the same way as you do, OP! I don’t love my job, some days I hate it, and some days I’m kind of enjoying it. 15 years ago after college I went to law school (because I didn’t know what else to do with my mostly useless liberal arts undergraduate degree, and it seemed like an interesting field with a pretty good starting salary). I work as an attorney for a state agency, and many of my coworkers are also unhappy being an attorney because of the stress and heavy-handed administrative intrusions, but we can’t easily switch fields due to student loans (I had $150k) and the fact that attorneys are usually both over-qualified AND under-qualified for many jobs. It’s not like I have a passion for another field or type of work – I am just “blah” about my job. I basically try to do my job without screwing up too much, and look forward to the weekends and the day when I can retire.

    1. Biglaw Stormtrooper*

      Could I ask how you went about getting this job? As my username indicates, I’m in Biglaw, and while I definitely don’t think government work would be stress-free, I think it would probably be an improvement (you consistently get weekends?!). :-)

      1. Esquire47*

        I was working in a small insurance defense firm and pretty miserable due to billable hour requirements, and my co-worker who was also an attorney at the same firm jumped shipped and got his job with the state agency. About one year later when the agency was hiring, my former co-worker told me and I applied.

        The pay for state agency attorneys in California (where I’m from) is lower than in private practice, and you don’t get a bonus. But overall, I am much happier in state service than I ever was in private. The medical benefits, vacation/PTO, sick time, retirement, FMLA, etc are all much better in state service.

        I f0und, and still find, the whole application process to be a state employee quite confusing. It requires filling out a general application, taking “tests” to get ranked, and then having to constantly review job bulletins to see what openings in which cities in the State are available. The interview process can take several months because of the multiple layers of bureaucracy.

  38. Phil Weber*

    Many years ago, I read about Hugh MacLeod’s “Sex & Cash Theory”: http://gapingvoid.com/blog/2013/08/06/sex-cash-theory/. Essentially, it says that the work that pays the bills will generally be less interesting/fulfilling than that about which you’re passionate; most of us have to do one to finance the other.

    If you can get paid to do what inspires you, AWESOME! But as others have noted, that’s the exception, especially if you work for an employer.

    I think freelancers probably have a greater ability to do work that inspires them, because they have more freedom to choose their projects, clients, hours, etc. Liz Ryan recommends that everyone do some consulting, at least on the side, to flex our creative muscles and maybe, one day, do it full-time: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140220061527-52594-how-to-launch-a-consulting-business-yes-you.

  39. BananaPants*

    I do enjoy my work a lot of the time but I can’t say I’ve ever been truly passionate about it. I’m decent at it, but I majored in this area in college in large part because I knew I’d be able to find a decent job when I graduated. I realized way too late that I wish I’d gone into a different field and now I’m stuck; realistically I’d be in my mid-40s by the time I could go back to school (necessary for this particular career change) and even if some place did hire me, I’d be taking a significant pay cut in the process.

    I have zero desire to be a manager. If I stay with this company, my next promotion won’t happen for 10-15 years and it will be my last. However, at this stage in my life, with young children at home, I have no desire to work 60 hour weeks or travel a ton or anything resembling the amount of effort. As long as we have enough money to support our family I feel no great desire to constantly move up or earn a ton of money. I work to live, not live to work, and if we won the lottery or got a huge inheritance I’d be out of here so fast everyone’s heads would spin.

  40. Elizabeth West*

    I, too, work to live. I like my job–it’s the best admin job I’ve had so far, with the best benefits and working environment, but it’s not my passion. I work so I can pursue my passion and goal, which is to write and publish novels (someday). I may never be able to stop working–I know exactly ONE semi-famous published novelist who writes full-time and makes a living off it and that’s not even all he does.

    There is NOTHING wrong with not being passionate about your job. It’s a job. It’s not a holiday in France. Even the job of your dreams would have mundane, annoying tasks that you simply endure so you can get to the good stuff. I think the whole passion thing is overblown marketing business jargon buzzwords. Besides, a lot of things people are passionate about don’t pay the bills, so most of them work and do the stuff they love on the side, on weekends, etc.

    If you’re happy with your work, your coworkers, and everything else, then you’re fine. If not, maybe seek some new activities outside work to relieve any boredom or ennui. Who knows–they may lead to something you never thought you’d be into. :)

    1. Lily*

      “It’s a job. It’s not a holiday in France.”

      I love this comment. I wish I could turn it into an inspiration poster and tack it next to the hang in there kitten. And I agree with everyone else who said that we’ve been done a big disservice from the whole “do what you love” agenda. Sometimes a job is just a job, and that’s perfectly okay. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that my aspirations will probably never rise above “relative competency.” The moment I can retire, I’m out of here.

  41. Omne*

    It’s normal. I have some days where it’s interesting and other days where I’m bored out of my mind. Overall I’d rather be somewhere else but I’m within 10 years of a fixed benefit retirement, I have good benefits and they pay me enough for me to take care of my bills, live comfortably and be able to travel a fair amount. I don’t hate my job by any means, but it’s definitely a “meh”. Occasionally I consider going for a promotion but it would be a lot more work, a lot more hours, a lot more dull meetings and a whopping 7% more money. Since I work for a state government the pay scales are fixed. I still might if I get bored enough though.

    I haven’t been passionate about my job for the past 10 years or so. I used to be when it was a very different environment and less bureaucratic. If I could go back to what I was doing 20 years ago for half the money I’d do it in a heartbeat.

  42. Alistair*

    By Deity, this is totally me. And sometimes my comfortable little rut has me worried about my future. Good luck to us all.

  43. Sans*

    I like writing. I like the mental process I go through to write a marketing piece. But I’ve been doing it over 30 years. Sometimes for really boring products. I’m exactly like you. My job is okay. Sometimes it irritates me but mostly it’s okay. I don’t want to think about it when I go home, and most of the time, I don’t have to. If I won the lottery at 7 pm tonight, I would quit my job at 7:01. Even if I did love it. There is SO much more to do in life than sit in an office. Why would I ever choose the office over the rest of the world?

  44. Lanya*

    It’s also OK to start feeling “meh” about a career path you once had passion for. I have spent 10 years as a professional graphic designer. The passion is beginning to wear off, to the point that I’m ready to start thinking about pursuing a radically different career path that has nothing to do with design, but would make me happier than I am now. (If you asked me about that a decade ago I would have looked at you like I was crazy.) It’s OK to allow your likes and dislikes to grow and change as your career grows and, perhaps, changes.

  45. The IT Manager*

    You are not alone.

    But I think it’s also how people talk about it. Being passionate about your job and loving your job is something to aspire to. So you hear a lot of stories about that and some people may even lie about it so it sounds like their life is better than it is.

    I do quite like my job and get fulfillment from it so maybe even I talk it up, but if I “won the lottery” I wouldn’t keep working. I believe I can get that same fulfilled by achieving fitness and reading goals, cooking more, volunteering, travelling, etc. I like my job, but really, really wish it wasn’t 40+ hours a week.

    Plus I am 100% there are many people such as yourself that work for the paycheck and find their fulfillment elsewhere. If you’re job is making you sick, that’s a problem; but not loving it, isn’t really a problem as long as you find your passion somewhere else – hobbies, family, etc.

