I have spent many years looking for my dream job. I thought that once I had it or had a sure-fire way to get it, then I would be happy. I just had to get it and everything would fall into place. It wasn’t till I got my dream job that I realised that I have been so very wrong about what it would mean to me. Pinning all life’s hopes into one job is an incredible risky strategy. I didn’t truly realise this this until I actually got my dream job.
There is always the potential risk that your dream job can look very ideal on paper but in reality, it may be far from it. The workplace might be toxic. The job may be different to what was advertised. You may just not enjoy it in the way you thought you would. You may realise that the job wasn’t actually your dream job at all, but a collection of other people’s expectations, hopes and dreams for your future they you had unknowingly internalised.
I have had many ambitions over the years from a stunt woman, to rally driver, to Lara Croft, to pilot, to fire fighter, to writer. I thought that once I’d achieved one of them, I would be happy, and I would feel complete. I tried out and went for a lot of these ambitions. Applied and applied. Put myself out there and really gave it all I had.
After a few years of trying and failing the knock backs felt heavier, harder and it took me longer to recover from each blow. I felt I was being denied happiness rather than just a job.
My dream job that features in this story is a pilot or (trainee pilot to be exact). I had done my research and found out as much I could about becoming a pilot and what it all entailed. Number one thing I learnt, it’s really bloody expensive. It’s not just getting the license, it’s getting all the other ratings, the exams and the equipment. It’s the whole package. Even then, it’s not a done deal that you’ll get a job. You have to know the right people to get you in the right jobs. There are various routes to becoming a pilot. I won’t bore you with them now. But generally, it’s hard and long and expensive.
I was still determined to do it though. I had applied for lots of pilot apprenticeship schemes and worked various ‘pilot adjacent’ sort of jobs like working in a bar at a gliding centre ( unsurprisingly this did not get me closer to flying a plane but did get me hit on by elderly pilots). Somewhere along the line I got myself a job that paid well. I figured if all else failed, then I would gradually work my way up, save up and self-fund the licence myself.
However! I actually, finally, got offered a job at a flying school which was also an apprenticeship scheme that would enable me to get my license slowly but eventually. The money was shit but there I was. I had made it! The dream! I was finally going to be a pilot. And I was all ready for the happiness that would come with getting my dream job. On my first day I was ready, I was bright eyed and I was excited.
It was the worst job I have ever had.
And I’ve had A LOT of terrible jobs. I once had a job where I had to clean skin scum from hot tubs ( it’s exactly what it sounds like). So, you can see I mean it when I say this job was terrible.
It was toxic work environment, it was a mis-sold opportunity. The more I got to know the industry the more I fell out of love. What I thought of as an adventurous and exciting industry had shown its true colours as an elitist, cliquey, male orientated, sexist one. It was disheartening in the extreme.
I kept thinking that I had to stick with it because how else would I be able to become a pilot? I now had such a low paying job that I couldn’t put myself though the training. The job wore me down. It felt like the rug had been pulled from under me and I was flailing around in a nightmare that I couldn’t escape.
I quit after 11 months.
I then embarked on the slow process of recovery. The slow acceptance that my dream job wasn’t all it was cracked up to up to be. I had to start again. I had to take a job to get some money in. It was a very depressing office job but it was made bearable by some absolute legends I met there (we are still friends to this day). It was also the perfect environment to recover, regroup and get my head straight.
Even if my dream job had reached all my wildest expectations and had been the most fantastic experience of my life. It alone could not make be happy or complete. I’m not saying that it wouldn’t help on the way to happiness, but a job alone cannot provide everything for you. Just like one single person, place or thing can’t either. Although my experience is based heavily in the aviation industry, the theory is the same. When you place all meaning and happiness on an external thing… a job, weight loss, car, holiday. It’s like giving it to a passing bird. It’s not yours anymore, it will fly off and you have no control over what they do with it
I eventually got a job that paid well and I started to self-fund my flying lessons. This worked for a while until I had to take a redundancy from the job, and I had to take a step back from flying. I still want to get my license but not because I think it will be this magical unicorn in my life that will make everything better. I just want to do it because it’s a good challenge and flying is pretty cool. I want to learn for the original spirit of adventure that got me interested in the first place.
Loving what you do can be a big part of your overall happiness and contentment. A wonderful work environment can and does help build up great mental health and wellbeing. But you have to put in the work yourself. It starts and ends with you. It’s never about anything else. External validation will only get you so far. I wish I had a better of grasp of all this before I relentlessly pushed myself through a series of hoops that I thought I needed to jump through in order to achieve happiness.
Now, some of you may be reading this and think, of course, this is obvious. But maybe some of you are still in it. And I hope this helps you to get out of it. I know I would have found it useful to know that my whole self-worth does not lie in a job. Or in a weight. Or in an amount of money in the bank. I thought I knew all this, but I think I only understood the theory, the surface level. Somewhere in my core I still thought I needed to have one of them in order to be happy.
I am happy to report that I was mistaken. The power is always with you and don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.