I was recently introduced to my new favorite writer on the internet: Anne Helen Petersen when she was interviewed on Pantsuit Politics about her viral article How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation.
I really appreciated Petersen’s perspective because the conventional “wisdom” that “millennials are lazy and entitled” ruffles my feathers (to put it mildly). I say that because as Millennial, most of my closest friends are Millennials and I feel like we’ve had a tough go of it (for all the reason’s Petersen discusses in her amazing article).
She shared this article The Modern Trap of Turning Hobbies into Hustles by Molly Conway on her facebook page and in her newsletter, and it’s SOOOOOOOOOOOO good. I think Conway really gets to what I think is the existential crisis of the Millennial generation: we feel that everything we do must be productive, profitable, or useful in some way. And that can really sap the joy out of things. Because if I enjoy cooking, that doesn’t mean I should open a restaraunt. Owning a restaraunt has a whole host of other things that go along with it and might take all the fun out of cooking for me. It doesn’t have to be like that.
I’m going to share Conway’s words (because they sing to my soul):
That’s not to say there isn’t joy to be found in turning something you love into your life’s work — it’s just to say that it’s okay to love a hobby the same way you’d love a pet; for its ability to enrich your life without any expectation that it will help you pay the rent. What would it look like if monetizing a hobby was downgraded from the ultimate path to one path? What if we allowed ourselves to devote our time and attention to something just because it makes us happy? Or, better yet, because it enables us to truly recharge instead of carving our time into smaller and smaller pieces for someone else’s benefit?
I appreciate her words and perspective because this year I’ve been adding things to my life that aren’t “productive.” I started singing in my church choir (also I started going to church…right when my denomination made the super controversial/wrong decision to not become more inclusive, but we’ll save that for another day); I’ve started reading a cookbook for fun (rather than searching compulsively for the secrets to having a healthy body while not spending all my time and money making food); and I’ve come back to my blog. Why? Because I enjoy these things. I am a better human when cooking, writing and music are a part of my life.
I do feel lucky that I love the work I do for money and believe in the mission or our organization. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t work. And I still need a break from that work from time to time. For a long time, I’ve felt like “needing a break” or that not getting all my creative and mental needs met through my small business was a sign of personal failing, that I wasn’t “bought in” to my business, or that I needed to find another path. I realize now that it was a sign that my life was out of balance, that to be a whole person, I needed more in my life than my job and my family (even if my job and my family are wonderful, important and joyful parts of my life).
Also, it’s not cheating to give time and energy to things that aren’t my family (even if those things don’t make a monetary contribution or *gasp* cost money). In fact, it makes my family better because it makes me better.
So, those are my life lessons for the month. I hope you go do something “useless” that makes you feel more like a person today.