  46. Tinker*

    Something else that also comes in here, I think, is the matter of what “passion” actually looks like. I was in a conversation with some friends awhile back that turned to the matter of my portraying a character who was supposed to be defined largely by his passions. I said that I didn’t know as I was particularly well-suited for that, because I’m not generally a big sweeping emotion sort of person, and a friend of mine pointed out that I’m actually intensely passionate but that I tend to express that more in, like, extensive info dumps and less in emoting. Which, when I thought about it, was actually true.

    I think part of the problem with the “follow your passion” thing is the notion that there’s a degree of intense emotional engagement a lot of the time, and for at least certain sorts of folks I don’t think that’s really a sustainable position or for that matter an indication of what a person is really called to do.

    Also, I tend to think that in a lot of cases “the thing you’re called to” is something that doesn’t fit neatly into industries or job descriptions — what I tend to is, I think, a thing of manipulating tokens of meaning that could do just as well as a writer, a therapist, or an actor as for a software engineer, depending on how one approached those particular activities.

    Finally, I think there’s the factor of fish not thinking about water — to a degree, doing something that is natural to oneself can look kind of meh in the moment. It doesn’t have the novelty factor that makes a thing stand out, but the value of the thing has a way of coming out in the long view or in retrospect. Sort of an old married couple sort of thing.

    1. Turtle Candle*

      Excellent points as always. You’re absolutely right about intense engagement and constant enthusiasm being exhausting. And there’s also a thing where I think people on both sides of the divide forget that even your really cool awesome A++ dream job will have its tiring, boring, drudgery parts.

      You see this sometimes with successful writers, if they say “Oh god day 37 of the book tour I am so tired I just want to go home and eat ice cream.” And a lot of people will respond with something like “poor baby, I bet your diamond shoes are also too tight.” Which, if you have bought into this idea that “if you love what you do you’ll never work a day in your life” makes a certain amount of sense, but… it’s simply not true. Even if you love what you do, there will be some elements of what you do that you don’t love (maybe you love writing and rewriting but going over galleys gives you a massive headache), and some things that you love but that still tire you out (day one of the book tour is probably going to feel very different than day thirty-seven no matter HOW much you love it). If you love what you do you will still work because anything that is an obligation–even a beloved obligation–is still work. I love watching Netflix and eating ice cream but if you told me I had to do it eight hours a day five days a week I’d get bored and twitchy and kind of ill after a while. I love cooking dinner but some days I just want to say “screw it we’re ordering pizza.”

      (I mean, there’s an argument that part of it re: authors and actors complaining is that they should know to keep such things apart from their public persona. But then… maintaining a public persona is, again, work, and if you became famous-ish gradually over time, you may not realize the point at which you need to probably be careful about the complaining on Twitter.)

      1. J*

        A great deal of the satisfaction people feel from work is just keeping themselves occupied and doing productive things with others. That’s a universal human need. Even retired people or people who don’t otherwise have a job find a way to “work” on something.

    2. SevenSixOne*

      “I think part of the problem with the “follow your passion” thing is the notion that there’s a degree of intense emotional engagement a lot of the time, and for at least certain sorts of folks I don’t think that’s really a sustainable position or for that matter an indication of what a person is really called to do.”

      There can be a lot of physical engagement, too. Even though you may LOVE to dance or play the trombone or carve wood or spend weeks on the interview circuit or whatever *now*, you may feel different after years of doing it has wrecked your body.

  47. East Coast Anon*

    I like my job because it allows me to use my strenghts, education, and experience. The content of the work is negligible to me (and sometimes absurd in my opinion). I work because it feels good to earn money and pay for my mortgage and dance classes and trips to NYC, the important stuff.

  48. Lunar*

    Any advice for people who feel “meh” about their jobs by aren’t okay with it? I don’t feel passionate about my job and I can tell that it will not be sustainable for me. I want to feel satisfied with my work and I know that I personally will do better work and put forth more effort if I really cared about/enjoyed my job. To me, it is just too many hours of my life to spend doing something boring or that doesn’t excite me.

    1. fposte*

      If you don’t know what you’re passionate about, my advice to you is to take a few years to think about it and pare expenses to the bone in the meantime–one, to see if you can stand living like that in a lower-paid field (which is what passion usually entails), and two, to save up money to cushion you through the transition.

      If you do know, what do you need to make it happen?

  49. Angela Vickers*

    Thank you so much for writing this letter!

    I studied to enter a field that has a lot of “passion” in it and ended up in a different field that also has a lot of “passion.” While I like the specific job that I do. I find it exhausting to be around people who live and breathe for this work. Also, because it’s a career based around “passion” it pays a bit less than careers that people might not have such a romantic view of. I really need to separate the idea that I have to LOVE and be passionate about my work to do a good job (and to find a good job). In a few years I think I would like to switch fields to something that pays better and that’s less passionate, but I don’t even know where to start researching other fields because my brain is so insistent that I find a job that I’m “passionate” about.

  50. Yep*

    100% normal.

    I think it’s easy to forget we’re not *just* what we do. Just because you’re not passionate about your job doesn’t mean you don’t have other passions in life.

    Not that this is necessary applicable to you, but I know several people who felt meh about their job, and then after they retired they essentially made their hobbies/other passions their job: a college professor who became super active in local theater, a fork lift operator who ended up becoming a scuba diving instructor, etc.

    I’m basically a glorified secretary right now, and I’m not passionate about it. But like you I appreciate where I am, enjoy my coworkers, etc. And, I’m also a freelance writer, an avid hiker, and am involved in and volunteer with my local farm community.

    I’m sure there are many things you’re passionate about that all add up to the sum of you, not just your job.

    No need to feel guilty about doing what you have to do to put a roof over your head and food in your mouth. :)

    1. JM in England*

      Totally agree, Yep!

      My main passions are outside work and I see my job as a way of obtaining the means to pursue them.

  51. Mirror*

    This reminds me of the story of the MBA grad vacationing in a small tropical village. He comes across a fisherman who is relaxing in the sun and asks why he isn’t working.

    “I’m done for the day.”
    “What do you mean?? You could be out there fishing longer and make more money!”
    “And then what? I don’t need all that extra money.”
    “You could invest in more boats, catch more fish, and expand your business.”
    “That sounds like a lot of work.”
    “But if you kept at it, your business will grow so much that you can retire at 50.”
    “Then what?”
    “Then you can retire and relax on the beach all day!”
    “But aren’t I doing that now?”

    1. Mirror*

      That was a quick paraphrase. I believe the fisherman also mentions his great work-life balance and how he has time to spend with family. :) more to life than work!

      1. not alex*

        just like the dude who jogs 2 hours a day and boasts about the years it adds to his life…..

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Oh boy is that so true. My dad worked around the clock at a corporate job and ran a business on the side that was his passion. He socked away a fortune so he and my mom could travel the world after he retired. Well by the time he retired his health had gone down hill and my mom had hada major surgery that left her feeling like crap most the time. They never did that traveling and now my dad is going into a home for full time care.

    2. Weekday Warrior*

      I’ve seen a recent version that argues that by working more and making more money the fisherman can employ others and give more to charity, therefore working more is the best goal. Hahaha – we always find a way to justify more and more work.

  52. Nethwen*

    Last night I went on and on in my head, trying to convince my imaginary colleagues that for most of the jobs we manage, passion is irrelevant. Therefore, we should have the expectation that our staff only work 40 hours and not use their personal resources for work activities. No budget for that kind of reasonableness? Then cut services; don’t take advantage of people. If I rant in my head, I am more polite if the words ever come out.

