There’s No Shame in Working Just to Pay the Bills

What are you doing to fulfill your dreams?

You probably wonder this all the time. You may regret the time and energy you spend elsewhere, at work or fulfilling obligations, rather than personal goals. You only live once, after all. Seize the day. Life is short. [Insert chosen cliché here].

Don't work 8 hours for a company then go home and not work on your own goals. You're not tired, you're uninspired.

Sentiments like this one can inspire – or they can become another way to punish yourself

But what if all that YOLO stuff is just another way to punish yourself?

Stick with me here. It’s been a long time since my last confess— I mean, blog post. But this topic has been on my mind for a while. I guess I’m writing this for the unsung heroes who stick at their jobs, pay their bills and look after their families, even when they feel bored or unfulfilled.

I’ll say this – no-one should feel helpless – stuck in a pointless job forever. You are free to pursue something worthwhile. But…

Should you stay or should you go?

We tend to glamorize risk-takers and money-makers in our culture, but not everyone has the freedom (yet) to strut from the office and never look back, or start a new business without a safety net, or finally tell the boss what everyone really thinks of her. Sometimes it is good to leap into the unknown, but it takes a different kind of bravery to work hard even when your heart’s not in it.

“Leap and the net will appear,” I thought. So I leapt. And it didn’t.

– William Ayot, Re-enchanting the Forest: Meaningful Ritual in a Secular World, 2015.

What about the back-breakers and the home-makers – the people who spend their working lives in service to another person or a company? Aren’t they, in reality, spending that time in service to their kids? Or their spouses? Or their elderly parents?

I’m not saying we should let our dreams die, but I am saying we should let up on ourselves a bit.

I’d like to honour all of our parents, grandparents and assorted ancestors who dreamed of becoming dancers, poets, artists or entrepreneurs while they quietly Got On With It, working their whole lives at insurance firms, factories or their homes.

Progress, not perfection

Perhaps you are fated not to seize your destiny in a blaze of freedom and defiance, but to quietly make room for your dreams, to gently find time for them, and to persistently work on them until such time as they germinate, blossom and bear fruit. It may happen later in life; that is OK too.

Is there ever a “right time”?

I’m going to leave you with the fabulous JK Rowling who has a few words on failure. Sure, she’s talking here about pursuing her Big Idea, but Rowling was in her mid thirties when Harry Potter was published. The media likes to portray Rowling’s story as a rags to riches tale – first she was a broke single mum living on the breadline, then – poof! She was a millionaire, adored by her fans, living a completely different life. But that spin belies the thousands of hours she spent at her typewriter, the self-doubt, and the fear that can stifle any serious dreamer.

People find success and fulfillment at different stages of life. My friend started her business at 49, after being brutally ‘let-go‘ from a job in retail – one she liked before the manager began to bully her. At the time it felt devastating, but it was a blessing in disguise. Still, it took months to craft her life into something that was more in alignment with her core values. Her dad, who learned to swim at the age of 76, is a constant source of inspiration to my husband who can’t swim – yet. My art teacher back when I lived in Glastonbury – an amazingly accomplished man – didn’t even begin his training as an artist until he was in his thirties (trust me, there’s a lot to learn). Dame Helen Mirren got her big break in her forties and starred in her first Oscar-winning role at the age of 62. And did you know that Charles Darwin did not gain notoriety until he was 50?

We’re under pressure like never before to excel, to create, to be in service to something greater than ourselves: to matter. And we will, but how – and when – we get there is up to us.

JK Rowling on the benefits of failure