My dream job is Hot Visual Artist and Medical Researcher who Eliminates Poverty by Singing.
I think I could probably end the post there. I think all the poignancy of my relationship with jobs and career is captured. The mismatch of actual talents and interests. The unattainable standard of worthiness.
I have not done so badly. I have had jobs that paid well. I have used them to pay rent and save for a deposit on a property. I have made wonderful friends. I have even had jobs that would be other people’s dream job. But I never felt the slightest bit of lasting satisfaction and ended up fairly desperate to leave most of them.
After boiling it all down, after angsting for years, after becoming more financially secure, after enjoying and succeeding in Not Working (a meaner task than you’d imagine), I’ve come to the conclusion that there is still something realistic that I want from the working world.
By the end of my life I want to be able to say that I used my abilities (fairly) optimally to make the world a better place, while still enjoying my life and being a very hands-on parent. At least I have a mission statement these days. I can’t be a fundraiser for a charity; I can’t be a features editor for NRMA Open Road. I’m skilled for the one and feel the other is worth my time (you can guess the order). Most of my jobs in the past have been taken out of a combination of urgency to be independent and have an income, excitement that I am able to get the jobs and some meager portion of ego gratification/self-image confirmation. With those motivations less pressing, I should be able to come closer to satisfaction in future.
For now I’m enormously satisfied with motherhood and with my volunteer work. My writing job is more like those other jobs I’ve mentioned – I took it to earn some money (in fact for a charitable project, a little bit satisfying there, after all), and I continue doing it because it seems to make people happy when they ask me what I do. My volunteer work interests about three people I know. It’s a shocking and hideous thing about people that they only value paid work. The unspoken assumption being that if you’re doing unpaid work, it’s because you’re too incompetent to be paid.
Getting back to the parenting bit. Of all the things people said to me right after I had my first, newborn baby, one of them springs to mind. Most people asked if the baby slept, was I tired, how much household help did I have, or expressed cliches about how “they don’t come with a manual”. But not Tabitha Carvan. She said, “and… do you find you’re just a naturally excellent mother?” I’m not sure how she knew just the perfect, ridiculous, tongue in cheek question to ask. But without hesitation I answered, “Yes! I do!” Because it’s a fact that astonishes me in its naturalness and its insusceptibility to my dogged deprecation. So there’s that.