slip-sliding away…..

Do what you love…love what you do

Posted by Yacoob on October 15, 2009

When I was very young, from what I remember, I used to love to write. Creative writing was a passion in my earliest school years. I remember silly stories about a Monster Party where the partygoers played “Pass the person,” and a Time Machine story where victorious German soldiers (during World War 2) used spears in their battle.

My teachers would encourage me to write at home, as an extra-curricular activity. But I don’t think I ever did.

Although I loved to write at that age (roughly seven years old), I didn’t see it as a viable career choice. I worried about writers’ block. I decided, way back then, that I couldn’t base a career on creativity – because there was no guarantee that the stories and words would come. I couldn’t take creativity for granted – because this was my future livelihood on the line.

I grew up, going through junior school, thoroughly enjoying reading the stories of others – because fiction opened my mind to other worlds, and excited my imagination beyond the ordinary confines of normal life. As time passed, my teenage years saw this reading disappear altogether; and my writing, which was done only for schoolwork, became relatively dull and uninspired. There was so much else that took my attention in those years, and the never-ending slew of futile occupations that consumed my time ensured that my creativity remained subdued – a thing forgotten.

This stage continued into university, until I reached the turning point in my life: a series of events that brought my spirit back to life – woke me up and inspired in me perhaps the greatest change I’ll ever encounter. And from that point on, the introspective side of me began its journey to a path of self-expression – a state of being where I was free to let loose what I held inside, without fearing my innermost thoughts being discovered by prying eyes.

Although this state of being was in the works for some time, it was an online acquaintance that first encouraged me to express myself in writing. And, over time, I began to do that, and the feelings, thoughts, dreams, and fears therapeutically poured out of me into what seemed* like well-crafted poems and pieces that reflected who I was, who I wanted to be, and what was most important to me.

(*I say “seemed” because the words and structures just came across as if they were well thought out. But, in reality, I didn’t plan much at all. I favoured the free-flow method: where I would just write as it came – without giving much thought to stopping, thinking, or editing. Natural was best, in my eyes – because I didn’t want my self-expression to be stifled by the left-brain processes which, I thought, would only hamper what I was writing).

In terms of my career, I had, up till that point, been in an IT position that wasn’t really conducive to interesting writing – because it was pretty much business and technical-related. I then moved into another IT role, but this time one that centred around technical writing and communications. Although this role was, again, business and technical-related, it somehow opened up new doors to me – showing me that I could use my writing skill for my career.

It was also in this period that I began blogging, starting this blog in 2006. My blog began with just photos, because I wasn’t confident enough to post my writings yet. But, over time, I became more comfortable, and introduced written pieces to the blog.

For a long while, this blog served as a great comfort to me: a place where I could post my self-expressions (both visual and written), and get feedback and encouragement from those of you who took the time to visit and comment.

With regard to writing, I also branched out into other forms of writing – applying myself to Islamic-related articles. When I finished the communications job, I ventured into the field of volunteering – doing communications work at two Muslim organisations. I enjoyed this work immensely – because I was getting to do what I loved to do (i.e. write), and apply the skills and knowledge I had learned (i.e. communications) – all in the field that was most important to me: Islam. And, of course, when you work in that kind of organisation, even mundane tasks can earn you Divine rewards – if you do it with the right intention.

I’ve continued to work with one of these organisations up to this year, and I’ve been blessed to be part of some great projects over the last few years. At one point, when they were thinking about appointing a full-time staff member, I considered applying – because I would dearly love to do that kind of work as a full-time career.

Unfortunately, that didn’t work out. And, as I came to see, there aren’t many opportunities for full-time work in that field. At least, not opportunities that pay market-related rates.

It’s a difficult position for Islamic organisations, because they do such great work, and they could probably do so much better – but many of them don’t have the proper support: financially, structurally, and in terms of high-quality professionals that are dedicated to the organisation on a full-time basis.

Many of these organisations struggle to survive; and they just cannot afford to pay the rates that professionals can earn in the corporate or even academic worlds.

So I saw that, if I wanted to work in that field, it would take financial sacrifice. But, being newly-married and newly-financially independent, I didn’t feel it was a sacrifice I could make at that time.