    TLDR: I think OP has an acceptable attitude and am fine hiring people who work to live.

  53. Job Lover*

    I LOVED First Job. I though about it on the weekends, but in a good way. Sure I was frustrated and run down occasionally, but generally speaking I was very passionate about and happy with my work.

    Then I relocated for my husband’s job, so I took a job I was very Not Happy at. I didn’t feel fulfilled, invested in, or generally care about it. Thankfully I left that job and am now two weeks in to New Job, so time will tell if this is a better option.

    I always say that First Job was a blessing and a curse because it set the bar way too high for me. Trying to temper my expectations now, in my late 20s, is difficult.

  54. msbadbar*

    I once worked for a musical theater company that produced its own shows with local actors. Sometimes, actors who were between shows would complete short 2- or 3-month stints in the admin office (answering phones or assisting the marketing department). I worked in the admin office, so I got to know some of the actors. On a side note, I’m guessing that stage acting is one job that people do love and are passionate about.

    One day, an actress said to me, “How do you do it?! How do you do this day in and day out for years? I’m used to pacing myself for 3-month jobs.” Even though she only mentioned time, I’m guessing she also meant, “How do you do this drudgery long term?”

    It struck me at the time and has stuck with me for years. A small number of people are blessed with dream jobs, but most of us pace ourselves for long-term commitments to jobs and careers that fulfill our needs rather than passions.

    Her comment opened my eyes to how I pace myself–it’s such a long-term pace that it didn’t even occur to me that I was doing it. I mean, most of us probably don’t say every day, “Only 23.5 more years left!” or whatever.

    I think there is something to be said for those of us who do keep up this long-term pace. Maybe it’s not exactly a dream life, but I think that there is real strength in continuing on day after day, and there are opportunities to find and appreciate small, enjoyable things at work every day.

    1. Al Lo*

      Yeah, I work in the arts, and there’s definitely a required level of passion to be in this world. The people who really want to be here tend to be the ones who make it — I’m a producer, and I work with actors, dancers, singers, choreographers, and other musicians and technicians all the time, and I think that just about every person would say that the goal is to get into the full-time career that’s based on what you love.

      The thing is, there will always be parts of your world that you don’t love. Actors have to be marketers, promoters, managers, bookkeepers. Being in this field is being in business for yourself, and the savvy part of that may not be as exciting and romantic as the onstage part — but it’s necessary.

      I worked a “day job” for a while that left me free to pursue my interests on the side, and I was miserable. For me, I have to be in the field where my passion and training lies, and I’m lucky that I get to do that and make a living. Do I love every single thing I do? Nah, but I’m a whole lot happier than I would be if I was working elsewhere and doing this on a volunteer basis.

  55. Mimi*

    Holy cow! I could have written this one! I, too, worked my way into a job that I don’t love or even particularly like. I don’t think I’m that good at it, although I have managed to get promoted over the years to junior executive-level. Mostly, I feel kind of like a fraud because I don’t live for work. But it pays so well, and I’m only a few years away from retirement, that I’m sort of stuck. I know, boo-hoo, right?

    Point being, thank you, Letter Writer! You are not alone!

  56. Another Museum Person*

    OP you are not alone. I even work in a field where people are typically outrageously fanatical about the love they have for their jobs. I was once, myself. The problem with turning what you love into a job, is that it becomes just that, a job. The things I once loved are now things I have to do on repeat. Not to mention, the pay is awful. I wish I could go back and choose a different field, and have this be a hobby or something I volunteered to do when I had the extra time.

  57. Brooke*

    For me, there’s been an ebb and flow to how much passion I have for my job, and it’s affected by a myriad of things, some of which have little to do with the actual job.

    In other words, normal!

  58. sam*

    I’ve talked about my prior job a few times on the boards, so some may be familar…

    I LOVED my old job. I lived for my job. I spent large portions of my 30s traveling, living in other countries (and thereby sacrificing friends/family/etc.) for my job. My job was all-consuming and high-pressure. I was a rockstar. And at the end of the day, where did all of that drive, passion and commitment get me? It got me laid off in the second round of layoffs when the firm began collapsing in on itself instead of the first round. And unemployed for two years during the financial crisis. That was a fun time. But it did give me the space to figure some things out.

    Now? I like my job. I like the people that I work with, and I like the the work that I do, and I care very much about doing a good job. But if I learned anything from the experience above, it was that it actually wasn’t emotionally healthy to have so much *emotionally* invested in my job. I’m still a spinster cat-lady, but I also spend more time enjoying things like my friends, family and hobbies (just got back from a lovely photography workshop in Wyoming – pics are at my blog if you click on my name), and I find that I spend a lot less time cancelling dinner plans than I used to.

    I think it’s important to *like* your job. as in, if you’re bored and/or you hate your job, that’s actively a bad thing and you should seek to change it, because that can cause it’s own stresses, but if you’re content with your job, and it allows you to do the other things in your life that you actually love to do, that’s actually OK.

    1. Windchime*

      I followed your link and went down a rabbit hole for an hour, reading that article. Wow. That’s quite a story. I’m glad to hear that you are happy and finding balance in your life.

      1. sam*

        That’s only 1 of about 1,000 articles written about the situation, but it’s a pretty good, not-too-inside-baseball synopsis. The American Lawyer also did a pretty massive cover story, but it tends to get into a bit of “lawyers talking to lawyers” about the whole thing.

        The prosecution is actually going on now – I think they just rested their case last week and then the defense starts. Considering I got laid off back in 2009 (with the first layoffs at the end of 2008), this has been quite the saga.

  59. Recruit-O-Rama*

    I love my job and most of the people I work with. I think I do a pretty good job and am a value to my company. If I won the lottery, I would give two weeks notice and never look back. My husband and I have big retirement plans, including making them come to fruition as soon as possible. I think it’s normal and it doesn’t even make you a bad or “meh” employee. They are paying you for a particular set of skills or tasks and as long as you are satisfied with the pay and it’s fair and they are satisfied with the work, you are both getting the right things out of your relationship.

  60. JayemGriffin*

    I hear you, OP. I like my job fine. I’m pretty good at it. I like my coworkers and the organization we work for. But I’m not deeply passionate about data integrity. I do take pride in doing a good job, but it’s not my life. It pays well enough, and I have plenty of hobbies outside of work that really keep me going. And I’m perfectly happy with that.

    1. Brandy*

      I love the scene in “Office Space” where he says “what do I want to do? Nothing. I want to do nothing”. That’s the jest of it. That’s me. If I followed my passion Id do nothing. So instead I work a job with a bunch of others here just like me, to be able to afford doing nothing in my downtime.

  61. Case of the Mondays*

    I’ll be honest. I find it difficult to work with someone who clearly hates to work. She would rather be outside. She wants the office to close early. She laments when people are using their PTO time and she is still at her desk. She gets annoyed when people leave a half hour before she does but she starts a half hour later. She does a good enough job but she is just clearly someone who would rather not work. I would rather not work too but it seems like the norm is you keep that to yourself. It gets tiring being around her and hearing the complaints. She is always looking to escape 5 seconds early and is near tears if you keep her 5 seconds late. (No, she has no out of work commitment at a specific time, I’ve asked.)

