Are you shoulding all over yourself?

November 8th, 2006

not-so-golden handcuffsBesides Dems take the house, I was tickled to come across this gem today:

It’s really silly to just be a slave to work that you can do instead of want to do.

Found it in my interview notes for an article I’m writing on self-employment. The interviewee who said this is a former math professor with degrees up the wazoo. Not long after she began teaching, she found herself dreading Mondays and living for the weekends. So to make life more interesting she started her own petcare business on the side, as an evening and weekend hobby. Still, she didn’t think she could ever give up the day job she had trained so long and hard for, despite the fact that it was bleeding her soul dry. This is what I should be doing, she’d tell herself about the unfulfilling math career. And because women are so underrepresented professionally in mathematics and the sciences, she felt it was her responsibility to tough out a gig she’d grown to resent, if for no other reason than to serve as a role model for young women contemplating what career path to follow.

Somewhere along the way the weekend hobby took on a life of its own, eating up every waking second this woman wasn’t at her day job, all the while remaining a constant source of joy. It was time to choose between shoulding and wanting, and this time to choice was clear: Kick the day job to the curb, and pour her heart into her burgeoning petcare business. And so she did. And happy she remains, with a thriving new enterprise of her own.

Career coach extraordinaire Curt Rosengren first introduced me to the debilitating concept of shoulding all over oneself, though I doubt he put as ineloquently as I just did. As a roadmap of sorts for The Anti 9-to-5 Guide, I wrote an article earlier this year on ten myths of career change we women subject ourselves to. Unfortunately, when it comes to career change, shoulding is just one of the many roadblocks we set up for ourselves. You can read about nine other ways we’re our own worst enemies here. (Free subscription may be required.)

The shoulding ourselves doesn’t begin and end with career decisions though. There’s also the crippling shoulding we creative types commit when we sit down — or avoid sitting down — to work on our arty projects. While devouring all sorts of online interviews with writer Aimee Bender this week, I came across this great conversation she and Lovely Bones author Alice Sebold had with each other, on shoulding all over one’s creativity, among other things. If you’ve ever thought to yourself, I should know the work of all the literary greats before I pick up a pen myself, or I should write literary fiction as opposed to sci-fi/fantasy because everyone knows lit fiction is [insert snooty assertion here], or I should plot out every twist and turn of my novel before I actually begin writing the dang thing, read this interview.

Entry Filed under: Book,Creative process,Popular articles,She's the boss

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. ddv  |  November 8th, 2006 at 10:19 am

    Alas, sometimes you find yourself in a position where you’ve become a slave to what you can do, that you are no longer in a position to do what you want to do without major life changes.

    I find myself as the primary breadwinner for my family. I like my job just fine–it is challenging, interesting and always changing. I enjoy most of my co-workers and have continued success moving up the corporate ladder (insert witty banter about “success” and moving up the corporate ladder here).

    But that has also put my family in a position to enjoy a lifestyle that would not currently be possible if I fled the office life to follow my passion (please let me know if you know of a way I can make a good living watching movies and cheering for the Dallas Cowboys!).

    So in a sense I am trapped, but I look at the positive that at least I’m trapped in a good corporate job that I like and have a good life with my family to show for it. A sacrifice I’m currently willing to make for my family… give it 10 years and we will see how I feel!


  • 2. Michelle Goodman  |  November 8th, 2006 at 4:47 pm

    you like your job, you like the life that it affords you, no need to change. i was talking about people who are hating life where they are and saying to themselves and everyone in a 100-mile radius, if only i had the nerve/ambition to explore whether i could do something different. (that said, i realize not everyone will have the means to do so right away if at all.) and yes, career change often can involve a lifestyle change. but when people are determined to make a big change, they’re willing to make the tradeoffs. hey, i have nada against corporate america if you’re reasonably happy where you are. if it ain’t broke, why fix?

  • 3. The Anti 9-to-5 Guide &ra&hellip  |  January 20th, 2007 at 10:08 pm

    [...] While we’re on the subject of career change and the possible financial or lifestyle trade-offs that can come with it, I thought I’d share this recent article from on when relocating for a new gig is and isn’t worth it. [...]

  • 4. Becky  |  February 16th, 2007 at 11:26 am

    I read this post today, and I followed the link to the conversation between AB and AS (very interesting and theraputic read). As you know, they talk about the beauty in the broken so, I thought it was an interesting coincidence that I found this quote just a few moments ago on www/ under Taurus week of 2/15/2007:
    That which is not slightly distorted lacks sensible appeal,” wrote poet Charles Baudelaire, “from which it follows that irregularity—that is to say, the unexpected, surprise and astonishment—is an essential part and characteristic of beauty.”
    Just a bit of serendipity I wanted to share!

  • 5. Michelle Goodman  |  February 18th, 2007 at 5:54 pm

    nice. thanks, becky.

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Hi, my name's Michelle Goodman and I've been freelancing since 1992. I'm author of My So-Called Freelance Life and The Anti 9-to-5 Guide. Read my full bio here.

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