Should you find a job that you love, or should you just find a job that pays and do what you love on the side? There is no ultimate answer to this question, only personal preferences and conventional wisdom.
The sense I get from US cultural history
is that the conventional wisdom shifts from generation to generation,
often tracing economic trends. The clearest example I can think of is
the idea of the "yuppies" in the 80s. Yuppies were (supposedly) sellouts, people who
chose corporate jobs over continuing the revolutions of culture in the
60s and 70s, or so the narrative goes. In other words, Yuppies chose
jobs that paid, rather than doing what they loved.
I am part of
the millenial generation. I feel it is impossible to ascribe
motivations to a generation, as if it were a single individual, but I am
a rather stereotypical millenial in many regards. I am overeducated. I
am pessimistic about career, and about the economy. I don't expect or
want much in the way of material goods. I do not drive. And I don't
love my job.
Unlike the stereotypical millenial, I don't have
student debt. In absence of debt, and in absence of any expensive
hobbies, I would be happy with a shorter work week. Really, we should
all have shorter work weeks; it might help reduce unemployment.
know lots of grad students. My lack of enthusiasm is common. But for
some reason the cultural expectation is that scientists do what they do
for the pure joy of discovery. Non-scientists view science through the
lens of popular science, where everything is cool and exciting. I can
fit my own research into this narrative too. Liquid helium, ultra-high
vacuum, class 4 lasers! But science isn't all exciting ideas and fascinating
discoveries. It is, first and foremost, a job. It's work. I wouldn't
do it if I didn't get paid for it.
On second thought, perhaps
that's not true. One of my volunteer projects is analyzing community
survey data. I'm basically doing social science purely because I want
to do so. But considering how little time I put into that project, I
think it only serves to show: liking what I do can only get me so far.
even when "doing what you love" seems unattainable, it sounds like a
nice ideal. It would be great if different kinds of labor could be
allocated to exactly the people who like them. Who could oppose such
potential for human happiness?
I don't oppose the ideal. Rather,
I oppose what people are expressing through the ideal: You are not
allowed to like things, unless by liking them you contribute materially
to society. You can't like art unless you're an artist or critic. You
can't like games unless you're a designer or competitor. You can't like
music unless you're a performer. As for whatever job you might
have, you must work really hard at it, because you love to do so.
Forget the 40-hour work week, why would you want to constrain yourself?
And while you may not have much remaining free time to enjoy the income
you earn, you can always spend the extra income on status goods. Giant
houses, and lots of things to put in the houses! That's what comfort
is, what luxury is.
To me, comfort doesn't mean having more status
and wealth than other people. It means having more time to do the
things I actually want to do.