  62. JG*

    Most people I know who work full-time spend about 1/3 of their time at work, 1/3 sleeping, and that last 1/3 is the “life” part (Netflix, cooking dinner, seeing friends, underwater basket weaving, whatever). I’m in my 30s and have never had a job I loved, not even close, and I struggle with the same feelings as the OP. On the one hand, of course it’s normal to just have a job be a job and not a calling–thinking that it should be anything else is an enormously privileged POV. But personally it feels a little sad to spend so much of my time doing something I’m ambivalent about. There are varying degrees of “working to live,” and there’s probably a sweet spot where your job is just challenging enough to be engaging but not overwhelming, and you’re compensated enough to really enjoy that precious leftover 1/3. I haven’t hit that balance yet, but it seems like a more useful and realistic goal than hoping I’ll have an epiphany one day about my life’s purpose.

    1. Brandy*

      I think too much emphasis in this generation has been on following “passions”. People in the past got up, worked and came home. Very few were passionate about their jobs.

      1. Annie O'Mouse*

        Yes! And for centuries, it was a question of mere survival. People didn’t have a choice of career either. If your father was the village baker, chances are you would be too.

        1. Chinook*

          “And for centuries, it was a question of mere survival. People didn’t have a choice of career either. If your father was the village baker, chances are you would be too.”

          I wonder if there is a correlation between that and the fact that those who passionately hated having their life mapped out for them like that turning out to be the ancestors of those of us places like the Americas and Australia? After all, we literally exist because they followed their passions. The part of the gene pool that woke up, went to work, and came home stayed where they were, creating children who were satisfied to do the same thing. (And would explain some of the racism towards natives as they were ones who stayed home too instead of following their passions and exploring). If I was a grad student, I could see this being an interesting anthropological study…

          1. Cath in Canada*

            I think the idea of that being genetically programmed falls down when you realize just how many people from the families that skipped the first couple of waves of emigration are still emigrating, though. I was born in England, and none of my ancestors are from any further away than Ireland – they were all farmers and coal miners who tended to stay where they were born for generations at a time. And yet here I am in Canada. My auntie moved to the US, and I have friends from high school who are scattered all over – Newfoundland, Australia (2 people), India, Denmark. Culturally programmed, sure, but speaking as a geneticist I don’t think there’s much of a genetic component :)

          2. Amy UK*

            Tbh, I think that sounds incredibly unlikely and naive. I mean, the whole idea of a genetic legacy based on one ancestor having moved overseas a couple of hundred years ago seems ludicrous. Maybe if you had many generations who’d emigrated, there could be a genetic legacy, but not if the family went to America and stayed there ever since. Especially since you’d expect this ‘legacy’ to manifest in a modern Americans having a massive passion for travelling and moving abroad, which really isn’t the case compared to Europeans who’ve been in their countries for centuries.

            Your theory also ignores the fact that European countries have the exact the same problem of people being dissatisfied in mid-level jobs that lack creativity or don’t inspire passion. Most native Europeans can trace their lines back hundreds of years within their country, if not their city/province, and most of my British friends don’t have any foreign ancestry pre-1950 or so. So if countries that don’t “literally exist because [they] followed their passions” have the same problem, it seems unlikely that Americans have some special genetic legacy causing the issue.

            (That’s not to get into the fact that you’re heavily romanticising the first American and Australian settlers. The passionate and romantic adventurers and discoverers weren’t the ones who stuck around and created societies there. Most of the settlers were either rich people looking to increase their wealth by exploiting the local natural resources and natives, or labourers and servants who didn’t have much to stick around for back home. Some might have been passionate about seeing the New World, but the majority likely had less romantic reasons for going to an undeveloped country that lacked any of the infrastructure they took for granted back in Europe).

      2. Kate*

        A friend of mine from an older generation told me once that when she was growing up, she and her friends were told to figure out what they were good at, and pursue that – as opposed to what they “loved.” Seems like good advice to me, and aligns with observations Alison has made about how many people enjoy their jobs simply because they feel they’re good at them – not necessarily because they feed their souls.

        JG, I understand the sad feeling. I follow one too many lifestyle bloggers on Instagram and it’s hard not to feel a little bummed with life when those people’s actual job is shopping and trying new restaurants. But then … I don’t want to be a blogger.

    2. Sleep*

      Yeah, I agree. Unfortunately most people in my company seem to be at work 12 hours a day, commute an hour each way, and spend the rest sleeping, getting ready for work, eating, etc. — all the other necessities. This is considered “normal” at my company even though they call it “work-life” balance.

  63. Regina*

    OP, I could have written with this letter! You are not alone, and though we might indeed be part of the majority, I think we’re the distinct minority in our respective social circles, which is why we feel this pressure.

    I really, really struggle with this. On this blog in particular, we are surrounded by A+ go-getter, career-oriented people. At my job, I’m surrounded by the same. I think the reason I always feel so guilty is that I was an overachiever as a kid, and was always pushed to do well. I am motivated by fear of losing my job and nothing else. At my work, there are so many who go above and beyond — they work 12 hour days and weekends, they monitor how the economy in several foreign markets affects us, keep an eye on every single news article about our company, make connections with every person at our job and all our vendors. I just don’t have the energy for that. However, if you asked Alison or polled the board, everyone would say this is what a proactive rockstar can and should do.

    I just don’t care. I don’t care deeply about the work, and it’s not what drives me at all. But at the same time, I want everything I do to be perfect, to never miss a deadline, and always get my tasks done. So I think if people I know were to hear how I truly feel, they would be shocked. I get promoted and praised for work all the time, but in my mind, it still isn’t enough because a.) I lack the passion and b.) I know what actual rockstars do, and it’s way more than me.

    Every day, I dream about the day I can retire. I would 100% welcome being a SAHM, except I’m not really sure I want kids and in this day and age, I don’t know who can even afford to that.

    Basically, I hear you, and I wish there was a way for me to be around more people like us in daily life, because it really is frustrating to feel so alone in this all the time. I feel like I can’t tell anybody about it, because if some networking connection got wind of my true thoughts, they’d never recommend me for a job in the future because they’d think I was a slacker. And the cycle continues! I don’t want to work, but I have to, so I can’t torpedo myself, even if I’m just being true to who I am.

    Let’s start a support group! I know I need it.

    1. Weekday Warrior*

      Hmm – I’m not sure everyone on this board would think the overworker you describe is a “rockstar”. Could be a burn out waiting to happen. It’s not an all or nothing proposition that you either love or hate your job or that you put in 80 hours weeks or slack through 40. There’s a happy medium to all this and having a basically good job that generally uses your talents and offers opportunities to learn while paying a decent wage in 35-40 hours a week is it. You may want more or less at different times of your life but it’s always a mistake to over invest in the job and starve the rest of your life. The company will never love you back. :)
      It is hard to buck the societal message of more work and more consumption as the ideal. The “You Really Don’t Have to Work So Hard” article is helpful! http://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/you-really-dont-need-to-work-so-much

      1. Regina*

        Do you really think a mid-level to seasoned executive would be considered a rockstar if they only worked 40 hours a week? I have seen countless times on this board that that’s what you do when you get to the top (and that’s what is perceived as being a proactive go-getter). I distinctly remember a thread on salaried workers where countless people said they’d side-eye anyone salaried who only worked 40 hours, and 50 hours was the actual minimum they expected. So no, I don’t think I’m wrong in my assessment here.

