work doesn’t interest me anymore

A reader writes:

Later this week, I’ll be going on a second round of interviews for a position I’m interested in. From what I can tell, it’s a great team and the work directly aligns with how I see my career going. I’m also lucky to know a couple of people who work there now, so I know how things really are on the inside. It’s a step up and in the right direction for me, which is something I appreciate as my current position has felt dead in the water for some time now.

So, why am I not more excited? I don’t know if it’s the after-effects of the pandemic or if my current job has just done a number on me or if I’m less idealistic now that I’m older or what, but I just can’t seem to get excited about the possibility of a new job anymore.

It’s not just this current opportunity that’s eliciting this reaction, either. I’ve been feeling this way for a couple of years now, and if anyone asks me to describe my “dream job” or what I most want to do, I mumble my way through it. I know what I’m good at, and I know what my wheelhouse is, but there’s no specific job or company that would make feel capital E-excited to land.

And that’s mostly okay with me. For the longest time, work took over way too much of my personal life, and I’ve been working hard at creating and maintaining those boundaries for myself. But it now feels like the pendulum has swung the other way, and I would be lying if I said that working 40 hours/week for the next 20+ years of my life without any excitement or real professional fulfillment sounded good to me. It doesn’t.

Is this normal—or to be expected after the last few years? How do I get excited about job opportunities again?

It’s normal. It’s so, so normal.

There’s a reason “I do not dream of labor” has become a meme.

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

Several generations of us have been sold a bill of goods — the idea that we’re supposed to find work fulfilling and rewarding — “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life,” blah blah blah.

For most people, it’s bullshit! Most people work because it’s a necessary part of obtaining food and housing, not for emotional fulfillment.

It’s also a particular brand of bullshit that’s only been sold to certain socioeconomic demographics. Most of the population is expected to be okay with working for a paycheck! But if you’re from a certain socioeconomic class, work is supposed to complete you. It’s not only elitist and destructive, but also happens to be a really effective way for certain types of organizations to exploit their workers — since if you’re supposed to be there for the passion/prestige/fulfillment, it’s a lot easier to guilt you out of demanding fair pay or reasonable hours or more parental leave.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the pandemic has laid that more bare for you. Or it might be that you just see things more clearly after having been in the work world longer.

But while seeing work for exactly what is it is — a trade of your labor and skills for money — is a good thing, it’s also true that it can feel like giving something up. When you used to find fulfillment and excitement in your work, it feels like loss not to have that anymore. Going to work every day to do something you feel great about boosts your quality of life, makes it easier to stay motivated, and engages your brain in a different way than if you’re just going through the motions. So it makes sense that you’re feeling blah.

It’s striking to me, though, that you’re experiencing this in regard to a job search and not your day-to-day work. That makes me think that you might simply be being realistic that there’s no “dream job” out there … but it doesn’t mean that you can’t find some satisfaction in doing work that you find interesting and are good at.

{ 316 comments… read them below }

  1. Peanut Hamper*

    Work has never interested me. But I like wearing clothes, living with climate control, and not foraging in the woods for grubs and berries.

    You’re fine, LW. I’m just looking for enough money in 40 hours to do survive and live a little and not sell my soul or my organs. More of us feel like this than you realize.

    1. Jade*

      Agree. Literally almost EVERYONE feels this way at times. It’s not unique. Most people work to live.

      1. Whatever*

        I think the part of being conetne working to live that can get lost on so many people, especially if they come to that realization after years of thinking work is what brings life fulfillment, is that you have to find fulfillment outside of work. It’s not just that that passion doesn’t exist in a job, it’s that you really need to find something else that bring enjoyment to your life. It doesn’t matter what it is, keep searching outside of work until you find it. Then you suddenly won’t mind that work isn’t what brings it to you.

    2. Pumpkin215*

      I came here to say the same thing! I am NOT passionate about metadata. Who the heck is?

      I’m passionate about travel, purses, shoes, books and providing a comfortable life for my spoiled cat.

      All those things are brought to me by: Metadata.

      So I push the buttons and do the thing.

      1. Publisher Anonymous*

        Who the heck is?

        Well, me. But not 40 hours per week/52 weeks per year passionate. Maybe 2 to 4 hours/week and “I like Thema better than BISAC and will bore you for several minutes showing you why” passionate.

      2. WestsideStory*

        Oddly, I’m not only passionate about metadata but have made a good living at it for well over a decade, preaching it as one of the main levers to improving book sales.
        To bring it back to the main question, what often seems like rote work takes on a different dimension when you put some focus on WHY you are doing it – not just why for yourself (food housing and good things) but where it can make a difference (like a good author breaking constraints of genre or a good book that actually sells better than the Famous celebrity author take on same topic).
        (Team Thema for the win!)

      3. metadata minion*

        I’m passionate about metadata! I would be less passionate if I had to do metadata about something boring, though — today I get to stare at a journal from 1908 in a combination of Czech and German and try to figure out if the crappy existing record is correct in classing it as erotica.

    3. Frickityfrack*

      Foraging for berries is honestly starting to look better and better these days when compared to the thought of working for 20+ more years and just getting by while the rich add more to their hoards off our collective labor. I threatened to go live in a cave this morning, so it would fit in with my new vibe.

      1. Zennish*

        I often think about homesteading, where at least I’d be working more directly to feed and clothe myself, but realistically I know I’d probably end up in one of those “rescuing the idiot who thinks they can homestead before they die” shows on the Discovery Channel.

        1. Frickityfrack*

          Oh absolutely same. I have pretty much zero useful skills for that sort of thing, other than being an alright baker so I might manage bread. I’d give up in about 36 hours, I’m sure.

        2. JSPA*

          A relative went all-in, only to be pretty thoroughly incapacitated with carpal tunnel within two or three years. And that was mostly just milking a few cows, and small batches of yoghurt and fresh cheese.

          There’s often more to forage in suburbs than homesteadable zones. If you’re in a lush suburb, but don’t think you could gather a meal’s worth between the bus stop and home, once or twice a week, in late summer or early fall, you (uh) may not be all that equipped for a “gatherer” lifestyle.

          1. Hannah Lee*

            Yeah two those things that seems to be an absolute necessity for homesteading or being more self sustaining/sufficient is good heath and high physical capabilities… having the know how and time to forage or care for livestock or farm the land is great … but unless you can lift and tote and bend and walk and handle the animals and wield the tools day after day after day … it’s going to be very difficult if not impossible.

            But there are ways of moving the needle a little bit without going all in. A friend described coming to the realization that he’d never become a farmer, but he could be a gardener who raises some of his own food for enjoyment, to save a bit on money and eat locally produced food. Some of it he stores for use for a few months after the growing season (garlic, potatoes, winter squash, herbs, dried tomatoes and frozen fruit).

            Homesteading or farming is not a lifestyle for the faint of heart.

            1. Selena81*

              I like having a few fruit-trees in my garden.
              But i’m not all that interested in completely giving up on modern life and spending my days tilling the fields and spinning wool.

              There is a middle ground between ‘only eating plastic-wrapped food’ and ‘moving to the wilderness to live of the land’.

        3. Selena81*

          I think there is a lot of classism wrapped up in our society’s shared desire for ‘a more simpel life’.
          In old books (19th century) having a small vegetable garden in your backyard or even in a flowerpot is a way to know as a reader who is part of ‘the deserving poor’.

    4. kt*

      I actually do like foraging the woods for edible things…

      …but if I fail to find anything it’s great to be able to go eat apple pie or something :) paid for with money from the job.

      More and more, I’m looking at work as a place where I will be paid to learn things and practice them, and then I am trying to figure out how to put them to use in the rest of the world, regarding things I care about. This is not how everyone wants to do things which is totally fine; it’s just where I’m at.

  2. Sleepy in the stacks*

    I’m grateful that I work a job that I love and that I’m passionate about, but that doesn’t mean I *want* to work 40 hours a week. I work to live, not live to work. Without work, I couldn’t get my fun little snacks, or go on my little shopping sprees (or pay my bills obviously, lol). Sometimes you just have to reframe it all in your head to get yourself back in gear and not dreading it all.

    1. Antilles*

      +1 for the reframing.
      The mindset that’s always worked for me is that my job is effectively funding the rest of my life. My 40 hours per week buys me the freedom to enjoy the other 128 hours in the ways I want to.

      1. Tired of meaningful work*

        It’s only 72 hours after factoring in sleep, though. If it’s more than that after 40 hours of work, then you’re (generic “you”) sacrificing sleep to do Normal Life Things without cutting in to work time.

        Not to mention the time spent commuting and otherwise preparing for/recovering from work. It adds up fast.

        1. Antilles*

          It’s true those 128 hours do include sleep of course, but I’d note that part of the freedom bought by my 40-hours IS that I can handle my sleep in an appropriate way – no working overnight shifts like I did to put myself through college, no skimping on sleep for a few extra bucks to make ends meet, no lying awake at night worried about paying for stuff, no dealing with weekly-changing schedules that wreak havoc on the body clock.

          1. I Have RBF*

            Yes, this.

            A good, stable, well paying job helps with good sleep.

            Sleeping and eating are both required activities, but they also can be enjoyable leisure activities too.

      2. Chirpy*

        I mean, that assumes the job actually pays enough to fund the rest of your life. My 40 hours a week barely keeps me afloat, let alone provide enough money to save any for the future, or have fun.

    2. A Girl Named Fred*

      Okay, I swear to you that I don’t mean this facetiously and this is a genuine question – how does reframing work to “well, it pays for the stuff I actually enjoy doing” make the thoughts of “I still spend most of my waking hours here doing things I’d rather not do” bearable? I get that I can’t avoid work and I get that I likely will never be 100% fulfilled by work, but no amount of rationalizing that I need to do it to survive and do stuff I’m interested in has ever made me okay with trading in so much of my one life to things I don’t care about. Is there another reframe I need to try, or is that just a symptom of being in a completely wrong field that I don’t care about at all (though I feel like that strays back into ‘work must be fulfilling’ territory)? It feels like a no-win scenario, and I just need Captain Kirk’s ability to reprogram the simulation.

      1. Silver Robin*

        Delayed gratification is part of what is at play. You are right that it still sucks to spend so many of our waking hours doing stuff we do not necessarily feel passionate about. I am one of those people in a passion field, but I still am not EXCITED about work. I am here doing this because I need money, and because this is apparently work that needs doing because of how broken our system is.

        Things that help me: coworkers I actually like. Making time to meet with friends for lunch. Not taking any of it too seriously.

        And, just like you meant your question genuinely, I mean this suggestion genuinely: have you considered getting into political organizing/advocacy for worker’s rights/4 day work weeks/universal basic income/insert pro-labor anti-poverty cause here? It *IS* absurd that we spend this much time earning a paycheck, we should not have to! Our economies could take care of us without so much drudgery on our behalf. It will not fix your current work schedule, but it can help to feel like you are contributing to fixing the problem. (Caveat that political activism or organizing of any kind comes with its own difficulties, so it is not anything close to a panacea.)

      2. Eldritch Office Worker*

        It’s the classic carrot vs stick motivation. “If I do this I can afford my fun little snacks” is motivating if those snacks are important to you, just like “If I don’t do this I will live on the streets” can be motivating. The latter might work better for you.

        But I do find if you’re actively dreading going to work every day, sustained for a long time, it may be worth looking into other jobs. My working isn’t any kind of deep passion, but I find it reasonably interesting, I like the people I work with, and while I get periods of “god I’d rather do anything else but work right now”, most of the time I genuinely don’t mind being at work and doing what I do.

        But if you think capitalism is a no-win scenario, you are correct.

        1. Jellyfish Catcher*

          There was a plateau that had hit me a few times during my career. I found satisfaction and meaning, etc, but it’s also…work.
          I had to really spend some time “refreshing” my attitude about it, because my attitude once affected the work, and the coworkers, enough that one close to me compassionately informed me to deal with it.
          I realized it was hurting me, and the work environment.
          First, a trip to your physician, to check out/rule out mild depression, midlife physical changes, medical whatever and maybe have some therapy.
          You’re not alone.

        2. A Girl Named Fred*

          Thankfully, I’m at a job now that I don’t hate, with reasonably good coworkers, making semi-decent money. So for once I’m not actively dreading coming in. But I’m trying to plan for the future, IE a career pivot, and struggling a bit with figuring out what to skill into so that I can land a job I don’t mind making (hopefully) good money.

          Regardless though, I need to make your last sentence into some kind of craft because BOY do I want it somewhere in my home crafting space lol.

      3. Engineer*

        I’m not Sleepy, but in my case I had to realize that by resenting being at work, I was becoming a very mean person, and I didn’t like that at all. So it become one part accepting that which I could not change (having to work) and two parts getting tf outta that job.

        I’m in a different field now, doing much different work, and that has helped immeasurably. Sure, on grey rainy days I would *love* to just sit at home in the window seat, but I can’t, so I only grumble a little as I make my coffee. But I accept that work is a thing I have to do to survive, so I breathe in and out and let go of that resentment and just try to find little things throughout the day that make me smile.

        1. A Girl Named Fred*

          This resonates with me a lot actually because my boyfriend has recently pointed out that I struggle with letting go of things, whether or not I can control them, and that there are a lot of things I’d be much happier with if I just stopped caring about them because I can’t stop them from being what they are. This is probably one such thing. Thanks for the insight!

      4. Hlao-roo*

        The way I view my options are:

        (1) Do not work. Depend on friends/family members/the government for food and shelter. Consequently, have food and shelter I probably do not enjoy (and/or have conditions on the food and shelter I do not enjoy).

        (2) Work. Earn enough money to purchase the food and shelter I want (and to purchase other things I enjoy doing).

        Obviously, there’s more choice than just a binary work/don’t work but when I boil my options down to just what I’ve listed above, it is very easy for me to choose option 2: work.

        If that doesn’t work for you, try to do the math on the number of hours you actually work per year. Take into account holidays and vacation days.

        40 hrs/wk * 52wks/yr = 2080 hours

        If you get, for example, 10 paid holidays and 15 vacation days, that’s 25 days*8hrs/day = 200 hours not worked, so you’re total hours worked for the year is now 1880 hours.

        There are 8760 total hours in a year. Assuming 8 hours of sleep, that’s 5840 waking hours.

        Of your waking hours, 1880 are work and 3960 are non-work. Per cent wise, that’s roughly 32% of annual waking time spent at work and roughly 68% of annual waking time spent not working. Personally, I’m OK with that breakdown.

        1. A Girl Named Fred*

          The math helps, but weirdly enough I think your first point helps more – meaning, framing it as that I am making the choice to work, because the alternative is not a choice I’m willing to make. That might help make me feel less helpless because it’s less that I’ve been “forced” into doing this, but rather that I’m choosing to do this because it’s preferable to the other option. Definitely something for me to think about, thank you!

      5. Eng Girl*

        I have this kind of dilemma a lot too whenever the idea of “reframing” comes up. Like I wish I had the ability to change the way I look at a less favorable situation in a way that made me suddenly genuinely ok/happy with it, but I simply do not. To me it always feels like I’m lying to myself.

        The closest I’ve come is being able to look at the cause and effect of the whole system and try to make decisions from there. I can’t change my point of view to make myself like something, it I can force myself into choosing the lesser of two evils.

        1. Reframing disengagement*

          I don’t think reframing is about making yourself like something. That doesn’t work for me either. I think it is more about accepting that you don’t like it, won’t like it, but you’re doing it for good reasons, as you say… And then focusing on something else. As in: disengage. Give it as little brain space as possible. Move on with your attention to something you can solve and control.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            I know I need to stop ranting about problems with my job, because it just makes me more upset. Some things are the way they are, and no amount of complaining, strategizing, etc. will make them better. I either need to accept it or find a different job.

