Waiting in line for a much-needed coffee, I casually struck up a conversation with one of the lovely baristas working at the cafe. Somehow our chat prompted me to mention I work from home, which led her to ask what I do for a living. As I explained I work as a travel and freelance writer, the woman standing next to me piped up, “Well, that’s easy. Anyone could do that.”
In the seconds after she spoke, a number of things raced through my mind… most of them were very mean. I took one of the most painfully deep breaths I could, mustered up a polite smile and, turning away from her, grabbed my coffee and left. I was outraged! Later, relaying this story to close friends, I was met with the tried and true advice of, “Sweetie, she’s just jealous.”
I couldn’t seem to shake the annoyance though and putting it down to her being jealous seemed like a cop-out. This meant the reason it bothered me must have been deeper. I began to recall other times people had commented on my job and how it had made me feel. For the most part, people were incredibly supportive, appreciating the risks and time involved in getting to this point, but sometimes I would be met with the occasional snippy comment. Things like, “It’s not really a job,” and, “Yea, but, you don’t really work, do you.” As much as I didn’t want them to, these comments irked me.
Technically, the differences between working as a writer and working in my old job are minimal. When it comes down to it, the only difference is I am significantly happier working as a writer than I was at my old job. I still sit at a desk each day and work on a computer, writing. I still travel for work and I still get paid for what I do. Heck, even the ATO are on board and have labelled me a professional writer.
All this job-bashing got me thinking about the reason people are comfortable putting down what other people do for a living. If nobody had a problem with what I was doing for a living when I was miserable, why are they suddenly piping up now I’m happy? Are happy people just bearing the brunt of other people’s frustrations? And, if so, is that fair?
It definitely doesn’t feel fair to me when a stranger, or worse – a friend, declares my job ‘easy’ or ‘not a real job’. If it’s so easy why aren’t they working as a writer, instead of spreading negative energy around the coffee shop on a Tuesday morning? If it’s not a real job, why am I being paid to do it? Whatever the reason, their comments have done something great for me, they helped me realise the value of what I do. A value that runs deeper than money or validation from anyone else.
I had to fill out a personal information form recently, you know one of those forms where you answer questions about your mental and physical health? I got to the bit about stress levels and the form asked me to circle, on a scale of 1 to 10, how stressed I feel. For the first time in my life, I circled ‘1’ – very minimal stress. It wasn’t until Claire pointed it out later that I realised how cool it was and I couldn’t stop smiling about it. I’m a 1! Which is odd, because I have no job security, no guarantee this will work and no work structure. All I have is trust in what I do and a feeling of contentment that tells me it’s right.
That feeling and the feeling of satisfaction and joy I have every day is worth more to me than anything else any other job could provide, more than money or the look of being impressed that might flash over someone’s face if I told them I did something they deemed impressive. The coffee shop lady helped me realise this, by pushing her negative energy right in my face and forcing me to deal with it. That said, it doesn’t make it okay.
There seems to be an unspoken job hierarchy, there are certain jobs we all nod at and appreciate and accept quite easily. Then, there are jobs that seem weird, off-beat or flakey. Jobs that are too-good-to-be-true or somehow unfair. It doesn’t matter what the job description says or how much they get paid to do it if they’re working and being compensated for it… it’s a job. It works both ways too, you know, people are quick to envy supermodels or actors and comment on their jobs as being easy. If it’s so easy, why aren’t we all supermodels or movie stars?
There’s never going to be a time when every single person’s values and beliefs align with each other. Some people will always feel more secure in a high-powered, fast-paced, big income job while others will love the freedom of casual or freelance work. It doesn’t matter which category you fit into, what’s important is, just because someone loves what they do, it doesn’t detract from its value or meaning. So, no matter how ‘easy’ someone else’s job may look from the outside in, if you aren’t working side-by-side in the same job as them, take a moment to think before you judge. If you’re on the receiving end of some negativity or job-bashing, just remember it’s you who determines the value of what you do.
Watch: our ’48 Hours in Bundaberg’ video
If you’ve been considering a career change or looking for graduate jobs, visit Chandler Macleod for information on their graduate recruitment programs in a wide range of industries.
Phoebe Lee is a travel writer and award-winning blogger with a love for storytelling. Phoebe creates practical, fun and engaging written content designed to inspire and energise travel-lovers and dreamers. Follow her and Matt’s adventures at home and around the world, right here on Little Grey Box and through Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.