        1. Weekday Warrior*

          Well, I guess it really depends on the nature of your workplace/field. You’re right that some do expect 50+ hours of work (or pseudo work aka face time – see link below) but there is a lot of research that actual productivity goes down past a certain limit, usually 40-50 hours per week. It is really tough to go against this hamster wheel mentality that’s taken hold of our post-industrial societies, particularly if you’re putting in the hours not just to get ahead in some way but just to hang on to your job. And then you have to pretend to love it as well? Yuck. But there are fields and workplaces where this madness is resisted and it’s worth finding them. Be prepared to give up some “status”, though, because our society loves the fastest hamster in the wheel.
          This article is an eye-opener re our crazy work values.

    2. Emily*

      I definitely need a support group. I work in a field that people choose because they’re “passionate” because nobody would work this hard for this amount of money otherwise! I used to be passionate, but I’m burned out, I feel overworked and under-appreciated on top of under-compensated. I do good work, but I’ve gone from wanting to take on more and not feeling like I have the time to do it all well (not that I have a choice whether I take on the work or not, regardless of how much enthusiasm or time I have for it!) to not wanting to take it on at all, which makes me feel like such a slug.

      That feeling that I can’t talk about it is sickening. I can’t talk about it with anyone at work, obviously, and I feel more and more like I can’t talk about it with friends or family outside of work because the very, very last thing I want to hear is “but so, are you looking?” I looked for a while, but it’s overwhelming to think about putting all the effort in to applying and interviewing for a job, transitioning to a new job, and finding that I basically feel the same way about it except maybe the commute is worse or I don’t have my own office where I can catch up on AAM or hide when my boss is in a mood or whatever. There are times when I wonder if I wouldn’t be happier taking a lower-level position if it were in an industry that paid better, or one that allowed me to leave work at work. I’ve never seen a job advertised that way, though!

      Worst of all, deciding to accept my job for what it is and concentrate on my personal life, specifically dating, has proven so discouraging in part because you can’t talk about this kind of thing with a potential romantic partner! I know that ambivalence (on good days), complaining (on bad days), and rage (on the worst days) are not attractive qualities. Every time a guy asks me, “so what do you do?” my heart sinks.

  64. Mena*

    You are not alone!!!
    I like what I do (LIKE, not passionately love), I work hard to do my job well and am very well paid, I work in a pleasant environment with nice and smart people. If I won the lottery tomorrow or some secret trust fund kicked in, I’d offer a polite notice period so to not leave anyone stuck and then hit the road and never look back! “See Ya, Bye!”
    I bet there are more of us there than we will ever know.

  65. B*

    I feel the same way. Think I am stuck and can’t do what I should have always done. Sadness in my eyes when I am here.

  66. Allison T*

    I could not be more passionate about what I do as a Guest Relations Manager at a luxury hotel. However, I’ve recently been forced to resign because I got married and my husbands brother works in one of my departments. It’s against hotel policy to oversee him, although we have both been in our current roles for 7 years for him, 4.5 years for me and my husband and I together for 6.
    Now I’m forced to find work elsewhere and can’t imagine not doing this particular job. I have worked at a lot of cool places and done a lot of cool things, but I got the most joy out of taking great care of our guests and helping them create awesome memories.
    Have no clue now what I’m going to do….

  67. Annie O'Mouse*

    Thank you, all of you, for telling the truth here.

    For all my working life (3 decades of it) I thought I had to Love My Job. For a few brief years I loved my (former) job and then it went south. I haven’t been able to find anything I liked that much since. I still hold onto the dream that someday I’ll find That Wonderful Job. But as I get closer to retirement age, I’m beginning to think it’s not going to happen. It’s like, not everyone has a happy marriage.

    I feel pretty “meh” about my current job. It was a hard pill to swallow because I took the job as a stepping-stone toward pursing a whole new career (after 25 years of dreaming about how cool said career would be). I found out (thankfully before investing in training) that I don’t really want that career after all. The field just does not interest me enough.

    On a personal level, I’ve been struggling with the Great Big Passion thing for years. Almost as if it balances out the career “meh-ness.” Like, since I don’t have a Big Career, I should be devoted to art or writing or dog-raising. Like it’s not OK to just be an ordinary person. Right now I’m wondering if I should continue to an MFA in creative writing program about which I feel pretty “meh.” Wondering what’s wrong with me that I’m not having fun (like the other students say they are) or lovin’ it etc.

    1. Kate*

      I relate to this in a deep way. I have no secret talent that I feel ~passionate about. I’m an ok songwriter, but have zero interest in that lifestyle (concerts, etc). I like gardening. I like traveling, reading, and hanging out with friends and my husband. End of list. Don’t really LOVE any particular hobby. Still feel overall happy with life.

      1. Regina*

        I’m this way too. I’m just not amazing at any one thing. I’m okay at several things. I will probably never be great at anything. We as a culture only seem to care about the superstars, and not those that are average. Are the rest of us not allowed to enjoy life, or is it only for the cream of the crop? That’s definitely the message I get from all corners.

      2. Sleep*

        Right. When I used to force myself to be happy, I was always miserable. Now I don’t force myself to be happy, and I’m still not happy, but I’m also content with just being “bleh”.

  68. OP*

    Wow do I feel better! I felt like this was a dirty little secret I had to keep! My passions lie in the little things of life: family, friends, hanging with my dog, teaching group fitness. My job does not excited me but now I don’t feel so “bad”. Thank you!

    1. Mimi*

      You made me feel better today, OP! As I approach retirement, I have the kind of job that the “young pups” would kill for. So they are SUPER DUPER excited about everything having to do with work. I used to be that way too, but as you eloquently put it, “meh.” I was feeling guilty because I don’t feel that way any more. One guy is so competitive, it’s amusing! We’re a campus IT group and he wears a tie these days. He also has his lips firmly planted on our boss’s behind. What-EVER! (That said, I ain’t turning my back on the guy–I might get hurt!)

  69. literateliz*

    Haven’t read all the comments, so apologies if I’m repeating anyone; I just have so many thoughts on this!

    I have the kind of job that one can be passionate about, although I hate the word “passion” in a work context because it’s such a cliche. (Yes, I work with words, haha.) I would say I love my job and find aspects of it deeply rewarding. Today I got in early, got some coffee, sat down at my desk, read some of the open thread, sent some emails, went over some work with our intern, had a phone call, and put some invoices through. It’s called work because it’s work; even cool, creative jobs aren’t all excitement for 40 hours a week.

    Also, the best advice I ever heard about choosing a career path–the advice I wish I had gotten much earlier in my college years, and that I wish I would replace “find your passion”–is this: Figure out what lifestyle you want and work backwards from there. Want to travel the world, wear expensive clothes, and drink a fancy latte every day? Pick a job that will support that, preferably one that you won’t mind doing for x hours a week. Want to live in San Francisco? Then understand what fields you are likely to be able to work in there and what will pay enough to support you – or be prepared to live with 3 roommates and take the bus. (That’s my lifestyle, and I like it just fine, but I kind of fell into it. Would I have consciously chosen it if I had been given that advice earlier? Not sure. Maybe.)

