How to Find Meaningful Work

I was in my second job out of college and I was very unhappy. The person who sat next to me at work refused to acknowledge my existence. When I spoke, she would look straight through me as if I wasn’t even there. I felt chained to my desk, ambivalent about what I was doing, and lost. I was lonely.

One day, someone very senior to me had an epic meltdown and I ended up on the receiving end of her tantrum. After she finished screaming at me — about a printer of all things — I walked into my boss’ office and let him know I’d be taking the rest of the day off.

I wish I could say that I never went back — so dramatic! — but I dutifully returned the next day. To her credit, she was appropriately apologetic and treated me well for the remainder of my time there. I’m guessing it wasn’t really about me or the printer, but who knows. Printers are the worst.

A few weeks later, I gave my notice. Mostly I was worried that if I stayed, I’d end up like her. How long would it be before I was the one yelling at someone?

I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but that sure as hell wasn’t it.

So I’m 24 or 25, the economy is collapsing, and I have no idea where I’m going next.

What do you do when you don’t know what you want?

Here’s what I would go back and tell my younger self: don’t be so worried about the future. The big picture is going to change like you can’t even imagine. Focus on today. Do something. Don’t stress about what you don’t know. Go out there and try it all. Because it’s all just information.

You’ve probably heard the Maya Angelou quote,

“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”

In other words: what does the goal matter if you don’t like what you have to do to get there?

And, no disrespect to Maya, like is great…but what about love?

What does it look like for you to:

  1. Love yourself.
  2. Love what you do.
  3. Love how you do it.
  4. And — I’ll add this one — love who you do it with.

Answer those questions honestly and thoroughly. Find ways every single day to choose what brings more love into your life. And, most importantly, decide that you’re going to be okay no matter what and you will be.

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