          2. Aggretsuko*

            Agreed. You’re probably just gonna hate work and wasting your time on it, but it’s the rent you pay to live. Not having a job and not having anyone who will take care of you = badness.

          3. A Person*

            This is an interesting comment to me because I think I get stuck on the idea that this *is* something I could solve. If only I could think of the right career, maybe I need to job hunt, can I find something that pays as well that’s better… it ends up causing me to focus on it because of this sense that while I have to work, I should be able to make it “better”.

      6. Tired of meaningful work*

        I think it really depends on the person. As we discovered with the recent letter from the 25 y/o who doesn’t want to work full time, there are a subset of people who have Figured It Out and can fit all of their recreation and fulfillment in to their 72 non-sleep/non-work hours per week with next to no outside help. So it’s not impossible, and it probably can’t hurt to draw a little bit of hope from that.

        That said, the existence of those people doesn’t mean that your feelings are irrational. The growing 4-day work week movement shows that you’re not alone in feeling like we give away too many of our waking hours. The 40 hour week was a huge step up for the people who fought for it, but that doesn’t make it above reproach. I feel like we’re taught to gaslight ourselves into believing we’re the problem when we can’t find the time or mental space to make our work hours worth it.

        1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

          Honestly, for a lot of us getting back to the 40-hour work week, rather than “you’re probably in the office 45-50 hours, plus checking emails on weekends and evenings, and the not-so-occasional long day during crunch time, and the every-other-week 7 am call with the office in India” would be an improvement.

        2. MigraineMonth*

          After a couple of nightmare jobs, I’m still in the “Ooh, I only have to work 40 hours a week? And I can plan things and not cancel them at the last minute because of a work emergency?!” honeymoon phase.

          It’s my first union job, and I highly recommend it.

          1. Just me*

            Yes! The workers at my current job unionized after I’d already worked there a while, so I’ve gotten to experience the before and after, and it’s so different. I highly recommend unionizing (and staying organized afterward so the union stays strong; that’s the way to maintain leverage).

        3. AuDHD*

          This. I’m not even badly overworked compared to many USians (my workweek is 37.5 hours and I’m hybrid, on flexi-time, and can choose when I come in to the office). And yet.

          I’ve got two things going on: I actually like my job, but I have a pattern of becoming bored at just around the point when I’ve been there long enough to be competent. If I’m not very careful I start slacking off and only rescuing myself from missing deadlines with adrenaline and hyperfocus. It was only last week I found out this six-month itch is quite common with ADHD – I am waiting for an assessment to see if I have it. I think my frontal lobes don’t believe that doing my job well at a steady pace is exciting enough.

          The other is that I use up all my executive function at work and have none left for home, which makes the “work so you can afford to do the things you like” argument a bit futile. I don’t do anything I like anymore. I don’t have the spoons or the decision-making power. When I worked part-time I had enough left in the tank to do all kinds of things. I’m not sure what the answer is, because as I say I like my job and I do want to do well at it. (The answer may be ADHD meds…)

          1. Tired of meaningful work*

            The way I was JUST talking with my therapist last week about using up all my executive function at work and having none left for home :'( I’m really glad that so many people can make 40 hours work, especially if they’re coming from much worse arrangements…but even after starting ADHD medications I just can’t.

          2. Mill Miker*

            I’m also ADHD and this describes me to a T.

            Jobs in my field pay well enough that I could afford to live on a partial salary for part-time hours, but the jobs are almost all “full time or nothing”.

            In the meantime, my job lets me stock up on hobby supplies that all sit on a shelf starring at me, waiting for the day I actually have the energy to do something outside of work.

      7. Ann*

        Maybe your feelings just mean that you’d be OK with a less stressful job that pays less. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
        Although I’ve felt exactly like you do, and would have walked away at some point if I wasn’t under family pressure to keep the golden handcuffs. And then a few years ago, my job became the means to get my kids out of a really tough situation. I’m more burned out, but at least now I feel like I’m working for something worthwhile. Life is unpredictable, and I did not see this coming. I guess it was all worth it then.

        1. Hannah Lee*

          Yeah for me, it was a matter of how much mental, emotional and sometimes physical energy my job was sucking up … while I didn’t love spending 45-50 hours a week at work + commuting, it was the stress while I was there and the high demands on quality and quantity of work with little control over priorities, and arbitrary decisions by management that was really causing the problem for me.
          The drain, stress, unhappiness spilled over into my non-working hours so it was hard to enjoy my non-work life sometimes.

          It took both changing jobs and putting boundaries on how much of me I’m willing to bring to the job for me to get things back in balance. Having worked for a couple tech companies that folded helped too … all that ‘important’ work just …. stopped, yet the world kept turning.

          I’m conscientious and do my job very well, but if there is something out of my control or someone else looking for me to go over and above (for non-important things, or even important things they just didn’t bother to think ahead on) I don’t take on the stress or the need to get it done. I work my day and then leave and focus on the real important stuff in my life.

          Only after a few years at a new job did I fully realize how burnt out and stressed I’d been. And I don’t think I’ll ever strive like I did or have career ambitions beyond: work I’m good at, done in line with my values, around people who are mostly decent human beings, in a safe and climate controlled workplace within 30 minutes of where I live, paying enough for me to live my life without fear of living in poverty (as I did in childhood).

      8. Sleepy in the stacks*

        The thing is that this is gonna look different for everyone, which makes it tough and I wish I could give you a one size fits all solution. There are a lot of other good comments replying to you that show how varied this is.

        So for me, it looks like similar to what Eldritch Office Worker described: “If I go to work, I can afford my bills and then have some fun money to spend on Halloween decorations this week.” I am very treat motivated so I adapted that into my work life, lol. Sometimes that’s a drink from Starbucks, or ordering lunch to work, or a game I want, or a nice sweater I’ve been eyeing for a few weeks, etc. Little stuff like that keeps me going, and if I don’t work, I can’t afford treating myself. I’m sure you could extend that out to bigger goals if you wanted to like “I’ve always wanted to go to Europe, and working allows me to save up for a trip.”

        Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had moments where I’m ready to just walk out because I’m sick of working. I don’t find working itself fun, but I look for positives at work. I adore my coworkers, they honestly make the job 10 times better. My boss always has my back and listens to me. We do seasonal staff events that are low pressure.

        If you’re struggling to find any positives at a job, it may be time to find a different situation that has what you need out of a job (maybe a shorter working week/working hours, WFH if you’re in a field that allows that, somewhere where you get a long lunch). IMO, you don’t have to fall into that “work must be fulfilling” territory to recognize your current job/field may not be a fit.

        1. Sleepy in the stacks*

          I forgot to add: I chose librarianship as a career because at the time, it was a low stress field. Right now, it remains low stress for me because 1) I moved into a role that does not require me to be on desk more than once or twice a week and 2) my area has not been targeted by book banners and such.

          I’m not paid amazingly, but it pays enough to take care of myself and most importantly, the low stress helps with my mental health situation.

        2. A Girl Named Fred*

          Thank you for sharing your thoughts! I definitely struggle with looking on the bright side of things (am currently working on treating depression and anxiety, which I’m sure nobody could guess from my original question lol) so I think purposely focusing on that for a time and trying to make it a habit would help. As well as identifying a field I could move into that has what I need out of it – once I identify what that is. I appreciate your response and everyone else’s, too!

      9. Beth*

        I spent a lot of my 20s thinking (hoping? believing?) that my options were “build a comfortable life while doing work that I’m passionate about and interested in” vs “build a comfortable life while doing boring work.” That’s not actually the options on the table for most people. Most people have “build a stressed, under-financed life while doing work that I used to be passionate about but now feel burned out on” vs “build a comfortable life while doing boring work.”

        I’m in my 30s now, and prioritizing my comfort feels a lot easier and more acceptable these days. Maybe it’s because younger-me gave the passion-job route a shot and got burned by it, and that made it easier to let go of that as a dream that didn’t add up in reality. Maybe it’s just a factor of age. Either way, my low-stress, decently-paid, boring job is giving me a much nicer life overall than my edge-of-poverty, constant-work passion job used to.

      10. Laura*

        how does reframing work to “well, it pays for the stuff I actually enjoy doing” make the thoughts of “I still spend most of my waking hours here doing things I’d rather not do” bearable?

        For me it’s similar to “going to the gym is not fun, but looking good on the beach (or: being able to lift heavy things without ruining my back) is fun”, or “I do not like going to the dentist but I like my teeth not hurting”.

        Also, if one can stop to expect that work conveys happiness or virtue, one can stop to feel like a failure if it doesn’t. (And who knows, maybe some other capitalist propaganda will look less convincing if one lets go of the mythos of work.)

        I never expected work to be anything but a necessary evil, eating a significant part of my life as a price for the autonomy of having my own money. So I’m always pleasantly surprised if work goes OK and never disappointed if it’s annoying.

        Actually, my work is quite OK. And it gives me opportunities to use my talents and strengths, which non-working life does not offer to that degree or in that pure form.

        1. allathian*

          This resonates with me. I’ve never expected work to be much more than a necessary evil. But I must admit that it feels good to be paid for doing something I’m good at. Having a great boss and coworkers is also great.

      11. JSPA*

        It’s the human condition (or the animal condition, or the co-evolving organism condition, aka the red queen hypothesis. All the organisms that would like to feast on you are co-evolving with you; you have to keep running to stay ahead.)

        If you don’t wake up happy to some degree, with a sense of possibility, regardless of tasks that need doing as well, there’s no magic job that’s going to create that happiness.

        For that matter, always doing what feels best in the moment just doesn’t tend to end reliably well, unless you have a pretty solid trust fund to fall back on (and even then, it’s iffy). And trying to make a beloved pastime into a job often sours the pleasure one takes in it. As opposed to doing it in stolen moments, which is a thrill and a delight.

        For that matter, even people who retire early or are independently wealthy can get depressed, or feel life is pointless, or get caught in a mental vortex, or a rut.

      12. Thegreatprevaricator*

        I can’t do that reframing. I need to be in a job that interests me for the majority of the time. No amount of ‘yes I like to eat’ will help me reframe and being in the wrong job is painful. I can do it for a fixed period for a specific reason eg needing to stabilise financially for 9 months. The evidence shows I will prioritise interest above security and other things, it’s just higher up my needs than for some people.

        That said, security moved further up my priority list as my circumstances changed. I work in the culture sector so you know, you do need to like being interested in your job more than money. I also found that interest can come for me within a variety of places. Understanding what skills, contexts and people I liked working with helped me broaden my horizons and find culture adjacent work. I work for a major funder and tbh our conditions are pretty good. Work *can* be fulfilling. I get a kick out of learning stuff and using my skills to support things I believe in. I pretty much have a dream job except I didn’t know it would be that when I applied for it. And dream jobs have super tedious aspects to them too.

        So long reply short, if interest drives you then I think that trying to find that in your role or finding another is more helpful than telling yourself that you’re doing a trade.

        1. Polyhymnia O’Keefe*

          I fully agree. Also in the arts and culture sector, and it attracts people who are in the job because *something* drew them to it. Is every day a dream? No. But do I genuinely enjoy what I do, even to the point where I work in a sector that I would volunteer in otherwise? Absolutely. For me, like you, that’s key.

          But I also agree that security has moved up the priority list. I work in a permanent staff position in a sector where many of the working artists are on contracts and working project to project. I sacrificed some of the variety and being able to truly customize the parts I wanted to work on for the security of having a steady job and benefits in my field. But I still get to work in my sector, hang out backstage in theatres, and brainstorm the fun parts, in addition to plowing through some of the more boring parts.

          I think that the sector I work in is actually quite vital to the human experience, and I appreciate that my work on the sometimes-more-boring side of it enriches humanity in a way that I don’t think everyone gets to feel in their job.

          No job has perfectly fulfilling days every day, but to me, it was worth it to carve out a career path that has more opportunity to be fulfilled in a way that feels like a vocation.

          And I fully agree with the last sentence above.

        2. AuDHD*

          Yes, I’m like this as well. I can’t motivate myself (and I don’t mean “won’t”, I can’t) unless I am able to tell myself I’m doing something lasting and worthwhile. Even that isn’t enough to keep me motivated in itself, but it helps.

      13. Harried HR*

        Sometimes it’s the environment and not the work.

        Case in point I’ve been in Payroll / HR & Benefits for my whole career so the work hasn’t really changed but I’ve done that work on a Union Docks for a Stevedore company, a Medical Company, a Fortune 500 company and now at a Creative company. The working environment and the people I work with at the Creative company is AMAZING and I hope to stay here till I retire, the Medical company had me crying in my car daily !!

      14. Duckles*

        +1 I am semi-seriously considering just quitting because I have enough savings to live 3-5 years comfortably without working and calling it a day. That’s sounding more appealing than chugging along when I’m young and healthy in a dumb job just to hope to retire at 65.

    3. umami*

      Same here. I love my job most of the time, and I’m compensated fairly for my time and talent. And yet, I totally get that ennui at times, sometimes for a reason (work was unusually challenging today, or I have outside pressures that make it difficult to focus and give it my all, or it’s just a beautiful day and I dread sitting inside and missing it) and sometimes for no discernible reason. It’s all good! I just remind myself that I enjoy the lifestyle it affords me, such as it is, and in due time I snap out of it. I’m sure everyone has days or periods of feeling that way, and it’s probably hard to picture the other side of it when you’re in the midst of it, but you’ll get there!

    4. Starbuck*

      Same, even with my passion-focused non profit job, I’d much rather do it 3 or 4 days a week instead of 5. And maybe someday I can make that happen! Till then, oh well.

    5. Selena81*

      There are aspects of my job that I genuinely like doing, and I plan to find a job that has more of those.
      But my work is not my hobby, and I don’t think it should be.

      If we ever get universal basic income I would keep working: I like my job enough that it would still be worth it to earn money on top of that income.
      But people would have the power to say ‘the only thing I like about my job is the salary, so unless my employer makes me a very very good offer I will live of basic income for now’ and that is a good thing imo.

  3. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    I find that it’s helpful to think of “fulfillment” as a measure that takes in more than work. Some days work gets me fired up and I enjoy showing up either because I get to tackle some good challenges or because my team had grilled cheese day. Some days I go to work, crank out my stuff, have some moderately satisfactory interactions, then go home and fulfill needs by having dinner with a friend or doing a hobby or planning an adventure that is possible primarily because my bills are getting paid by the fact that I’m working.

      1. Relentlessly Socratic*

        It occurs to me that, WFH, every day could be grilled cheese day, and that legit lifted my spirits!

  4. I'm A Little Teapot*

    For me, it boils down to I don’t need to LOVE my job, but I do need to be ok with it. Disliking my job, which is a good chunk of my waking hours, is not good for me. This is different from the “love what you do” stuff. If you actively hate going to work, then that’s an issue and you should try to solve it. Because its not good for you as a person to be unhappy all day, every day.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      This is exactly where I come out. I was fortunate to have never been fed the line about “passion” or “never working a day in my life” – my family is not of the socioeconomic status that I can do whatever makes me the happiest and never worry about not having enough for rent, groceries, and medical, but they also didn’t bullshit me about it.

      I like my job a lot of days and some I’m just okay with it, but if the number of days I outright hate it start creeping up, it’s time to look for something new. There is a very wide space between a passion job and one that makes you miserable every day.

      1. Selena81*

        My mom was unemployed. So she fed me what she read in the newspaper: that you should always follow your heart, that office-work is always soul-crushing, that seeking high-salaried positions is distasteful

        Looking back I am so relieved I don’t have crippling student debt as a result (through pure coincidence). And in hindsight I laugh at the well-intended stupidity of a mom who was often crying about lack of money telling her children to ignore salary-charts.

    2. Orcasek*

      this is the key. OP may not be Excited about the job they interviewed for, but it seems like they wouldn’t Hate the job. I know it is setting the bar low, but if OP can’t even think of a job that would Excite them, then finding one they don’t Hate may be just fine.