    1. Emmy Rae*

      This is great advice. That would have really helped me understand my confusion in college when my friends were all planning what to do before grad school so they could go on to their important, all-consuming, passion focused professions. I was just like: what kind of job will allow me to pay back my student loans and shop at the farmers market? But I had a lot of trouble articulating that line of thinking.

  70. Kate*

    Adding to the chorus. If I’m passionate about anything it’s making music, and I don’t even want to do that professionally for a variety of reasons. My husband says his dream job is “man of leisure” and I’m with him on that.

    I’m considering doing an MBA because I like the more managerial/strategy-oriented parts of my job, but I’m a little afraid to because I only want to work 40-hour weeks (preferably less) – what if people see an MBA on my resume and expect me to be ambitious?

    1. Kate*

      Ok, caveat, I would do a musical career if someone handed it to me. But I’m not interested enough to put in all the work playing small bars and festivals and building up a following – you know, actually earning it.

      1. JM in England*

        I have a general rule that turning any passion and/or hobby into a job is a surefire way to kill your enjoyment of it. My own case in point is modelmaking; there’s a world of difference between building something because you’re interested in the subject and doing it just to get your next paycheck. Have spoken to various former professional modelmakers at shows and they can attest to this……………..

        1. Kate*

          Good point. This happened to me with speaking Spanish. After my year in Spain, I was so proud of my skills. After three years doing social work in Los Angeles, I never want to speak it again.

          (To be abundantly clear – it’s not because of the Spanish-speaking people I work with; it’s because I now associate speaking it with stressful situations, work I don’t like very much, and constantly wondering if I’m actually good enough at it to be doing this. Whereas when I got back from Spain I associated it with exciting adventures.)

  71. Anon31*

    I totally agree with the OP and most of the commenters. A while ago, my current boss made a comment to me about how she wishes she saw more passion in me in my job. She’s someone who voluntarily works pretty much 24/7 and seems to love what she does. It made me feel really weird and self conscious. But after stressing about it for a while, I pretty much accepted that I’ll never be like her. I still worry that she might hold this against me somehow, but figure as long as I’m not getting any specific work related criticism from her, I should be okay. I still feel weird about it though. Has this happened to anyone else?

    1. JM in England*

      I’ve had a former boss say exactly this to me! Replied that I do enjoy the work but that I also have a life outside of work and therefore the job is not my raison d’etre.

      Btw, said boss was a workaholic, sometimes putting in 14 hour days……………..

    2. Emmy Rae*

      Yep, had my boss comment about a similar thing. We had just discussed how as an admin I am handling a thousand little details and never a big project that feels like a payoff. So no, Boss, I’m not passionate about checking which room your meeting is in and if it starts at 10 or 10:30, but I’m willing to do it in exchange for money.

    3. Mimi*

      Yes, it has happened to me. IS happening to me. All you can do is your best. People like your boss and mine get most of their self-worth from their jobs. I’ll never be like that, I would never want to be like that. But at least with my boss, it does count against me. Of course, when I mention a hobby, he looks at me like “huh? What’s a hobby?” I’d rather be me than him.

    4. Sans*

      I had a former boss like that. It didn’t work out. The fact that I didn’t want to work non-stop totally affected her view of me and my worth. You’ll have to judge whether your boss can view someone on their own merits, and not expect everyone to have the same priorities as she does.

    5. Sleep*

      My boss said something very similar at my last review, actually. I tried to fake passion and pretend like I was passionate. I was all like, “No, I am passionate! See! Passion!” and I think I just came across as insincere and fake. Because I really don’t give a sh*t and I think my manager can see that. I could be the 24/7 person at a different job, in a different field, but I’m not sure I want that.

  72. Regina*

    I’m a little surprised at the comments in this respect: Many are saying it’s okay to want to just work 40 hours and be done, but let’s be realistic here. If you want a living wage in many places, you need to be a manager or higher. That’s the case where I work. Have you ever seen a manager work only 40 hours? I have “manager” in my name, and that’s why I stay for 50+ hours a week, even though I’m done in 40.

    To have a job where I could realistically be expected to not go over 40 hours, I’d have to have a job like I did 10 years ago. I didn’t care back then either, but I was only paid half what I am now. Being paid what I am now gives me the peace of mind to just break even.

    So does that mean there are only certain positions on the ladder when you can ever expect to have a life outside of work? Because in my experience, once you get promoted beyond coordinator, say goodbye to it being okay to “just” put in a 40.

    (And for the record, I personally find 40 too much, but that’s not a realistic option either.)

    1. Rachel B*

      I’m in Accounting/Finance and we work 40 hours/week, as does my boss. I’m not in a manager position. We are paid pretty fairly and make decent wages. It’s in government, and it’s also a union job, but I don’t know how much of a difference either of those factors makes.

      1. Regina*

        I think those are both HUGE things. I would never be able to get a government job in my line of work, so that’s just cut out for me. In the private sector, in my experience, this is unheard of.

    2. Sans*

      I’m in marketing and I work 40 hours a week. It’s all a trade-off. If you feel the extra money makes the extra work worth it, then that’s fine.but if you don’t, there are decently paid jobs out there that only require 40 hours.

      1. Regina*

        I’m in marketing too, so there’s variations even within our line of work. Although, I was more able to work a 40 when I was just starting out, versus now, where I am always called out if I leave the office before 5:30 (no one cares I came in early or worked through lunch).

  73. Michelle*

    I am so glad this was posted. I felt like the OP. To make it worse, part of our yearly review is a page where you are supposed to list “goals”- personal and professional. I. HATE. THAT. SHEET. OF. PAPER. My goal is to get through each day, do my work to the best of ability, try to be happy. Apparently, those are not good goals. I thought about putting “win the lottery” just for laughs, but I restrained myself.

    1. Afiendishingy*

      Asking for your personal goals seems unnecessarily, well, personal. “My goals are to visit every national park, become best friends with Kelly Ripa, and to convince my sister to leave her husband and the weird cult they’ve joined”

    2. Sans*

      I hate that sheet of paper, too! They keep wanting me to have a career path. I’m where I want to be and stay. Just leave me alone and let me do my job!

    3. Sleep*

      We have to put personal goals too and I feel very, very uncomfortable discussing my personal goals with my manager, even though I have a reasonable manager as far as things go. I just feel that it is too personal and inappropriate.

    4. Jennifer*

      I just write down a list of classes to take. I’m never going to get promoted and I’ll probably never get another job here, so what does it matter? Most people’s secret goal is “wait till retirement” anyway.

  74. Creag an Tuire*

    Two thoughts on this:

    a) I think there’s a pervasive message in our culture that you’re supposed to value “passion” over “stability” in a career — because for the most part our culture is generated by artists who most likely made that choice. Not very many movies about people who went to find themselves in LA, realized they hated the uncertain life and constant self-promotion of a Hollywood career (plus they kinda sucked at it anyway), went back to Iowa, finished their accounting degree and lived a happy comfortable life.

    b) I don’t think you have to -love- your job, but I think it’s very important not to -hate- your job. You can’t spend 40+ hours a week somewhere that makes you actively miserable without it seeping into the rest of your life.

  75. Afiendishingy*

    I like my job and I’m emotionally invested, but I also wish I could survive working part-time. My dream schedule is 9:30 – 2:30, Monday to Thursday. But I agree with all who say it is totally normal and healthy to work to live rather than live to work. I definitely appreciate my job as much for funding my love for online shopping as i do the satisfaction of mastering new skills.

