It turns out that there are very few of us out there who actually love what we do – the majority of people can take or leave their careers, merely suffering through the eight hours a day they spend at work. A few even profess to detest their job (no judgement, lawyers top the list!). So I consider myself amongst the truly fortunate, because being a writer is what I’ve always wanted to do…
At this point, I actually rang my mother to ask her for verification. Had I always wanted to be a writer? “No question about it!” she replied with great firmness. “You wrote your first book when you were four. It was all about elephants…”
Which made me wonder two things: a) just what is it that makes someone love their job and b) elephants?!
Well, while the jury’s still out on the pachyderms, I’ve come to the conclusion that writing suits my personality to a T. It’s the perfect mix of the creative and the logical. I’m freelance, so I go to work (read: spare room) in my onesie and I’m technically my own boss; I have a passion for the English language (zeugmas, hyperbole, alliteration… sigh); and I love, I really love, to inspire and motivate others.
Most importantly, writing allows me to learn. Every day brings fantastic challenges and exciting experiences: playing blues guitar with a music legend, talking colour in symphony with the BBC’s Head Composer, teetering through the trees on a high ropes course. I’ve tried wakeboarding and windsurfing and wine tasting; beekeeping, speed dating and bridge. I’ve learnt where to find a Recluse spider (behind the piano), how to identify a war grave (convex headstone), and why one should never nap under a manchineel tree (death would be the least of your worries!).
I’ve met hundreds of amazing people doing incredible things. In short, I’m living my dream. And when I set out to discover who else was living theirs, I discovered a number of intriguing parallels…
A recent Guardian survey suggests that there are two things which create true job satisfaction: giving back (engineers, teachers, and nurses top the list) and a good boss. Factors which were borne out both by myself and my research…
“I love my job because in it I can express the highest good and the deepest roots of my being,” says Miranda Tringis, whom I first interviewed nearly four years ago. The CyHerbia gardens she created from scratch have since become one of my favourite places on the island, not least because of their owner. An inspiration to others, Miranda is one of the most balanced people I’ve ever known, and incredibly happy in a job which allows her “to help others find healing in the gifts of nature, give my imagination free reign, play to my heart’s delight in a world of my own creation, inspire people to join in and do the same and, amazingly, make a living out of it!”
Her delight in helping others is shared by Leila Saad, an octogenarian theatre director whose joyful passion for life only increases with her years. “I love that I’m sharing my journey and enabling others to go on theirs. It’s about knowing you made a difference in someone’s life!”
As predicted, teachers featured hugely. And again, it all seems to be about being able to make a real, concrete difference to the lives of others: “When I see a student who has struggled with a concept for ages and then has a lightbulb moment; when they tell me they used to hate maths but I make it fun and interesting; when they’re not in my class anymore but they still drop by to say hi… These are the reasons I love my job,” says teacher Shereen Hughes. And Doros Demetriou – a man of few words and much kindness – agrees. A film historian and theorist as well as a teacher, Doros professes to love a job which allows him to “help people discover beauty every day.”
But while inspiring and motivating are huge satisfaction factors when it comes to employment, Autonomy Also Rules Okay. Jimmy Mavroudis calls himself “a Blog/YouTube editor, ebayer, airbnb’er and freelancer in graphic design and print work.” And while I secretly believe he’s actually running the world or heading MI6, he’s very upfront about the enjoyment of being his own boss: “I love my job because I can do it in my slippers and underpants!”
Self-employed engineer David Townend concurs: “For me, it’s the satisfaction of building things, making things, leaving your mark on the planet. And that’s really about one thing: freedom. Freedom to choose what I do, freedom to choose when I do it, freedom to think, freedom to create…” The same idea idea figured large in many responses. Khiloni Graf, founder of 40K Today – a venture which inspires people all over the world to take positive actions for a sustainable future – loves her vocation because “it empowers me to be free in the truest sense of the word. Free to make my own decisions and free to make my life the best it can be.”
Funnily enough, it transpires that a real love of your job has nothing to do with salary. Not one of those who responded cited money. Quite a few even suggested they would happily go wage-free if only they didn’t need to eat. And from personal experience, I absolutely agree. I love what I do, and I would happily do it for free. Because, as a writer, I spend every day learning new things, meeting amazing people, and sharing incredible stories… Sometimes, apparently, about elephants.
To find out which job would make you happiest, try the Guardian survey at www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/nov/11/-sp-questionnaire-what-job-would-make-you-happiest It seems to work. I got ‘Writer’!