    3. stratospherica*

      Yeah, this works for me. My metric is whether I get the Sunday Scaries, and how much I get them. I’ve had jobs where the needle was at “ugh, I really can’t be bothered to drag myself to work tomorrow”, and I’ve had jobs where I genuinely avoided doing anything fun on Sundays because I knew I wouldn’t be able to enjoy it out of dread for the Monday that’d follow, and I didn’t want to do anything that’d speed the passage of time until Monday.

      Right now, I’m at the former and I know that I’m going to start looking for my next job from the next year (unless the general work environment and departmental culture changes, or I get transferred to another department), but I know I’m not so miserable that I need to leave immediately like I have before.

      1. londonedit*

        Yes, same here. In an ideal world, I’d obviously win enough money on the lottery so I could buy a nice house and never have to worry about money again, and in that case I probably wouldn’t work – or I’d take at least a year off and really think about what sort of job to do next. I think I’d be quite happy not working, though, or at the very least not working full-time. I can’t say I ever wake up on a Monday morning full of the joys of spring and ready to bounce like Tigger into a new working week. I’d much rather not have to go to work at all. But at the same time, I can’t say I ever really get the Sunday Scaries. I don’t earn as much money as I’d like (and renting is precarious and expensive) and of course my job has its issues and annoyances, but I’ve absolutely been in situations before where I’ve felt utterly sick with dread all day Sunday, and I’ve found it so hard to drag myself out of bed on a Monday morning, and I definitely don’t have that with my current job. Of course there are things I’d rather be doing instead of working, but my job is enjoyable and fulfilling enough to make me want to do it and not dread it every day.

        1. Selena81*

          I’ve been unemployed for several years.
          Because I didn’t have money and am not a social person I was mostly just daydreaming and reading books.

          I did get pretty bored, but what I really hated was the idea of my life not going anywhere and the idea that I had only taken from society and never given back.

          Honestly, if it had turned out that my prospects would never be better than ‘minimum wage jobs’ I think I would have preferred to never go back to work. Why struggle in a bad job and be poor and miserable if I could be poor and miserable being unemployed.
          But I lucked into being part of a job-project and eventually landed a job that is worth it to me in terms of salary (after losing both a job that gave me Sunday Scaries and losing my Dream Job)

    4. Don't Call Me Shirley*

      There’s something I heard at a training once, most of us can’t do what we love, but we can aspire to at least like our work.

      I picked my career partially based on availability and money, of course, but I sacrificed some earnings for a specific role I find more interesting (I chose not to work on sales software, but on controls, which is more day to day interesting). Even my non career jobs I have often found a way to enjoy much of…I liked the independence of just listening to music while painting a wall for example.

      I think that finding some joy in a role is a better goal than loving the whole thing. I know truck drivers who like the independence of working alone. I know people who like landscaping for being outside and working with their hands. I know lifeguards who find it a rewarding to help support safety. If you can’t find any joy, think if what is most missing.

  5. Marie*

    “When used to find fulfillment and excitement in your work, it feels like loss not to have that anymore.”

    THANK YOU for putting into words a feeling I’ve been having lately and didn’t know how to express.

    1. starrai*

      Both this sentiment and what LW is feeling echoes my situation so, so much. I’m currently job searching and since I’m unemployed, I really do need to keep looking! But my last job was more or less my dream and the culmination of my career so far — and I ended up feeling unmotivated and frustrated by it. Part of it was still being marginalized by the (male) executive management, but part of it was I’d really shifted from a total workaholic to prioritizing other areas of my life, particularly after the isolation of lockdown. I’m still aiming to find something that will be fulfilling and career-advancing, but honestly, after years of devoting myself to Noble Work, I think work can take care of itself, and maybe the rest of Life is worth considering.

      Maybe I’m burned out. Or maybe reprioritization was necessary. But the upside is that I don’t feel the need to restrict myself to any one field anymore. Hopefully, I’ll find a job, do good work, and punch out at EOD rather than grind myself down anymore. Wishing the same to you and LW!

      (Apologies for the novella)

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        I feel that. I’ve spent most of my working life more or less actively job hunting, or knowing my job would be temporary in the long run. Where I am now is…fine? It’s comfortable enough, there are problems, but it fits well into my life right now and the idea of job hunting and finding something maybe possibly better is really exhausting and feels like a risk I’m not willing to take on. But it’s not a dream job, and if I left or was forced to leave I don’t think I’d see a broad horizon of opportunities in front of me just waiting for me to dive in. It would probably just be…finding another job that was mostly fine.

      2. Sparkles McFadden*

        I’ll reply with a novella of my own (Apologies for the length)…

        I was very lucky to have a workplace I loved with jobs I loved. I was so fortunate to be able to stay in one place where I could be challenged and learn new skills. When I was laid off (after 30 years), I had to give myself time to mourn that loss.

        I moved on to a job that was just A Job…and you know what? It was fine. My commute dropped from 1.5 hours each way to about 5 minutes each way, and that was amazing. I went in each day, I did my work and then I had a whole bunch more time for other things than I ever had before. I focused on all of that. I paid my bills and I got all of my health check-ups using the benefits provided. I did a good job and did more than my share of the work, but I wasn’t overly involved in any of it. The boss wanted me to do some task in a really inefficient way? OK. My coworkers wanted to gossip and shop online half the day? Hey, that makes them happy. I had no emotional investment whatsoever. It was weird but also freeing. When the boss went absolutely bat-crap crazy and screamed at me like a lunatic, I thought “Life is too short” and I quit. I never thought I was a person who would do that but, with that job, I was.

        I thought I would look for something “more fulfilling” and then covid hit. I realized that I just didn’t care about work enough to go out and risk my health for another full time gig. I started doing freelance work, but by the end of 2022, I pretty much declared myself to be a retired person who does some freelance work sometimes. It would be more sensible to go back to full time work (benefits would be a really good thing right about now), but I am fortunate enough to be able to put that on hold for awhile longer. For now, I’m happy just picking up odd jobs here and there, like a seasonal job checking parking stickers at the county beach, or teaching a computer class for seniors, or tutoring kids. I sometimes get on my own case for my lack of ambition, but that passes quickly as I feel better than I have in years. It’s amazing how big a difference the right amount of sleep and the lack of stress can make.

      3. Ellie*

        The first thing I thought of when reading this letter, was whether OP is burned out, since they mentioned they used to be really passionate about work. Burnout is no joke, and it can last a very long time even once you’re out of that situation. A change of scene might help a lot, otherwise its worth looking into whether you’re suffering from it and what to do. You don’t want to be in a position where all you care about is work again, but there is a middle-ground.

      4. Ideas in the Sky*

        Thank-you for the novella! My details are different, but I am in a very similar situation. I know I am burned out, and that is partly because my organization exploited my conscientiousness.

        I am still looking for fulfilling work although will be happy to take a step down or two. I still feel too exhausted to be excited by most jobs I see, although at least a few of them look interesting enough to apply with sincerity to. I know in my mind the “rest of Life is worth considering” but I have to figure out exactly how to do that again!

    2. Ama*

      I’m dealing with this myself right now. I don’t need to love working but it needs to engage me on a particular level — I need some combination where I either truly enjoy part of the work, it is in support of a larger issue or topic I’m interested in, or it challenges me in some way (a lot of my work is process-based so I am happiest when I have room to create/improve processes or I have to think creatively to handle certain situations). Those things need to outweigh the things I don’t like about my job or I’m just going to be miserable for 40 hours a week and that’s not good.

      My job of ten years used to be that for me, but it no longer is and though I’m working on moving on, it was only a couple days ago that I was finally able to pinpoint that I’m grieving the loss of the way I used to feel about this job.

    3. Anon for this one (again)*

      YES. So much this. I like my co-workers as people and I like the constituency I serve, but if I had the chance to not work or to work only part-time, I absolutely would take it. (By which I mean, if my employer-provided health insurance weren’t so amazing.)

      Back when I was still a miserable graduate student convinced that the misery would be worth the dream job that would surely manifest at the end (spoiler alert: it didn’t), someone gave me a copy of The Art of Happiness at Work – a book of edited interviews with the Dalai Lama interspersed with some narrative from the interviewer. There’s a passage where the DL distinguishes between “a job” and “a career,” and is explaining that it’s okay to have the former and not the latter. The distinction he drew was (more or less) that the former provided money for food, shelter, clothing, and enjoyment, but did necessarily provide enjoyment or fulfillment in and of itself. A career, in contrast, was defined by a sense of purpose and progress that brought some sort of fulfillment or satisfaction through the nature of the work and the trajectory one followed because of the work. This was a tremendously helpful distinction to me then, and it’s still influential in how I remind myself that it’s okay if I feel uninspired. This is my job; my passions lie elsewhere. (The reason I’m anon for this one? I’m a career counselor. Ironic, I know.)

    4. Bee*

      Yeah, I have one of those jobs that justifies paying you less because it’s a passion field, and I used to find that very satisfying, but it’s become more of a grind than it used to be, and I don’t know if that’s something actually fixable by finding a different job. I feel burned out in a way that’s just…tired of people wanting things from me all the time? And I don’t know that there’s any job where that’s not the case, and in the meantime I really like the environment I work in and the people around me. I could certainly find a higher-paying job, but I don’t know how much that would help with the core issues, AND it requires doubling down on that feeling of loss while I face the same lack of enthusiasm for a new path as the LW. I’ve tried to focus on making my life outside work more meaningful to me but keep running up against walls (health, bandwidth, things outside my control). I don’t have any advice, just – lots of sympathy, LW!

      1. Thegreatprevaricator*

        I think it’s ok for your priorities and needs to change, and maybe where the passion was high up there maybe there are other needs that you might place higher at the moment? I think that could imply job change eventually but maybe taking a slightly different take on your current role could help?

  6. OrdinaryJoe*

    Wow … this hit dead on today, while I slog through another week in a job that, to be honest, is very good. I think most of us are happy to have the occasional high and mostly aim for a solid C week … not great, not bad, not frustrating, still employed at a good/livable wage.

    I think this is very common for everyone, just most people don’t speak about it because it feels like a personal failure or they are doing something wrong.

    1. A Person*

      Do other people regularly have “not frustrating” weeks? This is one of the things I’m struggling with a lot right now – my job is pretty high level and certainly pays well but I feel constantly frustrated. It’s not any one person or task, it’s a variety of things. But I’m wondering if it’s just unrealistic to be a senior manager and not see all the frustrating things happening across the organization, or be high enough level to know about a lot of things but not a director-level who can try to fix them.

      1. Jojo*

        Sometimes I have less frustrating weeks than others, but my job is full of frustration. So much frustration. But, to be fair, that’s kind of the nature of the job, so if it wasn’t as frustrating, I might not have enough to do.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          This is where I land too. I have less frustrating weeks, I have weeks with more wins than losses, I have weeks where things seem to against all odds go just fine. But I can’t think of any significant stretch of time where I’ve had a NOT frustrating week.

          And likewise if I did that might be a red flag of some kind. But the stress probably isn’t healthy.

      2. Micro Manager*

        Please tell me that’s not forever! I moved into a management role a little over a year ago and I knew there was a lot to fix, but this frustration is getting the better of me!

        1. A Person*

          Ironically I was fine when I initially became manager so I’ll say that it certainly gets better after the initial figuring out what to do!

          A few jobs ago I had a fine but kind of boring job (since I had been doing the same thing for a few years) where I managed 2-3 people and wasn’t sure about the “next step up” and I left to go find something that would give me it. A few jobs later and I have been managing an “org” (think around 10 people) for 9 months and I really miss that job.

      3. Dust Bunny*

        Honestly, that sounds like an inherent risk for that kind of job.

        (I would actively avoid any kind of management job, but the flip side is that I’ll never get paid like a high-level manager. There is always a trade-off.)

        1. Selena81*

          Same: never management.
          (luckily I’m in a field where salaries for non-management employees are still pretty okay)

      4. House On The Rock*

        I feel this a lot. I’m a top tier middle manager and most days and weeks my job is appeasing staff, customers, peers, and higher level leadership. It’s a constant balancing act and very draining. But I’m apparently really good at it and valued by the people who also frustrate me!
        I try to take satisfaction in knowing I’m handling things better than almost anyone else in my position in the organization, and by taking advantage of perks like a flexible schedule and great benefits. I’m also somewhat lucky in that I work at an academic medical center that does a lot of good…but that’s not super helpful in the moment.

        1. A Person*

          This does sound a lot like me! (I even work at a for profit related to things that are generally net positive for the world.)

          This is now way more about my specific situation but even though my reviews are good, as I’m being asked to wear different hats during understaffing I *don’t* end the day feeling like I’m handling things well (especially with the secondary hat). That’s a real struggle for me

      5. anon for this*

        Um, well, I got to director-level, tried to fix things, got so frustrated I was like “fine I’m happy to burn it all down”, got laid off (only director in my broader area to get laid off, so, well….), and now am not in management and am less frustrated….

        People are hard! Organizations are hard! Being an individual contributor, at least you can manage your own work — that’s what I’m taking comfort in at the moment.

    2. Sloanicota*

      My personal take is, I strive for a solid C week at work most weeks, because I’m hoping my overall week will be somewhere in the B plus/A minus, with social time, activities, outdoor fun, etc. There are weeks I’m A plus at work only, but those are not fun weeks.

  7. Caramel & Cheddar*

    Right there with you, LW. The pandemic definitely exacerbated this feeling for me, but primarily because it seemed like such a great opportunity for workplaces to really look at how they function and change for the better, and then they just…didn’t. Everyone I know works somewhere that is doing its best in trying to inch back towards the pre-pandemic status quo, and it’s a bit soul-crushing.

    *Could* I be more excited about the nature of work in and of itself? Maybe, if the average workplace was making major gains in improving the work environment for their staff. I’m just not seeing it, though, and it’s hard to bring enthusiasm to that. I can’t wait to retire.

    1. Busy Middle Manager*

      Well for many companies “do things better” means to automate away things, which means less of a need for people. I keep reading that covid was an opportunity to improve work, but TBH, I don’t see the logistics of that. So many jobs went remote, so there is no more organic communication happening. Technological hurdles had to be overcome. Why would that be a better environment to come together to propose big new ideas than let’s say, in office and together? Also now many companies are hurting from inflation and rapid interest rate hikes, with earnings peaking two years ago at this point for many of the household companies we know. IMO the time to think big was around 2018

  8. Viette*

    “For the longest time, work took over way too much of my personal life, and I’ve been working hard at creating and maintaining those boundaries for myself.”

    This can lead into a big emotional crash when you step back. Work consumed your life for a reason. It gave you those brain chemicals and the rewards of efforts and the all-consuming feeling of doing something — and the burnout etc.

    People go back to bad situations because they’re thrilling and exhausting and give you a sense of purpose. Stepping away can induce a withdrawal feeling. It can make you wonder what *is* the purpose of it all, if all that burnout-inducing effort was pointless.

    Give it time to reset to a new sense of what gives you satisfaction, and find what seems meaningful in the workplace now. There will be something; sometimes you need to re-calibrate your sensors.

    1. Leia*

      This is so important! I switched jobs earlier this year from something extremely high stress and demanding to a role with much better work life balance and basically no stress. I couldn’t figure out why I felt so empty or basically had no emotion the first few weeks. Eventually realized I had become so accustomed to constant stress and anxiety I didn’t know how to physically or mentally exist without it. I sorted it out with my therapist but it was a very odd experience.

    2. Ama*

      This is very true — 2019 through 2021 I was working well over my capacity (at one point I was doing work that was planned for three people all by myself — then we finally filled the two empty positions, but training two people simultaneously was also a lot of extra work). When things finally settled down last year I felt really off about work for quite some time, a normal workload felt like I was getting away with something.

