Hate Your Job? Don’t Worry; You’re Not Wasting Your Time

Coffee mug work www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

Yesterday Paula Pant posted a quote on Instagram:

Okay, let’s analyze this one for a minute.

I know that this could have easily been a throwaway quote designed to inspire people to find their dream jobs.

But this quote bothered me in a real and visceral way.

Here’s why.

Let’s say you’re currently in a job you hate. According to this little pearl of wisdom, your life right now has no value. You are doing absolutely nothing of worth. There is nothing that you can glean from this job to help you with the rest of your life.

I call bull on that.

Are you stuck in a lousy job situation? right now? These aren't wasted years. Although you might not love what you do, there's still a lot to take from it. #employment #jobs #badjob #careers

My Last Year in Santiago

When I lived in Chile, I worked for the Business School at a prominent university. My job was to write a proposal to get a European accreditation and help with MBA study tours.

I didn’t have enough work and I was bored out of my mind. Plus, I was ready to move back to the US and the months were dragging out in front of me (we had to stay until Mr. ThreeYear got his US visa and we didn’t know how long it would take).

Every day I would go in to my office (I had an office and a shared secretary, thank-you-very-much-I-was-very-fancy-back-then) and stare at the brick wall in front of my computer. I couldn’t muster the energy to stretch my 1-2 hours of work into the eight hours I had to fill each day. So I navel gazed a lot.

I picked out the color of my bridesmaid dresses. I networked with friends back in the US. Most importantly, I stared at the five subject areas an MBA covered, and thought about which area I wanted to work in: marketing.

Even though I was bored out of my skull for almost an entire year, and I was most decidedly NOT doing what I loved, I do not consider that year wasted time.

That year was a very important part of my formation as an adult. I practiced being bored, a skill that became invaluable a few years later (see below: Stay-at-Home-Momhood). I had tons of time to think, and make decisions about my future and what I wanted it to look like. I had time to make social connections. I learned that working alone really wasn’t my jam, that I needed the stimulation of other people to really be happy in a job.

Those were lessons. Not wasted time.

hiking in Chile--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
Mr. ThreeYear and I, during our last year in Chile.


Fast forward three years. I’m living in Atlanta with Mr. ThreeYear, and I’ve just had Junior ThreeYear and resigned from my job as an account executive at an advertising agency. I am officially a SAHM.

It’s horrible.

Sorry, but that’s the truth.

I wanted, with everything inside of me, to stay at home with my baby. I loved him and I wanted to be there for him. But staying at home with him was soul-sucking. Again, it felt very alone. There were few adults around to hang out with, and I didn’t feel like I was getting anything accomplished. Hear me on this one, moms?

But a waste of time? Uh, no. It was only the most important job of my life. I was teaching my child to talk, to walk, to regulate his emotions. I was teaching him words in English and Spanish, introducing him to supermarkets and restaurants, taking him to friends’ houses, arranging playdates with other kids in the neighborhood.

Those seven-and-a-half years that I was a SAHM were looooong. They were hard. They were the hardest years of my life. I have vast swaths of time that I don’t remember, so bogged down in night feedings, preschool drop-offs, laundry, toy pick up, and diaper changes was I.

But wasted time? Those years were the opposite of wasted time.

Crying brother---www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
Ahh, those precious years…

Another Perspective

Mr. ThreeYear had a job for about eight months that was absolutely terrible. He was ill-equipped for the work he was supposed to be doing, he knew he wasn’t living up to his boss’s expectations, and he was being asked to do increasingly demeaning activities.

He came home every day completely demoralized. He didn’t complain; I could just tell.

“Quit,” I’d tell him, day after day. “Just quit! We’ll be fine.”

“I’m not quitting before I have another job,” he told me. “I have a family to provide for and we need the money. I don’t care if it sucks. I’m going to keep doing it.”

And he did, until he got laid off (a huge blessing in disguise).

I don’t know if he’s found any life lessons among the rubble of those memories, but he has a different perspective about working that job.

He did it because his family needed the money.

While we radically changed our finances after that experience so that he now could quit if in that same scenario, I doubt he would this time around, either.

Growing up in a third world country taught Mr. ThreeYear to be comfortable with discomfort. He learned that he had to do a lot of things just because, so he made the best of it.

Life’s Not Supposed to Be Unicorns Pooping Glitter

Here’s another reason that quote got to me.

Life is not always fun. Work is not always fun. Sometimes, we have to work to pay the bills. Sure, it would be awesome if we could all have our dream jobs. But sometimes, you’re in a place in your life where you don’t get to follow your dream. Sometimes, you’re at a place where you need cold, hard cash and you need to wait tables to get it.

Sometimes, life and work are about doing hard things and learning lessons from them.

So your job sucks right now. Well, you’re learning what you don’t want to do in the future. Your very negative feelings for your job are teaching you something about yourself, if you’ll take the time to figure out what that is.

I learned that I should find work that gives me plenty of exposure to other people, preferably adults (hmm, maybe I should teach at the college level?!).

I learned that I need more tasks than the average person because I get bored easily.

I learned that some seasons of life are hard, but that I can get through them.

I learned that I can be patient when I’m covered in spit up and poop from the baby and my toddler has just spilt a gallon of milk on the floor downstairs.

Those hard jobs led me to where I am today, with no job.

