A woman stands at an airport terminal. Tears are in her eyes. Her face is distraught. She looks across the room and sees her husband. Well, her estranged husband. Their honeymoon didn’t go as planned. What should have been a romantic getaway turned into a soul-wrenching experience unlike any other. As their eyes lock, the man stands and walks over to his bride. “Are we ok?” he asks. “Yes, I’ll be happy. I promise. I’m happy.” He visibly sighs and gives her a hug. She hugs him back, her face still wracked with emotion.
Her appearance at the airport is more than just the conclusion to a lover’s quarrel. It is her caving. It is her actively giving up her wants in lieu of a more comfortable life.
She didn’t have money growing up. She’s worked for as long as she can remember. And life has always been a struggle. She’s always wanted a career, to make a name for herself. But things haven’t gotten to that point yet. Her husband, on the other hand, is wealthy. As in, renting out the biggest suite at the resort wealthy. Money is something he was born into. And money is what he offers if she stays.
She can leave and be her own person. She may struggle, but she will have her self-respect. And, she will give herself a fighting chance at a meaningful life. But if she stays, money is no longer a worry. She can stop working and live out her days as her husband’s plus-one. As she stands before him at the airport, her decision is made. She is sacrificing her integrity in exchange for comfort. And while the short-term ramifications may be manageable, the long-term spells nothing but trouble.
Refuse to stay down
I didn’t come up with that story. If you are up to date with the latest shows on HBO, the tale will likely feel familiar to you. I won’t name it here because that was a pretty big spoiler I just dropped. Regardless, there is a reason I brought it up. The work you do can be meaningful. But first, you will encounter a near-endless scourge of mediocrity. If you can survive it, fulfillment lives on the other side.
In college, I started a business. I was going to be the next app-wunderkind. But it didn’t pan out. After a year or two, the company folded. I joined a different startup. It was a step-down fulfillment-wise but was still pretty great. Sadly, that company closed less than a year later. Living at home, applying to job postings every single day, the sky was turning dark. As I didn’t hear back from one company after another, clouds started to form. After 90 days of endless searching, I finally landed a job. Making cold calls.
I knew it wasn’t a good fit. I knew it wouldn’t work for me. But I needed cash. I was a post-grad living with my parents and wanted out. So, I got to it.
This is the point of the story where I say I turned things around. Where I came to love the job that I so initially hated. That it became the most fulfilling work of my life. Well, that didn’t happen. Instead, pan to me sitting on a bench outside the corporate building. Palms shoved into my eye sockets, jaw clenched, basically having a nervous breakdown.
Meaningful work is out there
I knew I was in the wrong place. Just like our protagonist did at the top of this article. And like her, I was faced with a choice. Refuse to accept mediocrity and keep trying. Or stick with the job I hate, pretend that I’m happy, and let my soul slowly eat itself alive. The protagonist went with the latter. I did not. Now, this is the part of the story where I say I made my choice and everything immediately started to turn around for the better. Well, it didn’t.
I started working for a new company, which also left me unfulfilled. On the side, I created several more businesses. All of which collapsed. After years of struggle, I finally built something that worked. My blog, QuickBooost, which I’m writing to you from now. QuickBooost grew and grew. Last year I took it full-time. It isn’t always easy. In fact, it’s rarely ever easy. But it is fulfilling. The work I do each day is meaningful. It fills me up.
Meaningful work exists.
The majority of people say it doesn’t though. Why? Because those years of clawing your way out are brutal. Especially if you aren’t sure how deep the pit is. So like a bat born into an enclosed cave, you never learn of what else is out there. You never realize just how near something meaningful is. It’s right on the other side of the wall. If you look closely, you may just see some of the morning light pushing through a crack.
Keep fighting for it
This debate – should your work make you fulfilled or not? – has been argued over ad nauseam. One side says work isn’t supposed to make you happy. Or be meaningful. Or rewarding. It is simply your contribution to society. A means of putting food on the table. On the other side are the people who have transcended that idea. They are the ones who have worked terrible jobs before but now do work that is truly fulfilling. They know first-hand how purposeful work can be. Not just something to suffer through but something to enjoy.
There isn’t a right answer. It all depends on how you view life. Personally, work makes up too much of my time for me to waste it on something that isn’t fulfilling.
In your life, it’s your call to make. As someone that falls in the latter camp, I’ve worked jobs that I loathed. Where I would end my day distraught, tear-filled, desperately unhappy. It’s not that the company was bad or I had thin skin. Rather, I felt that my life was so misaligned with where I wanted to be that it was like I was wasting away. Yet I knew something else existed. It had to. So I refused to give up. I saw mediocrity all around me. I saw acceptance all around me. But I didn’t oblige.
Today I do work that is fulfilling. I derive meaning from it. It may not always be that way, but today it is. That said, if things change in the future, I won’t panic. Because I’ll know that fulfillment is possible. And I won’t quit until I attain it once more. Now that you know it exists, will you accept anything less than fulfillment? I hope not. Keep going. It’s out there, waiting for you.