A Healthy Dose of Realism: When the Dream Job Turns Out to Be a Bore

I’ve always been a closet optimist.

Despite all of my fears, self-doubt, and displays of Eeyore-ish negativity, within me there’s a place of bright dreams and inextinguishable hopes—where the future is full, and I am a kinder and more accomplished person than I am now. Nothing is too difficult for me there.

Throughout most of college, I believed deep in my gut that I was destined to be an editor. I dreamed of stacks of crisp manuscripts and countless characters yet to be discovered. I had visions of reading late into the night, leaving coffee rings in the smudged margins, wildly scribbling inspirational notes to the author in stark red ink. And of course, finding that gem of a novel buried in the slush pile, just waiting to be polished and then distributed to the masses. My hopes were high. I would make a living off of literature, nestled in a nook of beautiful prose and believable characters.

However, shortly after college, I finally got my first taste of editing prospective authors’ haphazard work. The plots didn’t interest me; the writing was jumbled and difficult to work through. I was overwhelmed by the amount of errors and discouraged by the sluggishness of the editing process. Instead of being inspired and invigorated, I would fall asleep at my laptop in the middle of reading a sentence.

But worst of all—it was really lonely. It took days, weeks, and months with just me and my computer to realize that I desperately needed a job where I interacted with other people; the characters on the page wouldn’t suffice.

Perhaps I could have spent years slaving away, in the hopes of landing an editing job at a bigger publishing house with more experienced authors. But it dawned on me that I no longer wanted to.

So . . . what now? How could my gut have led me so astray? How could something I’d planned for and dreamed of so fervently turn out to be such a frustration and a bore?

There were a few invaluable lessons that I learned in the confusion and disappointment during my year after college. I don’t want to discourage you or make you think that your expectations will never be met. I just wish the closet optimist within me had known that plans don’t always work out like we’d think and some things take time.

Studying is different from doing.

College is a bubble. A safe, intellectual bubble. I remember my dad telling me this sometime before I flew the coop, but I don’t think I quite understood it at the time.

While I was in college, I had the steady assurance of good grades to validate me and compliments from professors to boost my confidence. I did well in my English classes, which further confirmed my aspirations of being an editor. I enjoyed helping classmates and friends with their essays, tweaking sentences and rearranging paragraphs. It seemed like a perfect fit.

But college can sometimes give students an idealistic or skewed view of a particular career. Reading about and discussing a subject in class is usually quite different from encountering it in the workplace. In a traditional classroom setting, you don’t have to deal with customers, pressure from managers, stressful interactions with coworkers, or the tedium of the day to day.

This isn’t to say that college isn’t a good indicator of what might interest you as a future career. Just keep in mind that studying is different from doing. This is a transition that I wish I had been more prepared for.

Sometimes, you won’t know until you try.

There’s only so much you can learn about a career from the sidelines. You might have to jump into the game and fumble around a little before you can decide whether or not a career is right for you. While this can be a little scary, the experience—regardless of whether you want to pursue that line of work—will inevitably edify, inform, and strengthen you.

I remember feeling a little ashamed when I told my friends and family that editing was no longer going to be my primary pursuit. To have been so passionate and enthusiastic about something, and then to only try it for a year and give it up seemed . . . fickle. I didn’t relish the thought of people thinking that I was flighty or undedicated. But the alternative—being stuck with work that stifled me—would have been unbearable.

There’s a difference between quitting something just because it’s hard and quitting something because it’s not fulfilling or using the gifts God has given you. Don’t allow yourself to believe that you’re a failure just because you decide try something new.

Work is work.

Even the most fulfilling and exciting job will have downsides and irritations—and like anything worth doing, it will take determination and effort. No task has been a breeze since the garden of Eden. We live in a fallen world with difficult situations and annoying coworkers. This is a fact that must be accepted. But the good news is, with God at our side, we can overcome these obstacles and still find joy in our work. And with the right job, the rewards can far outweigh the frustrations.

God has something for you.

Despite the difficulty of finding a niche in the world, don’t lose heart. Cast all your anxiety on Him because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:7). Remain open to God’s calling and ask for patience as He works in your life. And even if your current situation isn’t up to your expectations, there is always ample opportunity to glorify God in all circumstances.

It is all too common for people to think that they know what’s best for their lives. Even though I thought I was cut out to be an editor, God knew all along what sort of job I needed that would best use the gifts He gave me. I now work with a youth group at a church in Houston and it has been such a blessing to have found a job I truly love and am passionate about. God has been slowly revealing His calling for me.

His timing and plan may be completely different from ours, but we can rest and trust in the fact that He is infinitely wise and loves us more than we could ever imagine.

Author: Hillary McMullen

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