    3. Rocky*

      This is so wise! I definitely have fallen prey in the past to taking highly reactive jobs that fizz in my brain chemicals. Now I’m older and more astute and I don’t rush in to fix every damn thing. I focus on sewing and painting after hours and get so much more satisfaction making things, than I did being overworked.

  9. Falling Diphthong*

    A few years back Sondra Tsing Loh wrote a book review that observed that the people who are paid to write think pieces about the importance of correctly balancing your work and family? They tend to have jobs that are well paid, intellectually engaging, respected, and very flexible.

  10. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

    I feel like most people don’t realize how truly horrifying the phrase “cost of living” is. The COST of LIVING??? We live in a nightmare.

    I’m good at my job and I enjoy my coworkers, but if I won the lottery I’m not still turning up every single day. I work because society has made that a requirement to obtain the basics necessary to stay alive (again – what a freaking nightmare).

    I went through a period like you but now I just view work as a means to an end. So know I ask myself certain questions: Can I be successful in the role I’m in? Does the pay cover my needs and at least a little of my wants? Am I overly stressed or dealing with toxic people? Will I be miserably doing this role for the next X years?

    I try not to think long term cuz yeah – the idea of working 40 hours a week for another 20+ years is demoralizing. So I take it day-by-day, week-by-week and try to only look a couple years in the future (to determine if I need to switch roles or not).

    I’m with you OP, this stuff is for the birds. But it is TOTALLY normal to feel the way you are feeling.

    1. online millenial*

      The older I’ve gotten, the more outraged I get over the phrase “earn a living.” What an absolute nightmare to have it be a common saying that in order to live, you have to earn it somehow.

      1. pope suburban*

        Same. It’s not that I don’t understand that creating a functioning society takes labor, but like…is what we have even a functioning society, really? I would be much happier just chipping in for my community and going home to a modest apartment if my wage or some other social structure ensured I would be able to eat, get medical care, and have some small joys in life. Sadly, everything I like doing doesn’t pay, and everything I have experience doing pays but not enough to escape the ever-present anxiety about rent going up and all that. Because human beings somehow have to “earn” the right to exist by competing with each other and struggling forever. It’s perverse and I hate it.

        1. Ideas in the Sky*

          Exactly! In some regions, positions in my helping field start at only a few thousand more than they did 25 years ago, while rent, health care, and food costs have gone up at a rate at least two to three times what they were 25 years ago.
          I want to do work that creates a functioning society, but our structures are quite dysfunctional. And everything that I think is worth doing doesn’t pay enough for a decent place to live. Some of my experience could get me a decently paying job, but my most recent experience makes me not want to have that level of responsibility and lack of work/life balance again. Perverse indeed.

      2. Angstrom*

        Hunter-gatherers have to get up and go hunt and gather in order to live.
        We have always had to “earn a living”, even before there was money. Working for yourself is still work. Food and shelter don’t happen without effort.

        1. Dust Bunny*


          I think a lot of people conflate capitalism, work, and the Industrial Revolution. We’ve all always worked in some form in order to live–never in history has anyone been able to sleep and play all the time and survive, because even if you live in a cave and eat off the land, you have to work to achieve that.

          1. Pidgeot*

            I think the difference is that pre-industrial revolution a lot of the work we did went directly toward sustaining our basic needs, i.e. you grow the food you need to eat, you build the house you need to live in, you spin the wool that will keep you warm. Now, the labor we do has an extra “hop” before it gets to our needs — you build the widgets to make money for the boss who gives you some money to acquire the food you need to eat. Ignoring that the step of the boss trading money for labor can be exploited or unfair, there’s still the aspect that the work you do isn’t directly funneling into those basic needs – unless you own your own business, you aren’t building widgets for yourself directly, but by proxy.

            There’s satisfaction in making things that you yourself will use. I think the fact that we’ve lost this is part of what’s exhausting us.

            1. Too Many Tabs Open*

              Even pre-industrial revolution, in many societies if you were a peasant, the food you grew went to the landowner first. You were still working to grow food for yourself, but you were working to pay the landowner for the right to use the land first, and if there wasn’t enough left for you, tough luck.

              But yes, there’s a reason why many people will spend $$$ on fabric or yarn to make clothing that they could buy for what they spent on the raw materials (let alone the tools).

              1. RVA Cat*

                This, plus here in the US we need to remember that we’re not that far removed on a generational level from human enslavement. I mean, former Virginia governor Doug Wilder is still around at 92 and his grandparents were born into slavery.

            2. AuDHD*

              I used to do the making part as a hobby – but now I work full time and don’t have the energy. And it is a source of frustration, and I feel disconnected.

            3. Mermaid of the Lunacy*

              Eh, I don’t really want to go back to pre-industrial revolution days. Women’s lives were consumed with chores. I like my automatic gizmos that do the work for me.

        2. Sloanicota*

          Yeah, somewhere on a blog (maybe this one) someone said they remind themselves that even animals in the wild spend the majority of their time searching for food and shelter. This is how we do that, but it’s still kind of the same instinct.

          1. Starbuck*

            This isn’t necessarily so, and animals have such a huge variety of behaviors and social structures to meet their needs that I don’t think there’s much merit in these kinds of comparisons. Lions, for example, are resting on average 20 hours out of the day. Many animals spend the majority of their days resting – not searching for shelter, just resting. Some whales go months without feeding. Etc.

        3. Chirpy*

          Hunter gatherers typically live on a society where everyone works towards the benefit of the whole, though. Every single person isn’t foraging all their own food and shelter by themselves, or even as a nuclear family. People split tasks among the group/clan/tribe/village. The whole group’s success depends on cooperation.

          Versus capitalism, where if everyone is expected to fully fund and supply themselves, you can sell everyone more stuff. Or decide to withhold stuff if it’s decided that certain groups don’t “deserve” food, shelter, etc. because they “haven’t worked hard enough”.

          1. Krevin*

            But being a hunter gatherer seems like it would really suck and modern capitalism is awesome by comparison.

            1. Chirpy*

              I think we need to go back to the “community/everyone works together for the good of all” aspect, not the “reliance on the limited food resources in this particular spot” aspect.

              Modern capitalism means we have a few people with truly ungodly amounts of money they will never be able to spend even if they try, and far, far too many people whose only option is to beg on the street corner in hopes of maybe getting something to eat today. I don’t think that’s particularly awesome.

              1. connie*

                People kind of overestimate the level of “for the good of all” generosity in hunter-gatherer societies. People do not necessarily get equal resources nor do they get equal power in the group. There are still status distinctions that control one’s access to food, for instance, or cosmological reasons some people have more than others.

              2. Krevin*

                And modern capitalism involves a lot of people like myself that are able to parley a specialized skill into a nice living. Which is awesome! But as the commenter below says, you’re looking at other ways of setting things up with a lot of biases if you’re comparing hunter gatherer societies favorably with modern capitalism.

                1. Chirpy*

                  I mean, the reason many hunter gatherer societies share more are because you’ll all die if you don’t, because you’re much more vulnerable to the current availability of food, with less ability to stockpile, which is why most of the world doesn’t do it anymore.

                  The main problem with capitalism is that it swung too far in the other direction, where resources are plentiful but not shared because the community is fractured.

          2. pope suburban*

            I think this is the core of the thing for me: I don’t see much relationship between my work/myself and my community. I work, I don’t have much, and there really isn’t any support or structure to help me out and ease my load in times of stress. The job I liked best was working in my dorm’s dining hall, because then I did not have to worry about food or shelter, I could directly see my work helping the community around me, I had the time to pursue learning/enrichment, and there were people/university departments there if I needed help. My human needs were met and I was cooperating with the people around me in a common endeavor. I have never felt that as an adult, not really- things are so atomized and it’s hard to find people who will really be there for you in that community way. I would be so happy if I could do a job like that and have a modest apartment, food, health care, the time to pursue hobbies, and the resources to occasionally travel or do something special. I don’t want wealth or prestige, I want to be part of a community without having to worry about money all the damn time.

        4. online millenial*

          I’m not necessarily saying that as a society, nobody should do any work. Even if I suddenly became independently wealthy and could quit my job, I’d still do things to contribute to society–most people would! And there’s plenty of things that could be automated, but automation is treated as a threat because our society is currently set up so that the only way you can reasonably survive is to have a job. And not just any job–people working in customer service, food service, agriculture, and other low-paying jobs do not make enough to survive. Nobody should have to work more than one job to live, and for people who *can’t* hold down a job for whatever reason, that shouldn’t be a condemnation to a life of poverty or dependence.

          I want Universal Basic Income and universal healthcare, is really my point. People would still have jobs! Most people would! But people without jobs wouldn’t suffer and die, and people with jobs wouldn’t be held hostage in terrible, abusive, exploitative environments for fear of losing their home, their children, and/or their healthcare.

          1. Ideas in the Sky*

            Yes, there is enough status competition and human desire for something better/cool things and experiences that many more people than not would work for more than the universal basic income, shelter, healthcare, food that I think should standard! It really depresses me to know how much a few people are hoarding the gains from a , system that keeps people in oppressive conditions and putting so many of their resources into keeping things this way!

          2. Chirpy*

            And places that have done Universal Basic Income found that people do better work when they aren’t spending mental energy on worrying about food and rent!

        5. Jessica*

          Yeah, and the whole point of civilization is to keep making things better, not to be like “this thing has always sucked and therefore we should just accept that it WILL always suck.”

          And that *hasn’t* always been the case for everyone. The wealthy generally *don’t* work for a living.

          Your post is basically a variation of “welp, life isn’t fair, suck it up, buttercup” in response to any human misery.

          No. How do we *make* it fair?

      3. I Have RBF*


        The idea that I must “earn” the right to exist is sort of soul crushing.

        As I get older, I think that UBI might be a really good thing, especially with automation poised to take over so much. Basic food, shelter and utilities paid for, the freedom to either work a job for extras or work on a passion project sounds really nice to me.

        When I became disabled, I looked into getting on disability. I concluded that it would be the wrong path for me, both economically (SSDI means instant poverty) and emotionally. I pivoted to a new career. It wasn’t easy.

        I enjoy most of the work I do, but every job has its downsides. Would I rather be living as a rich remittance person? Yes, but that isn’t happening. The second best is finding a job that I mostly enjoy doing that pays me enough to fund my priorities.

        I work to live, but I also have a job that I enjoy. It has taken some effort to get to this place.

      4. Aggretsuko*

        I think it’s sad, but it’s also true that we have to earn our ability to live, as long as there’s nobody around who can/will take care of us.

        I admit I’m jealous of my disabled friends who can’t work. They fuck off all day, call me while I’m at work because they’re booooooooored and can I come out and play, they go out to lunch constantly, they can’t tell the difference between Monday through Friday vs. weekends, blah de blah. But guess what, they have parents supporting them and paying for them, and who knows what happens when that’s not an option someday. I won’t even get into the disability issues they deal with.

        I’m also jealous of the retiree friends, but they’ve done their time and get it, at least.

        1. Anon for this*

          Aggretsuko, I know what you mean because I occasionally feel jealous of my husband, who had an intermittent chronic condition that lays him up for several days a week and prevents him from holding a job, but on his better days he can do stuff as if he wasn’t sick.

          He gets paid a stipend from the company that used to employ him as they have an insurance policy that covers this.

          However. He feels he has wasted his life (he’s very smart),we have to be pretty frugal, he’s often lonely, and four days out of any seven he might be bedbound and too exhausted to do anything fun. And meanwhile I’m at work, mostly worrying about how he is. So I don’t envy him deep-down.

    2. David’s Skirt-Pants*

      If I won’t the lottery I’d still have to work because of fraking health insurance. :/

      OP, you are Very Not Alone in your sentiments.

    3. Starbuck*

      Word! If anything, with more advances in efficiency and automation – shouldn’t that cost be less? But really it’s not that we’re paying the true *cost* of living, but rather the rents that are demanded in various ways…. it’s not a true cost if the only purpose of the payment is to make someone’s account go from $1,000,000,000 to $1,000,000,001. That’s not a transaction that’s actually necessary to sustain the food, shelter, and other necessities we’ve got to produce.

  11. Anon for this*

    I hear this. Recently I was asked “where do you ideally see yourself in 5 years” and my immediate response was “oh probably drinking spritzes on the amalfi coast” which was… not what my boss was looking for.

    1. Egg Ribbons*

      I told my boss that I find 5 year goals too unrealistic, but that if I had one, it’d be to sip cocktails in paradise and answer to no one. We both laughed, but I meant it.

    2. Aggretsuko*

      I won’t answer “ideally.” Realistically I’ll be in the exact same situation I am in now the next five, ten, fifteen, twenty years.

  12. not nice, don't care*

    My partner is currently being exploited by a public library administration that apparently assumes being physically assaulted, subjected to hate crimes, then treated like toilet paper by bosses is a dream job. All the ADEI statements, all the team building bullshit, all the extreme accommodations for violent patrons…nothing but contempt for employees, and intentionally unsafe working conditions.
    “Dream jobs” are right up there with vocational awe.

    1. ccsquared*

      I hate this so much, and used to call it the “cake/icing confusion.”

      The cake for most workers is solid pay, good working conditions, being treated like an adult, ability to have a life outside of work, etc.

      The icing is personal fulfillment, perks, social mission, etc.

      A lot of organizations get so focused on piling on the icing, they don’t realize the cake is moldy and gross.

  13. The Original K.*

    I was just having this conversation. I have a family friend who is in his sixties and “tired of working.” Just plain tired of getting up and working every day, and counting the days until retirement. I’m going to start a job search and am having a hard time getting excited about it. It’s even harder for folks who are living close to the bone, because why am I (rhetorical) going to be excited about a job that barely pays enough to live?

    The pandemic laid a lot bare when it became apparent how little some employers care about their employees, but I think this “work? Meh” feeling is totally normal.

  14. justcommentary*

    I feel like I could’ve written this letter. It especially feels weird for me because I’m in a field that touts a lot of vocational awe and “doong it for the community” rhetoric, but is also plagued by underfunding/understaffing, a saturated job market, and overinflated, expensive credential gatekeeping. I do genuinely believe in the ideals but my priorities aren’t to burn myself on the pyre for them, especially when the field wouldn’t do the same for me.

    I think this “live for your career” stuff also makes for messed up job market paradigms/incentives where “unskilled labor” jobs are framed as temporary and undeserving of living wages, when most of the jobs we need filled are in that category.

    1. justcommentary*

      Actually, I want to elaborate that I know a lot of people, including myself, who would happy to do “unskilled” jobs like being a cashier or janitorial work if they were being paid a living wage with benefits, and not organized on burnout-inducing “lean staffing” principles. But instead you get so much whining about paying a burger flipper the same as a paramedic, as if we don’t need both for society to run as is.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        110% I would. I worked in the dining hall in college and loved it. I have enough other things to satisfy my creative needs.

        (I work for a nonprofit but it’s not one that squeezes blood out of its employees–we all do 40 hours and then go home.)

        1. pope suburban*

          Oh wow, that’s me too. My favorite job ever was working in my dorm’s dining hall. They scheduled around classes, the work wasn’t bad, and I was paid to spend time with my friends. Plus it felt meaningful- we were making sure people had food. I’d do it again in a heartbeat if I could keep my health care and modest apartment. Ending up in a nonprofit that doesn’t do overtime is great and I am grateful, especially after years of low pay and poor boundaries, but like…it’s not my first choice, in terms of what my day looks like and what I’d be doing.

      2. epizeugma*

        I am in a similar situation. Many people would describe my job as a “dream job” and I do have the opportunity to directly positively impact clients’ lives, but over the years I have disinvested from the work mentally more and more. The actual work is fine and I’m good at it, but I’m at the point of experience where I’m not learning new stuff very often and so it’s rarely “interesting.” Even when I have a feel-good success I still don’t like *working*, and I’m significantly underpaid.

