I’ve been flailing about lately in my efforts to land a job. And even I can eventually add 2 plus 2 and come up with 4 instead of the other numbers I was trying to convince myself were the answer to the equation. While it’s difficult for anyone to find a job in the U.S. given the current economy, it’s going to be spectacularly more difficult when you’re merely going through the motions robotically and then sabotaging yourself at every turn. My heart just isn’t in it. As a matter of fact, every time things pick up in the job search (for example, I had 2 job interviews scheduled next week; I’ve now cancelled the one for tomorrow morning), I noticed myself becoming inexplicably tired with a thin coating of melancholy clinging to every thought, word, and action. After a very mopey Sunday, it finally all clicked for me and there it was, clear as day: 2 + 2 = 4. The idea of returning to the same type of job as before = a very unhappy me.

Things are tough for me financially right now. I’ve been out of work since March. I’ve been burned out on my work for so much longer than that. I’m very good at what I do, but I just don’t want to do it any more. Or at least without some major changes to HOW and/or WHERE/WITH WHO I was doing it. Basically, I want to be able to come home from work and feel like I did something that mattered, even in some small way. And other than rare moments when I’ve felt like I impacted one or more people at work, often having little or nothing to do with my actual job, I can’t remember the last time I felt that way about my work. Is that unrealistic?

My Dad says it is. He thinks all the talk of “follow your passion”, “fulfillment through work”, etc. is just so much emotional fluff. It’s nice to have if you can get it, but “no one” likes their job, that’s why it’s called work; that’s why they pay you to do it. To him, it’s a simple formula – you get up, go to work, put in your 8 hours doing what’s expected of you (no more, no less), leave as soon as you possibly can and leave it behind you until the next day. Then pick up your paycheck and pay the bills. Repeat until retirement.

My vision of work – and what I’ve sometimes had in the past – is get up and go to a workplace where you are committed to the objectives and goals of your employer or at least your project or team. Work until what needs to be done is done; leave when the deck is clear and ready to start again tomorrow. Get your paycheck but also the respect of your co-workers and bosses; get promoted, climb the ladder; grow and learn. Invest it all back into the company in a continuous renewable cycle of growth and goodwill. But I haven’t had that in a really long time. Now I feel like the jaded veteran whose rosy career vision is now all tarnished and tattered around the edges.

So here I am, lost and confused. Do I suck it up and accept the practical wisdom my Dad is handing down to me? Go back to work I know I don’t want to do, but pays really well? Easing the financial strain would be a real blessing.

Or do I quit pretending and once and for all leap off the cliff? Figure out another way? Put more value on happiness and health than on material wealth? There are so many things I don’t want to lose – my house, my car…my internet and TV, for god’s sake! But I also don’t want to lose my mind. And isn’t the definition of insanity continuing to do the same thing over and over and expecting a different result?

It’s beginning to sound like I answered my own question. I think I’ve known this for quite a while now. I’m a champion avoider (maybe there’s some kind of job where I can put that skill to use…Avoidance Guru?). I even went back and read my post,  A Written Vision Board, to see what hints I had for myself about career in there. Funny thing – not one of the affirmations I wrote dealt with career. What I DID allude to is a desire for a life with passion and purpose, with activity that benefits others, and where I can be creative.

None of those things apply to the work I was doing before losing my job in March. Seems like a great place to start figuring out where to go from here, huh?