LOL, just kidding. I’m technically back to being a SAHM, although with much-easier older elementary/early middle school kids.

But when I do get a job, I’ll know more about the type of job I should get to help me feel fulfilled and pay the bills.

And if my jobs ends up being really crappy, I’ll bank my pay, try to make the best of things, and take the lessons that come.

Nothing in life is forever, and discomfort is temporary. But it also helps us grow.

By all means, follow your passion. But you may have to take some difficult detours to get there in the meantime.

Author: Laurie

Hi. I'm Laurie, and my family and I have set out to double our net worth and move abroad in the next three years. Join us on our journey!

12 thoughts on “Hate Your Job? Don’t Worry; You’re Not Wasting Your Time”

  1. “Sometimes, life and work are about doing hard things and learning lessons from them.”
    Perseverance is such an important skill. We’ve all seen it in school – kids who keep at it, make progress even above those who are enriched or gifted. If we can teach kids that skill, I don’t worry about them. Those who fade at a challenge or only do things they love I worry more about.

    I do believe in pursuing interests and finding engagement, but also agree that sometimes you grind through until you get there. Thanks for saying this!

    1. It’s hard to teach both skills–pursue your passion, and stick with something hard through the end–because they can seem at odds. And yet both are really important! I agree with you, though–I want my kids to have challenges in life and learn to push through them, so they’ll develop the perseverance and resilience to keep going.

  2. Kudos to you Laurie!

    A lot of life is filled with responsibility that’s not glamorous.

    Those moments give us the time (or lessons) to enjoy the good stuff.

  3. Hi Laurie! I love that you called bull on that IG quote. Sometimes we have to suck it up and get through something, whatever that might be, then walk away afterward with the takeaways and lessons learned.

    I didn’t know that about your SAHM years. I loved my SAHM years, but mine were during the preschool and early elementary years. By then, kids are walking and talking and a lot more interactive. Still a valuable and worthy time.

    Take care! Carol

    1. Thanks, Carol! Sounds like you got the perfect SAHM years. I definitely enjoyed interacting more with the kids when they were older. And as they get even older, it gets better, something I honestly never expected! I hear a lot of people say that teenagers really are great, despite some of the more difficult parts. 🙂

  4. So good! My husband is a SAHD and enjoys it – which I am glad for, because I do not want that job. I would suck at it and/or be frustrated and missing work. It doesn’t mean it’s not valuable, though, obviously – there’s something to be learned from even the suckiest jobs.

    1. Ha! It’s definitely one of those jobs that doesn’t pay dividends for a loooong time. And our society doesn’t really value it, but man, a good stay-at-home-parent can make the home world run so much more smoothly. I’ve always noticed that SAHDs seem to be so good at putting cleaning/organizing stuff aside and are better at being present with their kids. Broad generalization, but they seem to really play with them more, whereas sometimes moms can be preoccupied with “getting stuff done” in the house.

  5. Wow! This really helped me thank you. I’m stuck at a boring job as a researcher where nobody really had a strategy for my role therefore nobody really has work for me to do.

    I graduated 4 years ago and want to start a family soon but I feel so lost in jobs that I’ve ”fallen” into after college. You’re right, it’s not wasted time. I decided to study for an extra qualification, get my drivers license and bank money for a house in this job. Possibly pay for a wedding too.

    But I occasionally find myself so bored and under-valued that I panic and scroll for more interesting jobs! I’ve sought career advice because it’s given me time as you say to figure out where my strengths and interests truly lie. Advice to anyone in the same position; concentrate on personal goals, personal growth and development during this quiet time. And plan your next move, to everything there is a season.

  6. Boy it sure feels like I’m wasting my time though. My job is sooo boring. Not “I don’t have enough work” boring but the actual work is boring. I don’t want to be doing it and I don’t care about it. I’m constantly looking at job posts and everything that comes close to matching my skill set sounds just as boring. I’d like to say that I want to change careers but a) I don’t trust myself to choose a new one that’s any better (I mean, I chose the one I’m in now and that’s not exactly working out great) and b) I have zero time for school or training even if I knew what it want to do instead. What I really want is to walk away from anything even vaguely resembling a career and just be until I can stop feeling miserable and paralyzed and like my whole life is a waste. But I need money to pay the bills and I need health insurance (yay for the American employer based healthcare system!) so tomorrow I’ll fire up my computer again and try not to let the sad feelings drag me under as I waste yet another day of my life at work.

    So yeah, you might not necessarily be wasting your time if you’re not doing something you love but when you are you feel it and it sure does suck.

  7. This article has been soooooo useful for me right now. I’m currently sitting at the desk of my extremely repetitive sales job where I’m having no success right now and feeling like I’m wasting my time and my company’s time, not that I care for my company particularly, but I like to feel like I’m doing well with no matter what I’m doing.

    However, just having a reminder of “things suck sometimes, deal with it, it won’t be forever, and there’s something good in here for you, just look for it” is really, REALLY helpful, mainly for my attitude. Sometimes the hardest thing about feeling stuck are the feelings we have ABOUT feeling stuck, and remembering “it’s ok to be stuck and there’s good in this too” is just the perfect reframe.

    I find this article both practical and transformative. Thank you for writing it!

    1. Thanks, Ben. I’m so glad the article helped. I have felt like you many times. Hang in there!!! I hope your job turns a corner soon. Sales jobs can be so hard, especially in a Covid economy.

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