When the Dream Job Just Isn’t Dreamy Enough by Liz Thorpe

When I was 23 years old I walked away from the structure and predictability of a familiar career path and decided that I wanted to learn about cheese. I wondered if it might be possible to make a career out of something simply because I found it intriguing and inspiring and delicious.

I didn’t really understand what I was doing, but I knew there was an insistence I couldn’t ignore. A repetitive whispering, a core of assurance that kept poking me, an older, wiser piece of myself who knew that I was deeply unhappy and that my only shot was to reach for a thing for no other, no better, reason than because I desired it.

I wanted to know about cheese. That was my desire. I thought it was fascinating. There were so many choices. A rainbow of colors, a veritable Benetton ad of shapes and sizes. Looking back, I can see that it was more than just the cheese, though. What I wanted was a job, a career, a life’s work that thrilled me. Something I did every day that I cared about, that I constantly learned from, that actually inspired me and perhaps even the people I met at the odd cocktail party.

And you know what? Cheese stuck. It became my career. And over the years, that first little shop I worked in morphed and evolved and became my life.

You are a more creative thinker than I if you can imagine what it felt like, then, after many years and many successes and indeed, what many (including me!) called a “dream job”, to begin once again to feel the uncomfortable poke of my inner whomever. That daring, visionary, wiser risk taker who held my hand and pulled me into cheese in the first place was once again extending a finger. Crooked toward a big, dark, expanse of The Unknown my gut started suggesting lewd, unimaginable things.

What If…there could be more than my dream job? What If I could keep the parts I loved and ditch the parts I didn’t? What If I could rediscover the parts that I’d cast off, that were dying from neglect, that used to make me giddy with pleasure? What If I could stretch myself, my imagination, my brain, and invent a Dream Job that was even better than the one I had? What would that even look like?

So, finally, after years of debate with my crooked finger, come-hither whisperer, I did the (semi) unthinkable. I quit my job, nearly ten years to the day after I started. I walked away from a place I loved, a place I shaped and was deeply shaped by. I left with no plan, no next step and no intention but this: to follow the part of myself who seems to know where we’re going, on the path to an integrated life of work that is play, and play that enriches my soul.

Oh, and as a major part of that, to rediscover the sheer joy that fed me in the first place.