        I was a full-time barista for a couple of years and I miss it. On the whole I think an average week as a barista was more personally engaging and satisfying to me than my current job, where once a month I might have a really good success that I feel great about, but on a day to day basis I feel very little excitement or interest. If my local Siren could match my current hourly wage, I’d go back in a heartbeat.

      3. Lainey L. L-C*

        The “skilled” jobs also are organized on burnout-inducing “lean staffing” principles.

      4. Goldenrod*

        “I know a lot of people, including myself, who would happy to do “unskilled” jobs like being a cashier or janitorial work if they were being paid a living wage.”

        This is so true and reminds me of one of my favorite things that Martin Luther King Jr. said – there is no such thing as menial jobs, only menial salaries.

        He went on to describe how important janitors are in hospitals and it’s true – doctors are essential, but so are janitors, because healing is not possible in a germy and dirty hospital!

      5. Chirpy*

        This. I truly believe that if retail /restaurant workers were considered truly essential (and not the pandemic “essential” which really laid bare the “you are fully expendable and your life is worth less than my desire to buy more jeans” attitude of way too many customers) and paid accordingly, it would remove most of the terrible parts of the job – the lack of respect, and the bad hours/ pay/benefits.

      6. Apple Townes*

        This. I’ve worked retail in three seasons of my life (college, late twenties, mid-thirties). Different stores and locations, but the last two were specialty independently-owned shops in a big city, and therefore less soul-sucking than like, a big-box chain store. I worked these jobs while also freelancing in the field that my degree and professional experience are in (public relations/comms, which, in hindsight, I probably would not have pursued had I not been a timid people-pleaser at age 18).
        The retail jobs certainly weren’t all sunshine and rainbows, but they were productive in a much more tangible way than the full-time knowledge work I’ve done. Helping people buy the right running shoes or recommending them a great book was often very satisfying! I felt useful and engaged in my community. It took knowledge and experience to do those jobs well. They were certainly not “unskilled.”
        But the retail jobs paid minimum wage, and were never going to pay much more than that, even if I went full-time or pursued manager roles. And eventually, both times, I left to do work that felt way more abstract and arbitrary, but for which I could earn enough money to pay my bills.
        I love the idea of universal healthcare and UBI. A world where I could do the useful work of fitting people for running shoes and sports bras, or working as a bookseller, and NOT struggle financially or drown in debt, feels like it should be within reach! But instead, we make people do meaningless “BS jobs” (h/t David Graber) to enrich wealthy bosses and shareholders, or juggle multiple part-time jobs/gigs to afford basic necessities. Given the state of affairs in the U.S. throughout my adult life, I am not at all convinced that unfettered capitalism is a healthy way to organize an economy or a society.

      1. Totally Minnie*

        Oof. Yeah. Former librarian who would probably still be doing it if the field wasn’t systemically understaffed and undervalued nationwide, you and justcommentary hit it right on the head.

        1. Holly*

          I’m a new librarian and feeling BLEAK about my prospects even just given the job market. Do you have any advice on transitioning to a field that still uses the skills I have? Maybe that’s too general of a question but…

          1. Totally Minnie*

            I feel like the best advice I can offer is that an MLIS isn’t just library science. It’s also information science, and there are a lot of things you’re qualified to do under that umbrella. You’re a trained researcher, you know how to look at and understand data and metadata, and depending on whether you work in public libraries and how much experience you have, all those requirements to read government policies every year and understand how to comply with them can be a real asset. It has been for me. I work in a field that’s part data analysis and part government compliance, and my education and past job experience has been extremely useful in my new context. Think about the skills you use on a regular basis, and take a look at O*Net to see what other jobs use those skills. There’s a lot you already know how to do, you just need to find a way to apply those skills differently.

            1. A Person*

              I hesitate to recommend this currently – entry level Data Science is fairly oversubscribed. Unless someone really decides they are interested I’d recommend less (lacking a better word) “sexy” data jobs more like the one Minnie described above.

      2. justcommentary*

        Haha, ding ding ding, we have a winner!

        Luckily (?), I haven’t worked in public libraries (only academic), and in fact it’s still kind of my dream to do so. However, I also honestly anticipate that if I do manage to get my foot in the door for a proper public librarian job, I’ll probably only last a single digit amount of years due to the current pressures endemic to the field.

  15. Beth*

    A lot of things excited me about my last job hunt. I was excited to raise my income and have better benefits. I was excited to shift my career in a direction where I felt there was more room for growth, so I could anticipate even more income and flexibility in the future. I was excited to move into a remote role–I can visit relatives whenever I want as long as they have wifi and are cool with me working from their guest room!

    I was not really excited about the day-to-day labor of the job itself. I’m well suited to it, but it’s not what I would choose to do for 40+ hours a week if I didn’t have to, you know? And I think that’s normal. It’s just work.

    1. justcommentary*

      I’ve been job hunting and while the content of the job itself has been important to me obviously, the benefits, hours, and wages are honestly more important to me. Career advancement means nothing if my commute is miserable.

    2. Sloanicota*

      Yes, I think it’s important that OP is framing this around job searching. It can be really hard to get geared up to go through all the change and uncertainty associated with a new job – things are just going to be really hard for a while, like logging into your email type things that are not currently hard, and that can be tough to get psyched up about if it’s not a LOT more money, like change-of-lifestyle type money. That kind of money isn’t what it used to be in this era of shrinkflation, either; you could easily bring in $10-20K more per year and if you’re supporting a household you may not even feel it. Plus, how many times have I been fooled by jobs that sounded like the money was better, but then there were hidden costs that ended up causing me to approximately break even at the end of the day? So if it’s specific to making a change, I especially get where OP is coming from.

  16. Egg Ribbons*

    I nearly wrote a similar letter this week. It’s been full speed ahead for 8 years at my current job, and I’ve thought about moving on to something new. I was asked to write my goals, and I would simply prefer not to. The current political climate hasn’t helped; nor has all the bad news (some of which is related to my industry, so I can’t just look away). But the thought of charging forward with the same long hours, on-call time, and same-shit-different-day deja vu until retirement has been hard to accept – I doubt a new job will be any different in my field, and it’s tough to put up boundaries after giving so much for so long.

    1. Sloanicota*

      Yeah I know I need to job search but I’m kind of burned out (and bummed out) and I don’t think anyone’s going to give me lottory-winning type money so it’s going to be the same manure in a different barn at the end of the day. Hard to get motivated for that.

  17. idwtpaun*

    I think this is entirely normal for people who find their personal fulfillment outside of work through hobbies and other interests, in which group I include myself. All I want from a job is pay/perks that feel fair to the work I’m doing and satisfy my financial needs, coworkers I get along with well enough, and just a generally reasonable environment.

    That doesn’t mean I’m completely checked out – it always feels good to be good at what you do, especially when it’s acknowledged by your peers, and I have some pride in the quality of the product I produce, but it’s not the main source of my happiness and fulfillment.

    I remember once a coworker from a different team came down to chat with my small team, asked about our weekend plans, and after hearing about travel, concerts, etc., commented with fond amusement, “You all have such interesting lives.” But I think that’s why we all got along so well, we all liked each other well enough and none of us had that job as the centerpiece of our lives.

    1. S*

      I’m in a field that is traditionally a “passion” field where people are expected to give their all for relatively low pay because they’re passionate about the work. I have a hobby that I’m very passionate about that brings me a ton of joy and fulfillment and I often experience coworkers commenting to me about how it’s so great that I have something to be so excited about and that they wish they had something like that!

      I’m coming to a bit of a crossroads in my career, though. I’m in a low-paying role that is relatively low stress, but if I want to continue my expensive hobby and stay in this field, I really need to be working towards higher level roles, which would come with significantly more stress and responsibility. I like the work and there’s a reason I chose this field… but I have a lot of trepidation when I think about taking on the kind of role that would pay what I’d really like to make to have the lifestyle I want to have.

  18. Roses By The Stairs*

    It is helpful to sorta like or, find some sort of value in what you do every day, but there is no need to make work your identity. Perhaps your preferred employment is doing what you’re good at, looking like a rock star, and heading home at a reasonable time. Sometimes it’s nice getting heaps of praise for your work when you barely lifted a finger.

    Perhaps your preferred employment is doing something where you learn a new skill. But I think you’re in a very fortunate place. You have freedom to not care, freedom to go the extra mile, freedom to nope out of a project, freedom to try to carve out a role that you’d like, and freedom to move on to something else when you get bored.

    I only say this because you clearly have an opportunity now, and you probably have more coming in later.

    Basically, get your paycheck for as long as you can and then move on to a better paycheck.

  19. Snow Globe*

    I do think there is something about the stage of life that you are in that plays a factor. In my 20’s I was excited to have a real job, and enjoyed learning about the industry and being part of a bigger organization. I looked forward to getting promotions, and I actually did like going in to work. As I got older, priorities of course shifted, and the rose-colored glasses cleared up.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Yeah I’m finding my 30s to be much more of a “work is a secondary priority” era than my 20s were. I’m very happy to do “just fine” work and make sure I reserve enough energy for the rest of my life and priorities instead of trying to consistently over achieve and burn myself out. I’m not sure where that switch happened but I am glad it did.

    2. Sloanicota*

      Yeah, I started with a lot of enthusiasm, but it wasn’t really rewarded – more work got piled on, but it didn’t come with the kind of advancement or income I would have needed to maintain that level of enthusiasm – and overall it’s not as “new” and I’m not learning as much (although I do learn new things in every role – but in the beginning it was like, a whole new world). Now I work to live.

  20. Yes And*

    Yes to all this. I’m very lucky to have landed in a decently-paying career that I enjoy. Given the scope and limitations of my abilities, and given the need to work for money, I can’t think of anything I’d rather be doing. But that second “given” is important. If I woke up tomorrow to find myself independently wealthy, I would not keep my job for the sheer joy of it. I think that last statement is true of most people, and I think it’s silly to ask workers to pretend otherwise.

  21. Jennifer Strange*

    I enjoy my job. I enjoy the people I work with, and I’d say about 85% of the time I find it interesting to do my work. But if I won the Mega Millions Jackpot I’d probably leave my job (eventually, phasing myself out so as not to leave them in a lurch because, again, I sincerely like my company). The fact is while I appreciate that I’ve found a job/company that I can make an income from while mostly feeling energized, if money were not an object there are so many other things that I could do to get the same feeling (travel, take classes, even volunteer work which is much lower stakes).

    It’s okay to not be passionate about your job. It’s okay if it’s just a means to an end rather than a “purpose”.

  22. Sorry I was double muted*

    The point of my job is to make the most money possible and accumulate as much money as possible to do the things I want to do.

  23. Burner Handle*

    Oh jeez, thank you for this. I’m pondering/semi-actively pursuing an exit from capital-M meaningful nonprofit work for both financial and quality of life reasons, and the biggest struggle so far is looking at job postings and thinking “sure, I could do that all day and be pretty good at it, but how do I tell people I’m leaving [inspiring/exciting on the surface job/workplace] to [sit in a cube and be a grunt for 35-40 hours a week and actually have the bandwidth to do all of the other activities/hobbies/pursuits I’m too burnt out and exhausted to do].” Other people’s opinions about my work decisions don’t/shouldn’t matter, but that doesn’t mean this phenomenon isn’t an obstacle…

    1. Tired of meaningful work*

      I’m currently a social worker and going through the exact same mental block. I can’t let the imaginary opinions of my grad school classmates – most of whom I don’t even talk to – keep me from making a change, but that’s exactly what’s happening and I hate it.

      1. Burner Handle*

        It’s both comforting and frustrating that I’m not alone in this. Good luck! I hope we both figure some stuff out…

    2. Constance Lloyd*

      I left my Meaningful Nonprofit job 2 years ago. I loved the mission and I loved my day to day. I did not love how horribly I was paid. They were grooming me for a promotion and even then I couldn’t afford to stay. My current job is aggressively fine. It has all the personality of a beige pantsuit, my workload is manageable, and my pay has doubled since I left the NP (not a difficult hurdle to clear). I’m so much happier.

      When people asked how I could leave, I just told them I loved my job, but not enough to get a second one just to keep it.

      1. Goldenrod*

        “My current job is aggressively fine. It has all the personality of a beige pantsuit.”

        Ha ha! I love this! (And this describes my job as well….)

        1. Industry Behemoth*

          OT, the late Queen Elizabeth II said she could never wear beige in public because nobody would be able to see her. :-)

    3. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I’ve stayed field adjacent but left mission based community facing work because yeah – it’s exhausting, and undercompensated, and the mental/emotional toll is simply Not Worth It for me anymore. I’m glad it is for some people because the work is important, and I hope there’s a major industry level overhaul that acknowledges you can’t pay people so little for doing so much, but I’m not going to be the one to carry that torch anymore.

    4. arsloan*

      I also dealt with this, but I have been lucky to find *some* good nonprofits in my general field (not the exact field I started in, but a sort of adjacent one that still work on important-but-not-quite-as-compelling work, that’s better funded). Think, I started out in fisheries and now I work in water quality, but at least fish need water, and since people also need clean drinking water there’s a revenue stream there. People also have said government or other public jobs can be better and still important.

    5. Don’t make me come over there*

      Oh yes yes yes. I struggle with what I think other people’s opinions might be. Went to a top-notch school, know lots of founders and doctors and such, and I just can’t seem to get fired up about much of anything career-wise right now. I think I’d be happy enough getting decent pay and benefits to work under someone else’s direction in a lab, but I’m at an age where people seem to expect me to want a leadership position. And I just don’t. And it feels like I’m doing something wrong.

    6. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      Interesting. I’ve never given a thought to what anyone else would think of my career choices.

      Real question: does anyone you know care about what you do now? I mean, actively care, not just party chit-chat. Because I think this is you judging yourself and pretending the judgment is coming from others. Give yourself permission to leave.

      1. Burner Handle*

        Yes. Deeply and legitimately. I mean, people are “impressed” by what I do, but the actual work, and the underlying mission is vastly and objectively important to a significant number of people I know (many of whom are those whose opinions I actually value). But you’re still right about needing to give myself permission to leave. Which is something my therapist and I discuss not infrequently. ;)

  24. CanadaGal*

    Does the LW feel this way about other things in their lives as well? When I read this, while I could definitely relate, it also sounds like the LW should get checked for depression. Ask me how I know.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      We want to be careful not to armchair diagnose, but also no this doesn’t sound like that to me. LW is really noticing it in the work context, which in my experience is a way more difficult thing to discern when everything has turned to shades of gray.

    2. LW*

      LW here! Thanks for asking, and it’s certainly a fair question. No, I wouldn’t say I feel this way about other things in my life, although the latest news and current political climate aren’t exactly helping. If you have experienced (or are experiencing) depression, though, I certainly hope you’re OK.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        “although the latest news and current political climate aren’t exactly helping”

        Ain’t that the truth. Keep that in mind, too, as you assess your overall happiness with work and other stuff. Things that are tolerable and fine can become annoying and rote really quickly if our general mindsets go downhill – and there’s certainly a lot going on right now, even if you feel generally fine. I usually try to give things a few months and see if they improve (of course I don’t know how long you’ve been feeling like this, or when you wrote this letter).

    3. Stay-at-Homesteader*

      Yeah, while I agree with a lot of the comments here, I also think the LW should at least do a little self -inventory (if they haven’t already thought of it, maybe they have!) and make sure that this is specifically related to work and not a general loss of interest/lack of ability to find pleasure.

    4. PurplePeopleEater*

      This can both be a normal feeling that lots of people have AND a reason to take stock of overall mood and whether other things that used to bring pleasure no longer do.