My current job – which I’ve been in for almost two years – makes use of my writing ability, in subjects that are not technical or IT-related (for the most part). Because of this, I enjoy the content of my current work more than any previous jobs.

Yet, I still sometimes find myself frustrated; believing wholeheartedly that I could perform so much better if I were writing about the things that were most important to me. I strongly believe that, if I were given the opportunity to use my abilities for subject matters that resonate strongly within me, I could, insha-Allah, be so much more productive, and hopefully produce work that could be beneficial to those who read / see it (not that my current work is not beneficial…because it hopefully is).

Undoubtedly, one field that this can be achieved in is media – and specifically, Islamic media. However, although I’ve had a few pieces published in printed publications over the last few years, my most recent attempts to break into this field have failed.

So, then, there’s always the Internet. And, of course, blogging – because blogging is really the ultimate personal medium: it’s a platform where you can write about what’s most important to you; hopefully have a positive influence on people; and receive feedback from the readers.

Lately, I’ve been thinking again about my career – wondering if I’ll ever get to do what I love doing as a full-time, decently-paid job. (Note that the financial-sacrifice thing is even less realistic at this point – because I now have a wife and baby to support.)

Not many people get to do what they love as a career. But for those that do – you can see the passion in them, and you can feel the energy that they have in carrying out a ‘job’ which they do out of love – and not just for the money.

Going forward, I wonder what the future holds for me in terms of getting to that career goal. I know I could probably do with some further studies, because:

  1. I lack journalistic training (which is actually fine by me, because I don’t want to be a journalist. I’ve heard that it’s a field I would not enjoy).
  2. I don’t have formal communications training (despite almost 2 years in a largely communications-based role).
  3. Other than my professional training, I haven’t taken any further courses in any kind of writing – be it feature writing, creative writing, or anything else.

Other than that, opportunity is the big issue. Part-time freelancing doesn’t seem like an option right now, because I just don’t have the time for other projects. I don’t even have time to write the things I want to write.

But I do want to try to keep writing – so that that part of me remains active, and hopefully sticks around for the time when, insha-Allah, a proper, full-time opportunity presents itself.

Where that opportunity would come from, I don’t know. I guess the key is to find a way that I can add value to an organisation – an organisation that does the kind of work I want to be involved in; an organisation where I can have the platform to advance their work as well as my own ambitions.

Anyway, like the title of the post says: “Do what you love…love what you do.” That, really, is my ultimate career ambition.

I just wanted to share that here. Any feedback, ideas, or offers would be much appreciated.

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3 Responses to “Do what you love…love what you do”

  1. sue-me said

    Having worked with and for islamic organisations for a long time I can understand your feelings of having ‘something missing’ when one is no longer able to work full-time in this field for a no of reasons (those you list) and also because some of ‘our’ organisations try too hard to become more business-like and others with the political dictates causing their downfall. As far as writing is concerned, the RAINman always says being a journo doesn’t pay so we should stop encouraging more kids to take this up. Fortunately, blogging allows those of us more talented with the typewriter than the tongue our own spaces…even if it’s just to moan about another sleepless night due to teething and upset tummies:)

  2. dreamlass said

    the thing about doing what you want and loving it, is that it most often ends up being a thorny rose.

    I was employed at an islamic organisation doing their media and marketting and while i was getting paid and getting to do what i think i am good at as well as doing it for a good cause, there are always drawbacks-in my experience the most shattering one being your own shortcomings.

    human beings are such- there is always something better- always greener grass- and one’s mind’s eye is always searching beyond- it is a never-ending circle- it’s a roller coaster ride emotionally, it’s lyrics to a badly written song with an oft repeated chorus!

    i know i sound negative- but it’s the truth to me. i’m not saying that pursuing your dreams is not worth it, casue it certainly beats doing something you hate, or mundane, but do not have high expecations, there is never gonna be that perfect opportunity. you either going to have to take a huge pay cut, or compromise on the kind of organisation you want to work in or something like that.

    anyway good luck to you. i hope that you do find near perfection in this. because i know i’ll benefit too! ;)

    al…

  3. Nasreen said

    Agree with your post title. Not everyone is lucky enough to be able to love what they do and unfortunately, our passions are not always paid well enough to support us. It’s nice that you found blogging an avenue to discover your passion for writing. There is always the option of part-time job as you’ve mentioned. :)

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