Welcome to the Sidebar’s advice column, where Isaac, Taylor and Zac alike sit down for a chat with our very own Muffle. Her advice might be bad, but hey, at least someone’s listening. Today we’re talking about jobs.
I have a really good job. I have a good boss, and enjoy some of my coworkers. The work is well-suited to my skill set. The benefits are good, and they even pay for me to take some classes in my free time. The salary is right around average for this kind of job. I get good performance reviews. The hours are a little heavy, but not unmanageable. Everything is just fine.
And I totally hate it.
Part of it is that I chose a safe career rather than one that really excited me, because my parents were always scrounging for money and I didn’t want that life. Part of it is that I feel like I’ve hit a ceiling where I am; there’s no real upward advancement potential unless I pretty drastically shift job descriptions. And part of it is that I’m just… not happy.
But complaining about a job like this feels like the ultimate First World Problem. This is a great job! People I grew up with would kill for this position! I should be thankful every single day, right? How can I even think about blowing that all up?
What do I do, Muffle?
Isn’t that just the worst? Being in a situation where, objectively, everything is Good and Fine and you should, at the very least, be content. But you’re not, and everything is Crap and Blah and no one understands. Here’s the thing, though: what’s Good and Fine for one person might not be either for another.
Imagine a pair of shoes. Beautiful shoes! Sparkly, comfortable, gorgeous shoes! But they’re a size five, and you wear size twelve, and no matter what you do, they don’t fit. And if you manage to squeeze your foot inside, your toes and heels will be rubbed raw and bloody by those handsome shoes. You wouldn’t blame yourself for not being a size five, right? You’d just… get a pair of shoes that fit.
That’s what’s going on here, GeeBee, except you’re looking around and it feels like the rest of the whole world is a size five, and if you could just make your foot a little smaller, or wiggle your toes in the right way, or just suck it up and deal with the blisters, everything would be okay. But that’s just not true, and there’s nothing wrong with you (or your feet); you’re just you, and the shoe doesn’t fit.
I wish I could say that coming to that realization is the hard part, and that from here on out, it’s all passionate forays into what gives your life meaning and fills you with a sense of truth, and you’ll immediately recognize that your right-size shoe consists of a being a paragliding DIY-enthusiast with a hundred million YouTube subscribers. Unfortunately, figuring out that what you have isn’t what you want is just the first step of many, and it may end up being the easiest.
You’ve spent your life so far making good, practical decisions that have provided you with comfort and security. And you’re right — a lot of people would give their right arm to have those things. But what you’ve paid for those choices (those little, beautiful, ill-fitting shoes) is your connection to your real self, and what you truly want with the secret, true, base heart of yourself; the part of you that’s not so concerned with comfort. Your job now is to figure out how to find that connection again.
As someone who’s working on that herself, I regret to tell you that it’s not a pretty, seamless, insta-worthy process. It involves a lot of uncertainty and staring into the center of your own discomfort and rolling around in the big, dirty pile of feelings you’ve hidden behind the idol of Practicality. It’s weird! You’ll probably have no idea what you want, for a long time! And you’ll be second guessing yourself even when you’re fairly sure you’ve found something you really want, forever and ever. The really hard part is coming to terms with the fact that that’s just fine.
I can’t give you advice on what to do next, Getting By, because my shoes wouldn’t fit your feet. I can’t decide for you whether the changes you need to make are little tweaks or seismic shifts. But I hope it helps to know that someone else is out there, too, just looking for the right pair of shoes.
Snark and tipples,
Got a question for Muffle? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.