  25. online millenial*

    I see a lot of comments here about not making work your identity and accepting that it’s what you do in order to support the rest of your life, all of which are important attitudes to have. I’m already in that headspace and I *still* have zero desire to work anymore. I’m lucky to be in a job where I can work remotely and have a HUGE amount of flexibility–as long as everything gets done and I show up to meetings, I don’t have anyone watching to make sure that I’m in front of my laptop 8 hours a day.

    Even so, I’m just tired of it. If I could quit my job without losing my home, my food, my hobbies, and my cats, I’d do it in a heartbeat. There are things I enjoy doing that are work-adjacent–I’ve been giving some presentations lately and that’s been really nice!–but I don’t want to have a job anymore. And yeah, the idea of having to just… keep doing this every week for the next several decades, retirement being a complete pipe dream for me, is incredibly demoralizing.

    1. Totally Minnie*

      I mean, I’ve been spending the last few weeks feeling like now would be a great time to slip into the kind of Hallmark movie where a distant relative you barely know leaves you all their grand fortune and allows you to change your life completely. But since I don’t think that’s likely to happen, I have to reframe the idea of working if I’m going to make my day to day life bearable. Realistically, I’m not going to be able to just stop working for another 15-20 years. And that’s a long time to be miserable. So finding the trick that makes me be able to say “this is not great, but I can still find my happiness and contentment” has been extremely empowering for me.

    2. Beth*

      There’s a reason that “billionaire bachelor” is a popular category of romance novels! It’s a wish-fulfillment based genre, and having your financial needs handled so you don’t need to work is such a major wish for so many people.

      1. Starbuck*

        That, and the heavily romanticized version of vanlife where people quit their office jobs and roam the country.

    3. I Have RBF*

      Are you me?

      Seriously, I am about done with work. I just don’t really enjoy it any more. I want a stable income from passive sources and to have time and headspace to pursue all the things that I’ve set aside so I can work and have housing, food, clothing, etc. But in order to get that when I retire, I’m going to have to work harder to set aside money. It sucks, but the politics of the world right now are such that if you don’t look out for yourself and your family, no one else will, but they’ll blame you for not “planning ahead” or not being born rich.

      Yes, I have resentments. I have certain political and economic organizations that I blame for it, too.

    4. Cute As Cymraeg*

      Yeeeeeep same here.

      I have a fairly interesting job that pays well, and (mostly) fantastic colleagues. I even get to meet and work with my most senior colleagues, some of whom are internationally famous (and for whom I still get a little bit of the ‘omg, that was [Person]!!!’ response).

      But God, I’m so done. The idea of getting up and turning on my laptop for 8 hours a day for the next 30+ years is absolutely killing me. At this point I’m just pinning my hopes on a Lottery win tbh…

    5. Aggretsuko*

      I have twenty more years to go and every single second of them is excruciatingly slow. I hate everything now.

  26. Dust Bunny*

    I’m one of the lucky few who really, really, likes my job and my employer but there are still 1,257 things I’d be doing if I didn’t need a paycheck. I am not my job. It’s a job. Someone else will get it when I’m gone and it won’t really make that big a difference.

  27. CRM*

    Just wanted to say how much I relate to this, OP. I needed to hear this advice too. Thank you for writing in.

  28. Totally Minnie*

    I feel this so hard.

    During my last job search, I decided that my dream job would be something that’s not a Dream Job (TM). Dream Jobs want more of my emotional state than I’m willing to give at this point and I can’t do that anymore. I didn’t really want a job I was excited about. I wanted a job that would allow me to have a life I was excited about. I wanted to be done with work early enough in the day that I could go to the gym and have dinner with my family and engage in some hobbies in the evening. Something that wouldn’t take over my brain during my off hours in the way that my previous jobs always had. I’ve been in my current job for almost a year, and sometimes it can be interesting, but most of the time it’s pretty boring. And I’ve decided I’m okay with that because it pays enough to cover my bills and it doesn’t interfere with the kind of personal life I want to lead.

    When you look it it from that angle, even if you’re not excited about the possibility of this job, does it allow you to do things in your personal time that you’re excited about?

    1. Angry socialist*

      I mean, having a job takes up a lot of my time that could be spent doing things I like. Such as spending time with family, doing my hobbies, napping, volunteering.

  29. Liisa*

    Wow, I did a double-take making sure I didn’t write this because this is exactly how I’ve been feeling. Thank you AAM for the insightful answer – it’s reassuring to know I’m not alone in feeling this way.

    1. Relentlessly Socratic*

      Seriously, me three. I had a meeting yesterday with a career coach and basically said, do I need a new job or do I just hate working?

      My job is fine, I do Important Things with clients who I genuinely like and who appreciate my work. I like the people with whom I work. I am paid sufficiently well that I’m happy (however, I’m also paid sufficiently well that any career pivot will likely not pay me at a similar level).

      But, yeah. Work, I’m over it. And it is nice to know that I’m not alone.

  30. Capt. Liam Shaw*

    I am 43. At 28 I dreamed of having my bosses job. I worked hard to earn it. In the end didn’t get it and saw someone hired from the outside who had management experience and also checked a few more boxes than me. I left and worked very hard at the next job, was laid off. Sadly that manager was a disappointment and her management style really sullied me to things. Today I work my 40 and punch out. I go no extra miles. Been burned on that. I am fine with this trajectory till retirement.

    1. Busy Middle Manager*

      Management is not all fun and games, believe me. Maybe you dodged a bullet. I fix issues and discuss so many problems behind closed doors. Many workers now are a bit disillusioned due to the cost of living, everyone feels squeezed, so it’s extra hard to motivate people at this point.

    2. londonedit*

      I tried the whole climbing the career ladder thing in my 20s/early 30s as well, because I thought that was what you were meant to do. Ended up not doing any of the work I’m actually good at, and instead spending my time in a constant state of panic fighting all the fires and dealing with all the crap. Hated it, was rubbish at it. So now I do a job that someone with 10 years’ less experience than me could do, and I’m really good at it because I bring those 10 extra years of experience. Unfortunately I’m also paid at the level I would be if I was 10 years younger, but overall I’d rather do the work I enjoy and am good at, and earn just about enough, rather than earning more money but sacrificing my mental health for a job I don’t enjoy.

  31. FeelThis*

    Felt I could have written this myself. I’m in a job I’ve always done well at – but I’m bored and not at all motivated to do something to challenge myself in it. I thought getting some new blood on our team would help energize me. It hasn’t.

    I thought looking for a new job – a new challenge, something new to do – would interest me and at least give me something to do. But job searching is hard and I’m a single mom. I’m too damn exhausted to do anything more than what I’m doing.

    All that to say – I’m glad it’s not just me that’s feeling this way.

  32. somehow*

    I’ve posted here before, and I’ll say it again, that I find meaning in what I do, even if I don’t love every day of it. I don’t rah-rah over it; it’s just a quiet meaningfulness and I am eternally grateful for it.

    But I think it’s entirely reasonable when someone else doesn’t feel the same. We don’t all live the same lives, don’t necessarily experience the same daily phenomena, have the same responsibilities and obstacles, etc. I just might feel the same largesse if I found myself in a different environment than what I am now (and I don’t make all that much, but do have excellent bennies).

    I hope things work out for you in the way you’d like for them to, LW. I really do.

  33. Ann Stephens*

    This really hit home for me. I don’t ‘mind’ what I do, but I just don’t care anymore. I intensely dislike the firm I’m working for, but not sure it would necessarily be better anywhere else. The pay is on the better side for my experience and the field so that’s why I stay. I’m close to home and too old to start over A G A I N.


  34. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    In addition to what others said, I want to also point it out that LW is about to start a new job, that they say they feel they should be excited about, but are not. This is IMO a Very Good Thing. I’d be wealthy enough to not need to work anymore if I had a nickel for each time I shared an elevator with a super happy and excited new hire on their first day in the office, only to run into the same person three months later and they now had a 1000 yard stare and looked like they’d lost all will to live… I think it would’ve been far better for their mental health if they’d been “meh” about the job all along.

    1. Anonyghost*

      Oh goodness yeah, that’s SO well described. I’ve seen those poor people and I’ve been that poor person.

  35. DramaQ*

    Anymore I joke that waking up in the morning involves stuffing my soul down into a lockbox so I can focus on the 8 hours I spend at work. I was feeling that way for awhile as the reality of my “dream career” was coming sharper and sharper into focus but it really hit home in 2021 when I got COVID. The owner of the company I worked at literally screamed at us to get back to work and forbid us from getting tested after exposure because he didn’t want our department shut down. Then they tried to forbid anyone who came back from being sick from talking about it with coworkers because it “encouraged negativity”. All while crowing about record profits while we were on a wage freeze. Really puts things into perspective doesn’t it?

    I’ve settled for having a job I don’t actively hate and want to drive off a bridge rather than deal with. I am reasonably content most days but I no longer subscribe to the idea that I should be passionate about my work. Why give my employer my passion and my energy when they literally don’t’ care if I die so long as I am making them another dollar while I flop around gasping for my last breath? Then you know before rigor mortis even sets in they’ll have my replacement hired. Barring that they’d find a Oujia board to bring my ghost back and force me to keep working.

    I try to find more fulfillment outside of work. I also do not subscribe to the hustle culture that if I like something as a hobby I should be a “girl boss” and market it. No thank you my hobbies are an ESCAPE from work. It’s not an escape if I turn it into a job.

    I do ask myself if I will “like” the job in the context of are there red flags that this will be a toxic job environment for me? But it is not the key defining factor. I look for retirement benefits, health insurance and is the salary enough to pay my bills and do they at least give the miniscule 3% COL raise. Screw “loving” the job. I spent far too long in academia clinging to that and it’s cost me in terms of retirement compounding and salary increases. I need to start focusing on how to get to where I don’t have to work anymore.

    1. Relentlessly Socratic*

      Ah, fellow academe escapee. Fistbump in solidarity–after a Ph.D., two post-docs, and ajuncting, I will likely never retire, but collapse at my desk because I don’t think I will ever be able to catch up.

  36. Jackie Daytona, Regular Human Bartender*

    I’m at a Very Good Job that is meaningless to me. I’m here until I can pivot to something that is meaningful. If I could get comfortable with something as black and white as “I’m just here for the money” as a long-term view then I’d probably be a whole lot happier spending most of my waking hours doing what I do. But that just isn’t me.

  37. Editor Emeritus*

    “Several generations of us have been sold a bill of goods — the idea that we’re supposed to find work fulfilling and rewarding — “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life,” blah blah blah.”

    *standing ovation*

  38. MedGal*

    I would be perfectly happy to be independently wealthy and do whatever I want all day. My job is not horrible. My coworkers are lovely people. I work nearly 100% remotely. But still winning the lottery seems nice.

    1. online millenial*

      Yep. As someone mentioned upthread, I often daydream about inheriting a no-strings-attached moderate fortune from a previously unknown relative who picked me to receive several million dollars.

      (I don’t even want that much money! Just enough that I can live comfortably, pay off my debts, take care of my friends who haven’t been able to find work for years, and set up college funds for other friends’ kids. I don’t want a yacht. I want a bungalow with a little yard, the knowledge that my friends are taken care of, and the freedom to use my time as I see fit.)

  39. RagingADHD*

    I have been on the other side of the “work as passion” myth for a good long time now, and I just want to offer some encouragement that having less personal emotional attachment to a job doesn’t mean giving up all satisfaction in your work and feeling like life is meaningless 8+ hours of the day.

    It’s a different type of satisfaction. Quieter. More steady

    It still matters to me to do work that I’m good at, to do it well, and be appreciated. Look around you at all the different products, services, and functions that make your life better, easier, safer, or more fun: door locks, compression socks, restaurant inspection, concrete, soap, running water, phone service, pickles, playground equipment, whatever.

    They aren’t glamorous or exciting, but whether they are good or bad actually matters to people day to day.

    “Making a difference in the world” doesn’t have to mean curing cancer or raising millions of dollars for charity. It can mean making sure someone can hear their grandma when they call, or that someone’s legs feel better when they’re walking all day, or that somebody’s SameFood actually tastes the way it’s supposed to.

    A job doesn’t have to be your One True Purpose, or thrilling, or enmeshed with your self-concept in order to be satisfying. It can just be…a good thing to do.

    1. WestsideStory*

      This is a good point. Maybe sometimes “living your best life” is just doing something that helps other people get through their day.

    2. Anonyghost*

      Thank you so much for that injection of hope and advice in what is a very (understandably) downbeat thread. I need it – I need suggestions of hope that crank up my ailing system, give me a spoonful of motivation.

      I think what you say is worth remembering. I feel I’m facing a shark pool at work today – my perception is that “everyone” there is burnt out, ravenous, desperate, manipulative and cold. After reading your comment I’m asking myself, “Can I remember – when I’m actually in the moment – that I can be genuinely kind and generous and that it might make a quiet difference to how someone feels?”

  40. Goldenrod*

    I used to be fearful at the idea of working a 40-hour a week job – as a young slacker, I underearned and worked part-time because I hated the whole idea so much.

    One thing that helped was working in an office that coordinated volunteer work. I saw all the retired people coming in to volunteer at the hospital, really enjoying it. I realized that work can fulfill a basic need in people. “Work” – but not necessarily a career, or spending *all* your time and energy working.

    I started to connect with that basic fulfillment of work, and realized I enjoyed doing some tasks that helped people. It’s nice to feel needed, while getting a paycheck. I also realized that 40 hours a week in retail or food service feels WAY harder than 40 hours doing light admin work in an office (for me).

    I think the key is to find work that doesn’t go against your personality too much – like, don’t do sales if you are introverted, for example. Find a place where the work is low-key, doesn’t drain your energy too much, pays the bills, and where the work culture is positive. Then keep it in perspective! Like Alison said, work doesn’t have to define you. It’s just a part of life. You don’t need to be “passionate” about it, just okay with it.

    Good luck!!

  41. Jenna Webster*

    This happened to me a while back, and after becoming more and more morose, I realized that I needed to make the job more fun. I was lucky to be in a position where I could choose to prioritize projects I would like to do, and I did that big time, along with having more conversations with the interesting people around me (about work first, but roaming far and wide as we went), and even went so far as to change my physical environment with things I loved to see – for me, cool rocks and crystals. Now, whenever I start feeling sorry for myself for having to work to live, I try really hard to find something fun to do. I think my organization has benefited too.

  42. Fernie*

    I only recently made the connection between the Dream Job myth and the Dream Partner myth, and remembered some very wise words from a friend many years ago. About the Dream Partner, he said, “There are people who you’re going to be in better or worse relationships with. And sure, you could in principle take everyone alive on earth and rank order them in terms of how good a relationship you’d have with them, and in theory someone might rank first on that list. But you can probably have a pretty spectacular relationship with, say, one in a million people, and that means in each mid-size city there are at least five.”

    I only just realized, after reacting to the old “You were put on this planet to do one specific thing and it’s your job to figure it out,” type of message on a certain job-search podcast, that the same thing applies to jobs – you could in principle rank order every job on earth and one in theory might be the best fit for you, but there are lots and lots of jobs that you could do pretty well and be reasonably happy doing.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Hmm I don’t know how I feel about this analogy, because I don’t need to have a partner to have food on my table and roof over my head, Oh and healthcare too, but I very much do need a job. I can be happy without a partner, but will be struggling to meet my basic needs without a job. So for a job, my bar would be significantly lower.

      My partner is some part of my life all day long. I don’t get to take five days PTO from being their partner. I don’t get to walk out the door at five PM and forget that I have a partner till eight AM the next day. Which again means that to me, the bar for a job would be lower. I feel like I really would need to have a pretty awesome connection with someone in order to be their partner, because otherwise, IME, things get ugly pretty fast. A job, on the other hand, needs to just be okay and I’ll be happy as a clam with it, for 40 hours/week, minus vacations and holidays.