    1. Windchime*

      I actually worked from 9 AM – 2 PM for a very brief period when my kids were younger and it was awesome. I dropped them off at school, went to work, and then got off in time to pick them up. Home in plenty of time to relax and make supper.

      I asked for the reduced schedule because I was at the breaking point and it was either the job or the marriage that needed adjusting. Turns out the job wasn’t the problem…

  76. J*

    I work in a field (instructional design/eLearning) that seems to have a disproportionate number of “passionate” people. Lots of people who work late nights, lot of conferences and professional organization memberships, lots of freelancers, lots of posting to social media about the industry, lots of industry happy hours and socializing with colleagues. And while that’s cool, and I do love what I do, I go home and shut off that part of my brain and stick to 40 hours a week unless there’s a damn good reason to work more. I have to or else I’d go crazy. I probably care more about my career than your average office worker but I still have to go home and just do nothing.

    At my last job there were several people there who literally always seemed to be working, even when it wasn’t necessary. They never truly shut off. And while some people might find that commendable, that is just not the life I would ever want.

  77. The Bimmer Guy*

    It is kind of annoying when you meet people who are all like, “You don’t *love* what you do? Then why do you do it?”

    Because what I love doing—sitting on my behind watching TV—doesn’t pay the bills.

  78. Be the Change*

    I have a hard time with the 5 and 10 year goals too… Have a happy, peaceful life with enough income to live modestly comfortably for a long, long time. Not hurt anyone. If possible, do some good. …not exactly inspiring, but I’ve had to come to peace with it.

    1. Windchime*

      That’s actually very inspiring. It’s simple and would probably lead to a very peaceful life.

      1. voluptuousfire*

        This was from a recent Liz Ryan article on LinkedIn about Smart Answers to Stupid Job Questions. It’s about being asked about your 5 year plan:

        “In five years I see myself happily engaged in projects that excite me, working among smart and supportive people. Is that the kind of environment you have here? Can you tell me about the culture? I’d love to hear about it!”

        I used the first half as a response to a hybrid question about where I saw myself in the next few years/what my ideal environment was and it went over pretty well. I didn’t use that verbatim but it was the basis of my answer.

  79. Eva*

    I have been in both situations: I used to work in a job I “loved” – I was so passionate about it and worked my butt off for it. But I was desperately unhappy and although I loved the work, I hated my job. The hours were terrible, the pay was bad, and I also realised over time that the organisation and upper management did not share my passion. It made for a negative environment where nothing seemed worthwhile anymore.

    I decided to go back to school and change my career path, and I now do something that I’m good at, but I am not so passionate about. I have found a job where the pay is good, I have a great manager, the hours are great, and I have a lot of freedom and autonomy. Sure, there are days I miss my old job; putting my passion for it on the backburner wasn’t the easiest decision, but I am so much happier now because I’m not a slave to my job, I have a BALANCED life where I can enjoy so many more things outside of work.

  80. Rachel B*

    I like my job because of the short commute, the fact that my boss allows me to work a slightly later shift than other staff, and because my boss is pretty decent and I don’t hate my coworkers. Aside from caring that I do a good job, I’m not all that emotionally invested in the work. I don’t know that I’d want to be. The job is simply something that subsidizes my food, clothes, and makeup purchases as well as the basics of shelter, electricity, etc.

    1. Mimi*

      I have the boss from hell, but that’s another story. He makes it very difficult to be enthusiastic about getting up and going in to work. It’s really hard to separate my feelings about my work from my feelings about him.

  81. Beth Anne*

    I’m totally in this boat. Sometimes people will discuss “if you could do whatever you wanted and money wasn’t an issue what would you do?” And people always say oh I would open xyz business, I would work with kids, work with charities/mission work, etc. Most of the time I always say..not work. For real if I had it my way I wouldn’t ever have to work and get to travel and do whatever I wanted.

    Sometimes I also feel bad b/c i have no huge desires to have a corner office or own a HUGE company…heck I don’t really feel like going to grad school.

    1. Anon for this one*

      If I could do whatever I wanted and money wasn’t an issue? Retire now. Raise my kids, but also spend a lot of time on me. And hey, if money was truly no issue, I could fund the *heck* out of some charitable causes, too.

  82. Anon for this one*

    What others have said above – passion is not required, and I think we do ourselves a great disservice pretending it is. Passion can blind you, cause you to make poor choices for yourself or even the company. If you *are* passionate, enjoy it. If you’re not…enjoy it. As long as you are okay with the deal you’ve made for employment, as long as it meets your needs and you’re doing what you said you would, it’s all good.

    I had a job I was passionate about. I clung with it through some bad times because the work and the customers were so often. And when I was finally pushed to let go of it, I was _very_ relieved. I have a job now that I’m not at all passionate about. I have great coworkers, I love working with them. The product is worthwhile and I feel good about my part in working on it. The work is interesting. But I’m not passionate about it. And I am happier for it. I give what I promised and not a lot extra (but not less either!), and when I leave work…I leave work. It is so freeing!

  83. NicoleK*

    I agree with many of the comments here. For the longest time, I was looking for my “passion” , for my dream job. I came to the realization many years ago that for me, it doesn’t exist. Most days I enjoy my job, most of my coworkers, and the work but I don’t love my job. I work to live; not live to work.

  84. Al Lo*

    Chris Hardwick has a great definition of success: Are you doing what makes you happy, and not doing what doesn’t make you happy?

    I think in creative fields, that’s so key — as you become more successful, you can move away from the things you don’t want to do, whether that’s a second job, a movie that doesn’t float your boat, a cheesy commercial, a side gig, or whatever. Whether that’s because you can adjust your lifestyle, hire someone to do the un-fun things, or gain the respect to be approached for the things you like to do, it’s a marker of success (to me) when I can drop the things in my life that aren’t making me happy. You can’t avoid everything that makes you unhappy, but when that can become part of the criteria, that’s a much happier life (in my opinion) than “do I need this to survive?”

    He’s also a huge proponent of “go make your thing.” Don’t wait for someone else to create the opportunity for you. It might not become the media empire that Nerdist is, but if you go make your thing, you’re taking ownership of whatever it is that makes you happy, and it’s a step on the way to that success. Just… start. At whatever level you can.

  85. over educated and underemployed*

    Having a kid has really changed my perspective on work. Before, I was so much into following passion that I wound up getting a phd, spending over half a decade doing part time and short term work in the field while studying. I had a baby a few months before I graduated, and suddenly work feels more like a necessary evil than a source of identity and fulfillment. Maybe the issue is that I still haven’t found the right job, but being out of the house and away from my kid for all but 2 of his waking hours sucks (and I don’t even work full time, I just have such a long commute). I know staying at home or even staying in part time or short term positions would screw me over in the long run, since as a recent grad I am starting out late compared to my peers and this is a key time for building a career…but the time I miss with the baby isn’t replaceable either.

    I will say that I had a great quality of life for most of grad school. Didn’t pay well, but I had a lot more freedom and flexibility than any of the full time jobs I am applying for now. It was definitely a better “deal” than part time work in the field!

  86. Lauren*

    I’m with you. I work a job I hate that has crazy hours and little pay. It wasn’t my choice to end up in the industry – I had to take the first thing I could find after college – and now I’ve been pigeonholed into this career. I work too long to even have a life outside of work, and make too little to afford anything. So wake up, go to work, go to bed and start all over again. I’ve been trying to 5 years to get out, but it’s just not meant to be.