      Which is good news, because the perfect job might not even exist. As the saying goes, if it were perfect for me in every way every day for the rest of my life, they wouldn’t be paying me for doing it. When people ask me, in an excited tone of voice “do you like what you do???” I usually say something like “I’ve been doing this 30+ years. I don’t hate it. At this point, that’s good enough.”

  43. Nina*

    I genuinely do enjoy my work, I find it satisfying and fulfilling, and I’m fortunate enough that I can be quite picky about only taking jobs that are satisfying and fulfilling. But it’s still work, and even the best job will have stuff you just don’t like or don’t want to do, and even the most enjoyable job you need time away from and solid work-life balance and boundaries. I figure as long as it’s better than, say, 25% grind, 50% okay, 25% actually enjoyable, it’s pretty good.
    And I never, ever, ever monetize my hobbies.

  44. Lady Kelvin*

    For what it’s worth, I love my job. I enjoy my field, I find the work I do incredibly fulfilling and rewarding, and I really enjoy working with most of my coworkers. However, I got my master’s in my “dream” topic/subject, and then looked around and got my PhD in a topic that would get me a job. I also would quit my job and not look back if I was ever financially able to live at my current comfort level without working. There are definitely parts of my job that I hate (so much writing!) so its ok to not be excited about a job you need to pay the bills. Find your fulfillment outside of your job and think of it as a way to finance the life you want to live.

  45. Professional Cat Lady*

    OP,I feel you so hard. I am in my chosen field, I love my coworkers and what I do. I would volunteer if I were independently wealthy.
    I STILL wake up and think, “do I *really* need that paycheck….?

    1. allathian*

      You’re one of the lucky ones, I guess.

      I like my job well enough, but I wouldn’t do it for free.

  46. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    I get my excitement & fulfillment outside work. I always regarded paid work as a necessary evil, to pay my bills and my retirement pot, but which was wasting the best years of my life.

    FinalJob in particular was an excellent employer, very fair and I always did my best for them for 30 years, receiving many bonuses for patents etc. However, I was never “excited” to turn up to work, not on any day.

    I retired at 63 and – as other retirees I know agree – these are now the most enjoyable years of my life. Absolute bliss doing just what I want every day. I just wish I could have retired right after uni :)

  47. BellyButton*

    I love my job, I think I have the best job in the world- but it isn’t a dream, it is still work. What helps me is looking for the impact I have on people and the company. That’s how I stay motivate to keep doing a good job and keep at it. I have been working professionally for 25 years and I assume I will be working for 20 more, which is exhausting to think about. So finding the areas where my work has some meaning and some impact is necessary to keep going.

    1. BellyButton*

      One more thing I do to help- is keeping up with the latest trends, studies, and future of my industry. It helps to make sure I don’t get complacent or become irrelevant.

    2. TCPA*

      I’d recommend checking out the blog Mr. Money Mustache, if you’re curious about the prospect of NOT having to work for the next 20 years (financial independence, early retirement, etc.). It’s not a set-in-stone requirement to work until age 65…but that’s what society tells us :)

      (Also, thinking about how my job is helping people is a way that I stay motivated as well! Great comment.)

      1. Relentlessly Socratic*

        I am certainly not 100% on-board with the Mustachian way (he really can be a bit much), but I did take what I liked from his work and left the rest. There are others out there as well, such as the Our Next Life blog.

  48. atypical*

    Before pivoting to “that’s just the way it is” and resigning yourself to a lifetime of working just to pay the bills, consider the possibility that this unease is telling you something important about yourself. Mid-life crises can happen anytime in adulthood and can be catalysts for life-enhancing changes. What do you care about? What gets you exercised or excited when you read the newspaper or discuss current events. When you make charitable donations, what kinds of organizations do you choose? What are your hobbies, and how fulfilling are they? What do you wish you understood or knew how to do? What might you regret not doing or exploring when you look back in 20 or 30 years? Maybe you can find more meaning in something outside of work, and that will make it feel worthwhile to put in the hours earning money at your current job. But maybe what you want to do is go back to school or shift careers to something that may be less lucrative but will be more fulfilling. As someone who, at 62, has zero regrets about walking away from higher paying work to go to graduate school and then work for nonprofits, I can tell you that it is possible to feel like your work matters and that your hours of (often deeply unpleasant and stressful) labor added up to something worthwhile.

    1. Busy Middle Manager*

      Mid-life crises are real but there is also a definite cultural thing happening now where we’re hit a wall between upper management and workers. I am a manager but lean towards identifying with the front line workers in this case. Too many people have been underpaid and undervalued for too long and it’s understandable they’re stopping to care. We’re so used to it that we don’t even consider certain salaries as underpaid. Entry level jobs are disappearing so people are jumping through hoops for years to cobble together experience to get a job that is described as entry level, pays entry level, but is actually mid-level. Education inflation is causing people to go into ridiculous debt to get average paying jobs. Mid-level people are seeing less respect for their skill set. For example, being able to code used to be seen as a fantastic skill set, but there is suddenly a glut of unemployed coders, many of whom almost need to dumb themselves down to get through the application process. So you have awesome skills from years of experience, and no one cares. Also the general environment of corporate America, where you do 19 things correct and forget one, and that one thing is what your boss wants to discuss and complain about. People are over it since it’s not worth the pay for many of them, anymore.

      1. atypical*

        I hear you and know that all of what you say is true. I was just suggesting that, before deciding that a lifetime of job dissatisfaction is unavoidable, OP think deeply about whether making a shift into other kinds of work might end up feeling more meaningful.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I would also add to it the fact that, as the late, great Dave Graeber said in his book Bullsh#t Jobs, most of our jobs could disappear overnight and no one would notice. And most the ones that people *would* notice if they disappeared are the low-paid, physically and mentally exhausting, long-hours, grueling front-line jobs. You just can’t win in corporate America.

  49. Sara without an H*

    Ditto to Alison’s advice and to pretty much everything upstream. This whole business of being “passionate” about your work is…very, very recent. Through most of human history, people worked because they needed to eat and feed their families. They weren’t expected to “love” it. Anybody who managed to become wealthy promptly stopped working and hired servants to do whatever needed to be done.

    For LW — if the job you describe sounds like a good fit, with pleasant co-workers, then go for it and release yourself from the obligation to feel “excited” about it. Tell yourself you’ll give it 3-5 years, then reassess. You might also find it clarifying to read a book by Sarah Jaffe, Work Won’t Love You Back: How Devotion to Our Jobs Keeps Us Exploited, Exhausted, and Alone.

  50. New Mom*

    I feel you OP. I have worked in a passion field for a decade and I’m so burned out but I don’t know what else to do. Even looking at the adjacent fields… these employers expect so much from their employees, so much time, energy, emotional labor and I just don’t want to have to care so much about a place that could just fire me at any moment and have zero guilt about it.

  51. Exhausted Electricity*

    you echoed my sentiments exactly.

    I keep going to my job because in exchange for basically all my energy I can live now and retire when I’m older. I just have to stomach the now unfulfilling labor.
    But I like to eat. I like not having to deal with a leasing office. I like that I get paid enough to keep my home the temperature I want it to be.
    If I could afford my food and housing and health care without this job, I’d be gone.

  52. nofiredrills*

    Yep. I put a wild amount of pressure on myself to do something “worthwhile” and “fulfilling” in my early 20s. Now, I am so so glad that I can completely disconnect when not at work instead of feeling guilty. The sort of fulfillment I gain from work now is basically just the satisfaction of doing something well.

  53. Generic Name*

    Nthing Alison’s comment about how the “do what you love” crap is targeted at a particular class/demographic. I come from an “upper” class upbringing (we weren’t independently wealthy, but we belonged to a country club, I was a debutante, mom is on various nonprofit boards, etc.), and I work in a job that often elicits a “wow!” from people. While I do generally enjoy my work, I don’t necessarily want to discuss my job in all social situations, but it seems like that’s the first thing people ask you after they learn your name. My husband is from a blue-collar/working class background, and one thing I find refreshing about his friends and family is no one gives a shit what your job is. It’s not like people are ashamed or don’t tell anyone where they work, but it’s not a standard “getting to know you” question. It’s also a given that your job is how you pay for food/rent, and there isn’t an expectation that work (which is often not great conditions for low pay) brings you fulfilment or whatever.

    1. TCPA*

      That’s awesome that you’ve found a group of people who don’t care for work talk! When I meet someone new and am curious about them, I ask “How do you spend your time?” instead of “What do you do for work?” Not everyone works! Not everyone wants to talk about work! It’s open-ended enough that people can share their career if they want, or they can tell me about their passion for photography or surfing or family life or documentaries or Beanie Baby collecting, whatever it may be.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Oh I like that! I don’t really care for “So what do you do?” as an ice-breaker. Not all of us want to talk about work on our time off. And sometimes it comes across as probing to find out what SE class the other person is in. I tend to give a non-answer and switch the subject, but I would talk your ear off if you ask me how I spend my time!

  54. Chirpy*

    This is part of the problem with my job search. I have hit the point where almost every job I’ve had has been terrible, and the idea of working for a minimum of 20-30 years more (especially because my savings are so bad thanks to the bad pay, that unless my next job pays really well, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to retire, or ever afford a small house) is just exhausting. Like, I know what kind of working conditions/ minimum pay I want, but the things I’m apparently qualified for don’t have those, or just sound too tedious.

  55. Salted Caramel*

    I’ve been wary of people who are ‘passionate’ about anything. It’s a word that Does Not describe my personality, and for a long time I wondered what was wrong with me and kept looking for The Thing. I feel very thankful that I’ve found a job that is extremely flexible and has generous PTO and every now and again I get pangs about wanting/needing to advance, but then I see how stressed and overworked the bosses are, and I thank my little lucky stars.
    This hasn’t always been the case. A victim of COVID burnout, I was very careful in selecting my role after I quit my previous one and it helped to start fresh with a different idea of what I needed my work/life boundaries to look like.
    Thanks for the gut and reality check.

  56. Bookworm*

    I really relate to this, OP. Thank you for writing. I’m in a similar boat: I thought I had found work that I could make my career, at least for awhile. COVID hit, which finally pushed lots of issue to the surface. Other very similar/related jobs had other, similar issues and the last position I had ended badly.

    I’m also in the job hunt but ultimately I don’t care. These past few years really hit home about how disposable we are, how we’re just labor for corporations, etc. I need a job and am discouraged but I am…glad (?) that someone else feels similarly to me.

    Wishing you great luck, OP! May we find something better.

  57. Alex*

    One thing to note is that you recently went through the hiring process–where we all feel it is our job to not only show the employer that we could meet their needs, but that we are SO EXCITED to serve them, and OMG, TPS REPORTS ARE MY PASSION and I CREATE EXCEL SPREADSHEETS FOR FUNSIES! This is part of the modern interview process. I think that sometimes we try to convince ourselves that this is indeed true, because lies are easier to tell if you believe them. And maybe that is part of your cognitive dissonance now–we’ve culturally told ourselves that part of our qualifications for professional jobs include passion and excitement and enthusiasm, and if we don’t feel these things, something must be wrong.

    But it’s not. If you think about it, it would be WEIRD to be super excited about…whatever your job is, especially one where you are working for the profits of someone else. Humans aren’t really designed to thrive in front of spreadsheets or TPS reports or marketing copy or whatever. Humans are designed to thrive with love and community with other humans, to be creative, to be comfortable. It’s really fine if you would rather be doing things other than your job. It’s totally normal.

    1. I Have RBF*

      So here’s how I derive satisfaction from my job:

      If I have made someone’s life easier, that’s a win in my book.

      Even if it just by upgrading to the latest version of [software] that makes their job easier.

      I don’t have to save the world. I just need to make the world a little bit better for someone else.

  58. Thatoneoverthere*

    I feel this way alot especially after the pandemic. Alot of stems from the fact that inflation has been happening so much and wages have not matched it all. Wages have barely gone up since I graduate college in 2008. I don’t have a super specialized degree (think just plain business). I am 38 and have just recently making over $55k a year. Something I thought I would hit long ago. I just feel frustrated with the world and I am incredibly burnt out. I don’t know how to tackle that feeling, bc I can’t really take time off, I have kids, and I already go to therapy. So I just deal and mumble and grumble my way thru, since I want a house and semi nice stuff.

    1. Angry socialist*

      ZOMG inflation has eaten my LUNCH. Some years I get a raise as much as 3%. Meanwhile, groceries cost like 46% more than they did two years ago. The rent goes up every year. I have a good job with a good boss and I’m *so* underpaid.

  59. TCPA*

    If you are not stoked about the prospect of working for the next 20+ years, I’d recommend checking out the personal finance blog, Mr. Money Mustache.

    He explains the concept of early retirement, something I’d never even considered nor realized was an option! Once I learned about that, I changed some of my financial and personal habits and was able to be in a much better place. My husband is 41 and essentially retired. I’m in my 30s and have a job I love, so I plan to continue working, but I definitely don’t plan to work until the “standard” U.S. retirement age of 65. Mr. Money Mustache explains how financial independence and early retirement can be achieved even on a moderate salary (meaning you don’t have to be a high-paid executive to retire early). While I don’t necessarily agree with nor follow every piece of advice on MMM, that blog and its general concepts truly changed my life!

  60. NotARealManager*

    My current view is that I’m trading my labor for regular Disney vacations and a family. I used to work more fulling jobs, but they were also more difficult and paid terribly (and exploitative for the “you’re here because you love it!” reasons Alison outlined above). So becoming a corporate drone is not what I would’ve picked ten years ago, but it’s what I need for now.

  61. Goldenrod*

    “It’s striking to me, though, that you’re experiencing this in regard to a job search and not your day-to-day work.”

    It occurs to me that OP’s malaise may be connected to feeling the need to pretend to be passionate in job interviews, when you just feel meh.

    Also, the whole job hunting process is so exhausting!

  62. She of Many Hats*

    I define a dream job as one:
    1) I’m paid enough to enjoy life,
    2) I like those I work with,
    3) that gives me work that is engaging & I can succeed at, and
    4) is a company I can respect for their mission/management

    But I would much rather sleep late, read novels until 3am, wander the world at my whim, and knit silly hats for cats.

  63. Hermione Danger*

    I want to offer up that this may also be burnout. The pandemic added a LOT to our pile of “things I have to deal with,” and if your job is anything like mine, your current employer has now decided that we get to go “back to normal” and maybe even work a little harder than before because you should be able to cope with your work like you did before without any trauma or scarring. When really, you maybe don’t have the same mental/emotional/physical capacity you used to BECAUSE of the last three years of having to push through everything.

    You might also want to look at that and what you need to do to recover if it feels right to you. I’ve found “Fried: The Burnout Podcast” to be an excellent resource.

  64. Itsa Me, Mario*

    I could have written this letter. I have been doing a lot of soul searching about whether I’m job hunting because there is actively a reason for me to leave my current job, or whether I’m just doing it to, like… feel something about work? I go on interviews and talk a great game about the job opportunity in question, all of which are good jobs that would be a good career move for me. But underneath it all, I wonder if I will feel equally numb about work once I make my next move.

    1. Catalyst*

      I am at this point too. I have been thinking about job searching, but I think it’s more about feeling something for work not because there is anything wrong with the job I have. I have felt completely numb about work for years now and feel totally lost in what I want for career progression (I have over 20 years left). Sometimes I wonder if I should just accept the level that I’m at (it’s not a bad place to be) and be thankful that I have a well paying job at all when so many people that I know are struggling.

  65. Exhausted*

    I’m 46 and this is exactly me. I am determined to retire at 60 so my focus is on paying off the mortgage and then overpaying my government pension. I am not interested in career progression, and some days the thought of working for another 14 years and wishing my life away until I can stop makes me want to cry. I’m good at my job and I get paid well and have good benefits, but the frustration I have day to day that others have expressed so well, and the realisation that that is never going to change, is exhausting. I would stop working in a heartbeat if circumstances allowed. People tell me I would get bored but I absolutely would not as I can think of endless things I want to do that would fill my days. 14 years to go!

  66. Justin D*

    One thing I hate about my profession is that you are expected to be at least somewhat passionate about it. Although I do work for a bank, which is all about money and nothing else, so it balances out.

  67. Coin Purse*

    I will forever remember the day I retired. I’d given 6 month notice and yet there was no plan to replace me. The work kept coming in, even to the last hour. I finally had to remind my team “you do know I won’t be here Monday, right?”. Just after those last minutes, I felt better than I ever have in my life.

    I’ve had two distinct careers in very different fields. I worked hard at both. The absolute bliss of retiring has never left me. I fell that for most of my life I was expected to do more, give more, go the extra mile at all times. Now? My time was my own.

    Looking back, I felt that the dream job concept was just a myth. I’m proud of the work I have done but every day in retirement is my best day ever. So that feeling? It isn’t wrong.

    1. Sara without an H*

      Well said, Coin Purse. I put in 35+ years in a “passion” field that, while not flat out wrong for me, was never really a fit. I didn’t realize how out of sync I was with my profession until I retired.

  68. Blarg*

    I want to leave my job because we’re doing some internal stuff that feels gross (promoting bullies, talking a lot about DEI and doing nothing), but I can’t even get up the energy to apply for anything else because no other job sounds worth it either. I used to be all-in at work, and now I have hobbies and other interests and frankly am more interested in those. My dream job is “woman of leisure” but apparently no one wants to pay for that. And I just spent my six month emergency savings fund on dental surgery so now I can’t even rage quit.

    Which is all to say — I feel you, OP, and everyone else here. But props for managing to actually apply.

    1. Goldenrod*

      “My dream job is “woman of leisure.”

      I realized recently that my dream job would be “philanthropist.” Kind of like Mackenzie Scott (who is so cool), but without having had to be married to Jeff Bezos first.

      All I need is a few billion dollars…

    2. Relentlessly Socratic*

      OMG-(assuming you are in the US, but I think it’s true elsewhere re: dentistry)–we work so we have healthcare that DOES NOT COVER those expensive luxury stones in our mouths!

  69. Yellow Springs*

    I don’t know if this resonates with anyone or is helpful in reframing, but maybe?

    I don’t “love” working. But I sort of see it as a neutral responsibility I have, and try to take pride in doing it well.
    I try to do a good job, improving my skills that are lacking, taking on new challenges, and doing better than the day before. I also try to find the little pieces of my job that really do make me feel happy — for instance in my case, I get a lot of value out of feeling like I’m helping people, so that goes toward the commitment I have to my team, and I also get a degree of warm fuzzies from the customer service portion of my job.
    I’ve had the same job for 9 years and there have been lots of ups and downs, but this is how I make it work for me.

  70. the bat in the office popcorn machine*

    I like a low stress job that pays enough to fund my lifestyle without encroaching on my free time. I don’t really like the work — I can do it and it fits my criteria.

  71. Ari*

    Alison’s reply is something I needed to hear badly right now. I’ve been in the same state of mind for a few months, wondering why I don’t feel excited about work I enjoy doing.

  72. CSRoadWarrior*

    I agree with Alison. “Love what you do and you will never work a day in your life” is complete bullshit, if not for the overwhelming majority of the population. For me, work is work. It doesn’t matter what I do. I will never love it as much as I love my hobbies. I work to live. Without it, I cannot go on vacations, buy food, pay my bills, support my boyfriend and treat him, or go out to restaurants or bars. After all, money doesn’t grow on trees.

    But OP, you are not alone. Trust me.

  73. Dragonfly7*

    OMG, me too, LW! My manager asked me last week what my dream job would be. I don’t have an answer. I’m job hunting as well and having a hard time getting excited because I’m a bit lost on what to do with myself. I AM excited about the moving to a new place part, but I have to be able to work to keep it!

  74. Raida*

    Personally I’ll get *excited* about some stuff at work, enjoy throwing energy into it.
    And I’m not tired from that because it’s not all the time.
    And so I’m not feeling like I am missing out on stuff because I can’t put that effort into three things at once.

    If you find satisfaction from a job well done, and aren’t at a workplace where you get tasks re-scoped to death, then I feel like that’s the best place to be at, mentally

    1. gmg22*

      “aren’t at a workplace where you get tasks re-scoped to death”
      This is the main reason I hate my job, and I suspect a fair number of people here can say the same. When everyone above the ladder from you has to demonstrate their worth/influence, and this is how they do it, one becomes VERY wary of ever daring to get excited about any of it. You’re just going to be told “No no no, not like that but I can’t quite clearly explain why not, just no” yet again. (And then when the project is done, it’ll land with a resounding thud — or a generic “but what about Other Team Over There’s work, have you tried being more like THEM?”)

  75. Could have been me*

    I have been thinking for months how to ask this question.
    At this point I am trading time for money.
    I am about 5 years from retirement.
    AND am not the enthusiastic go-getter that I once was.
    AND I do like being able to pay the bills and eat what I want, pay cash for out-of -network therapy, and know that if the pets get sick I can cover them at the vet no matter what and that I can put a new roof on my house if needed.
    What I don’t know as a former “work-is-my-life” person-
    What is enough?
    If I was doing my own evaluations- I would put myself on a PIP and a stern talking to –
    My supervisor on the other hand always gives me “exceeds expectations”
    I wish I had a checklist of “what is enough?”

  76. KC*

    I see a lot of “me toos” in the comments, and I think a lot of people are experiencing this… and perhaps in a healthy way that is allowing people to realize work is not the same thing as living a fulfilling life and they are scaling back so that work has an appropriate priority in their lives.

    Just to offer a different slant on this: How are you feeling about other things that you used to enjoy? If you are still enjoying those things, then Alison is probably right. But if you’re not, you may be depressed!

    I *thought* I was in a similar post-pandemic camp of not liking my job anymore because it wasn’t fulfilling. Then I realized after I left work, I didn’t really care whether I stared at a wall or went out with friends, because both activities were equally (un)enjoyable to me. I was fortunate to be able to get the right cocktail of antidepressants and now I’m back to enjoying life, including my job (but I have set up much better boundaries as a result of the pandemic and the cultural shift regarding the importance of work/life balance). It’s worth considering, in any case!

  77. Abc123*

    I work in a field that’s considered a “calling” (think nurse or teacher or therapist). For the first decade in my profession I placed a lot of emphasis on the work being rewarding and having a purpose. But then I had some life things come up and I realized I needed to have parts of my life to be unrelated to my profession to maintain better boundaries and not be derailed if something in life changed that made it impossible to do my job (like a health crisis-which happened for a brief period). Find the things you love outside of work and allow them to be your joys-sometimes work can be very meaningful, but it may be the best thing ever to learn to let go of it being the thing that makes you you. And it’s okay that it isn’t-even if you work in a field that is a “calling” like mine.

  78. Deuceofgears*

    Listen, I have what many people would consider a dream job – I’m a full-time novelist, I make ~low six figures (USD) – and I still have entire MONTHS where writing is a slog and I drag myself out of bed and do my words and I’d rather just lie in bed with my cat or blast Katy Perry. But the money is good, the hours/conditions are flexible, it does have good moments, and it means I can afford fancy bubble tea and weird spendy hobbies like composing/producing orchestral music. Hang in there and good luck finding something more sustainable.

    1. Angry socialist*

      Also, I love your novels! And I think I heard you on a podcast talking about a spouse who carries the family’s health insurance, which helps.

  79. Herself-the-elf*

    This part of Alison’s reply resonated with me: “…if you’re supposed to be there for the passion/prestige/fulfillment, it’s a lot easier to guilt you out of demanding fair pay or reasonable hours or more parental leave.”

    I left my last job—great pay, good coworkers, well-run company—because they made a boring widget and I felt like my work, and therefore existence, was meaningless.

    I took a job at a company that makes software for nonprofits, where I feel like my work is contributing to some sort of good. But the company is chaotic, my coworkers and I are constantly stressed, I took a 30% pay cut, left my senior title behind, and lost a week of PTO. So I have more meaning in my work, but everything else about my work is now worse.

    I don’t know whether I was happier with meaningless work in a decent environment or meaningful work in a dumpster fire.

  80. Coyote River*

    I truly did love my time in the military. Yes there were hard days, but I’ve never worked a job since that gave me the same sense of purpose and esprit de corps. I always remember Al Matthews in Aliens: “every meal a banquet, every paycheck a fortune, every formation a parade”.

    I hope LW is able to find something that ignites the same passion in her.

    1. TeapotNinja*

      But then you wouldn’t be able to visit all those fancy places that require patrons to wear pants.

  81. so very tired*

    Got damn if this isn’t right on time.

    I lost most of my spring and summer to a severe depressive episode brought on by panicking about this very thing. My job is meaningless and the company is massively dysfunctional and I’ve done everything I can do to make things better. I speak up and they look at me like I have 3 heads. I interview for roles outside the company and I get bupkis. I felt ashamed and stupid for failing so badly at work even though none of this is my fault or responsibility and I beat myself up not having my dream job. I told myself I should be better and do better and try harder.

    But the reality is there is no winning in this system. I am not exaggerating when I say I almost died – I was suicidal for weeks and I looked into checking myself into an inpatient mental health facility because every day was such a struggle. This type of work stress can quickly devalue and dehumanize you and you won’t even see it coming.

    I am working with a therapist that specializes in work related stress and I backed away from the brink. I am able to go to work every day (for now) and not feel like the world is ending. I still hate everything about my work but I no longer feel the need to unalive myself over it.

    We really do need to give ourselves a break. Lord knows the companies won’t.

    1. LW*

      LW here, and I just want to say that I’m rooting for you (and all of us)—big time. This comment really touched me, and I’m glad to know things are getting at least a little bit better for you.

  82. Deidre Barlow*

    I felt this to the very depths of my soul, OP! I hate working, and if I was independently wealthy I would never work again. Alison is spot-on that we’ve been sold a lie- I was happier when I was young and working dead-end jobs with no ambition or expectation of anything beyond working for money. Now I’ve got a career where I’m expected to be excited and passionate about things no natural person would be excited or passionate about and it drains my will to live.

    Solidarity friend- you’re not alone.

  83. el l*

    I think all of the following are good reasons to work, if you can have positive responses to most of them. Note that all are subjective YMMV things, and for most you probably shouldn’t think too much before answering:

    1. Who do I work for? (Ultimately and/or directly)
    2. Who do I work with?
    3. Do I find it interesting?
    4. Am I good at it?
    5. Do I feel this is a good way of life?

    These are all better motivations than “find your purpose” or “get more money.”

    1. Apple Townes*

      I think these are really practical, important questions. I also wonder if a lot of the comments here about feeling burned out/unmotivated/dissatisfied with work are from people who are aware on some level that the answers to these questions aren’t what they’d like them to be. For me, I’m pretty satisfied with numbers 4 and 5, but only sometimes 3, and not so much 1 or 2.
      Maybe it’s my personal bias, but I feel like you can be really good at what you do, and content with your lifestyle, but if you feel like your effort either doesn’t align with your values, or your labor enriches people you resent, you’re going to feel like your job sucks. And I think in a capitalist economy where huge corporations and wealthy individuals have outsized power and influence, a lot of people feel stuck doing work that they aren’t proud of — and the idea of spending decades of your life in that place *is* deeply demoralizing.

  84. Cat servant*

    I went to work to keep the roof over our heads and put food on the table for our baby daughter when my husband disappeared. This was back in the ’70s and to keep the job, I put up with behavior that today would land my boss in jail. I am now retired, comfortable, and very very grateful for blessings received. I am also working again and having a wonderful time doing things I cannot do at home or on my own. Like dreaming up new ways to cross-reference the filing system and simultaneously streamlining the work flow and customizing it for unusual situations. I guess my point is that there are many reasons to work, ranging from survival necessity to amusement. My hope is that everyone eventually finds some degree of peace and contentment.

  85. DameB*

    I like my job but I’m not, you know, PASSIONATE about it. There are some bits I really enjoy but like.. 80 percent is stupid shit. I would much rather be doing something else at any given moment, but college is expensive and my kid is a senior in HS.

  86. Delphine*

    During the early days of the pandemic, I lost someone (not from COVID) quite traumatically. Afterward, one of the results of my grief was the feeling that work was pointless. It seems so ridiculous to be doing what I do–it doesn’t help anyone with anything real. It is not making a difference in people’s lives. Eventually, the feeling passed, but now and again it crops up again in existential moments.

    It’s not that I don’t enjoy my work. I love my job. I’m lucky enough to work for a good company with excellent coworkers. It’s that the work is literally meaningless. Over the summer I got into gardening and spending time outside digging holes to plant a flower felt more like true work, like valuable work, than an office job.

    It doesn’t make me want to quit. I don’t need to find fulfillment in work or need to feel like I’m making this big difference. But it just hits me now and again, how silly it is to be worrying about whether a project will be ready on time. Earthquakes, floods, wars, oppression, suffering–endless, endless injustice. Death, destruction, and so much loss. But let me just get this email out on time so that I can meet this deadline!

    Anyway, tl;dr: I think a lot of people are feeling this now because of grief and trauma, from the pandemic, from the barrage of information and misinformation and propaganda, from the feeling that things are out of our control and are not getting better.

  87. Echo*

    This hit me very early in my career, at age 21 when I realized my shiny new internship was…kind of…boring, most of the time. I went home feeling a bit deflated and talked to my parents, who are very much people who “followed their passion” and have had careers that aligned deeply with their off-the-clock interests, and to my surprise, instead of telling me I needed to find a passion, they said “If it wasn’t boring most of the time, they wouldn’t pay you for it.”

    I still think of that as my mantra when I get frustrated, and replace “boring” with “difficult”, “stressful”, “frustrating”, “political” or whatever other word I need to remember that this is a transaction at the end of the day, and it’s what enables me to do fun things in my off time.

  88. Luna (the other one)*

    I’m lucky enough to have landed in a job I actually am passionate about. It’s one of the ones where employees can easily be exploited, but again, I’m lucky that my organization pays us pretty well and treats us with respect.

    But in the past I’ve had plenty of jobs that didn’t excite me, and that didn’t really bother me. I usually worked with people I enjoyed spending time with, and that can make a huge difference. So, when job hunting, if the actual job doesn’t excite you, maybe try to find a culture you fit into well? Then at least you might spend 8 hours a day around people you like and have something in common with.

  89. JelloStapler*

    Been feeling this a lot lately, and a lot of it is expectations for work as Alison said and for me, just plain burnout.

    “since if you’re supposed to be there for the passion/prestige/fulfillment,” – huge in my industry.

  90. Emmy-*

    I felt this way. I am now a SAHP/working evenings and weekends at a job I take nothing home for and get paid well. It is only after four months working this new schedule that I realize I was incredibly burned out. My job required so very much of me and so did home. Even not being a parent, managing a household is a lot of work. I realize I was asked to do way too much at my job. I only now feel like I could reasonably return to an actual job, but now with much clearer boundaries of what can be achieved. Burnout is real and I don’t feel like it is easily remedied.

  91. Happy Pirate*

    This is me too, ever since the 18 month lockdown, enforced minimal employment and oodles of personal time to pursue my own creative work. Maybe it’s also my age (50s) but I’m feeling that life is about much more than just full-time work.
    In fact I’ve just handed in my resignation and am about to embark on a 7 week hike and then head back to university to pursue post-graduate research in a field I’m passionate about.
    Life is too short!

  92. UsernamePending*

    I feel the same about my work, but somehow, I am in a bubble where people are really passionate about work, live and breath work, and measure each other’s values through work (academia). Not sure how to move on to do something else as I feel like I would be losing my identity and value in the eyes of others

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