  87. Workfromhome*

    I would guess there are vastly more people out there who don’t have passion for their job than do. If not there are a whole lot more people out there who are “passionate” about flipping burgers, pouring coffee or cleaning toilets than anyone thinks.

    There simply are a lot of jobs that need to exist to serve the wants and needs of society that are not going to ignite anyone’s passion.

  88. Maker of Quilts... and other things*

    THANK YOU!! Yes, I work to live and have not been PASSIONATE about 98% of all the jobs I’ve ever had. I did follow what I loved– for about 9 years — I worked in various regional (live) theaters doing just about everything and then, one day during a final rehearsal I realized that I couldn’t have a family and do this too. Plus, I was falling asleep during rehearsals ( bad for someone who wanted to be a Stage Manager) So, I packed it in and became an Admin Assistant. Got Married, had a couple of kids ( two of the best things I’ve ever done) and moved on. If the touring company of “Pippin” is in your town ( or nearby) —go see it. It pretty much sums it all up. Extraordinary is great… but it’s the day to day stuff that you live on.

  89. Fruitfly*

    I guess why sometimes it can be hard for some people to be content with being “meh” about their jobs is that they had been asked many time questions such as “why you love what you do?” “what part about x, y, and z do you like the most?” Those questions seem to go into specifics in the task process of the job and expect you to answer that you like a particular job process, even when the job process sucks (but you do it because of the finances).

    Some people might suggest you fib on the answers or say something like “it gives me a sense of accomplishment.” But people still do jobs even though it does not give them a sense of accomplishment. Sometimes people might not even think “sense of accomplishment” is a good answer to “why you like your job?”

    I sometimes wish people would not ask me “why I like my job?” I don’t really like it. I just had to do it.

  90. Lisa Petrenko*

    Also, it is perfectly fine to work to med your needs an then find fulfillment in other areas of life. For example, I find meaning in a hobby that I find exhilarating….but I could never make a living out of and couldn’t afford without my “job” providing me the money to use to afford it

  91. Melissa*

    I think it’s important not to hate your job. You’re spending 8+ hours there, a good chunk of your adult life, so it’s better for your health (mental and physical) if it’s not spent in anxiety, loathing, stress, etc.

    On the flip side, I don’t agree that your job needs to be something you love or feel passionate about. Some people are very ambitious in their career, or get a sense of fulfillment out of it, and that’s great for them. But for most of us we’re going to work to get the funds to pay for all the other things we want out of life. Absolutely nothing wrong with that.

  92. mel*

    Meh, some of us have lousy jobs that we passionately hate and seems to get a bit worse year by year. No benefits, no wage increases and now that I’m a bit “too old” for it, my body is reacting to the stress in new and terrible ways. Sometimes I worry that I will lose the physical ability to work it much earlier than some of my coworkers, though.

    Even that doesn’t sound terribly abnormal to me. After all, there are so many of us doing it.

  93. Cassie*

    My coworker friend asked me the other day what do we work for – I said “to make money so we don’t starve”. There are times where I feel like I’m doing good work (I’m not doing cutting-edge research, but I take care of the admin stuff so that our scientists can do cutting-edge research – there’s some value in that). And there are other days where I feel like “meh, it wouldn’t even matter if I did this task or that task. Nobody will care”. As others have mentioned, it is important not to *hate* your job (at least, not all the time) but a job is just a job. Even the most awesomest, most prestigious, well-paying job will have some moments of “eh…”.

    The awkward part was when my boss tried to offer me a side job doing something a little different/new and I had to tell him that I wasn’t interested and that I’m not particularly interested in doing something new. I’m not an ambitious person, I don’t have those kinds of goals, and I’m happy (most of the time) doing what I’m doing. It’s the 2nd time I’ve said this to him. A lot of people at work think I should be doing something more but I’m fine. I’m very complacent :) I like my comfortable life.

  94. KC*

    You’re supposed to be as passionate as you are. We cannot control our passion, often it controls us. If you want to be paid for something you are passionate about, try to find out what that is. I feel like I am where you were after you graduated. I just started a decent job, but i am not really passionate about a particular career or anything like that. I recently read about retiring early, you might want to look into that if you really want it. The basic premise is you cut expenses to the bone and save 50-75% of your take home income. You invest your savings in index funds and real estate, basically creating a positive cash flow for yourself that you could live on if you weren’t working. The key is to have a massive amount of savings and minimal expenses that you could stop working and continue with the income you have created from your savings. Might not be feasible for everybody, but a lot of people spend more than they need to and save too little.

    1. Weekend Warrior*

      Yep, even if you don’t go full Mr. Money Mustache, even a bit of that spend less save more philosophy is really helpful in pushing back against the constant ” keeping up with the Jones’s” pressure that causes stress and unhappiness, not to mention debt.

      1. SL*

        I can’t believe it took so long for someone to mention Mr. Money Mustache. The attitude about work that so many people have mentioned on this thread is the whole reason I found his website. Can’t wait ’til I have some serious FU money. I’m really not going to give a sh** about work then.

  95. PolarBear*

    I worked in finance as a personal assistant….I was completely unfulfilled and watched all the people around me working 60 hours a week and sending emails on the weekend.

    I went back to university and I’m currently retraining as an Occupational Therapist which I am truly passionate about and we literally cannot take our work home with us and I have no access to emails outside of my practice placements. :)

  96. Erin*

    You are not alone, by any means! I work hard, and sometimes I enjoy my work, but if I won the lottery tonight, I would not be going back to work…I would find something to do to occupy my time, but I wouldn’t go somewhere and play office politics if I didn’t have to….I think about retirement just about every day.

    Thanks for writing this. I was feeling the same way. :)

  97. Ellen*

    I have come to this website, and this post specifically so I can concur. And also so I can somehow express the feeling I get when I sit at my desk, which I call the Molasses Malaise. I sit at my desk, I look at all my notes from the latest meeting, I look at all the papers, and I feel my blood turn to molasses. I have to remember to breathe. I am so lucky to have this great job, and I feel so guilty for not being on fire for Jesus.

  98. 1 man*

    I feel the say way (not so enthusiastic about working) maybe why I have spent so long in academia (already spent 4 years doing a PhD). But, I was recently offered the opportunity that I feel may get me more excited, in the area of analytics for 6 months, however at the same time I was also offered another more operational opportunity (technical report writing) for 1 year which I worry about struggling/ getting bored in. This issue is further complicated by immigration issues, lets just say the 6 month job may cause some consequences to my residence in my host country, bringing on more uncertainty and instability. Not sure what to do: do i take the 6 months opportunity which I think may be more of something I would like and risk my residence and being unemployed in 6 months time if it doesn’t work out, or do I go for the safer option (1 year) and hope it works out and I end up being able to atleast do a good job?

    Really appreciate your thoughts on this issue.

  99. Kelly*

    Please… take comfort and rejoice in feeling fine about where you are. I have a daughter who feels like she is never “fine,” never “happy,” never “satisfied” and has to continuously strive for more, more, more at the detriment of her marriage and her children’s happiness and comfort. I’m always wishing she would just be “normal” and just go to work like everyone else and be okay with camping with her family on the weekend instead of having to impress some big wig at work.

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