A little patch of warmth and light

Does the perfect job exist?

I’ve had a number of wonderful jobs and spent a lot of time thinking about that question. I’ve come to the conclusion that perfect jobs do exist, for a season.

I’m sure we each have a different take on what makes a job perfect. I find myself using the word “love” a lot. When I love the work I’m doing, the people I’m working with, and the product or problem I’m working on, it really is magical. There is a certain energy when you walk through the door and an addictive sense of satisfaction when you walk out. Each day, it seems, you do something you didn’t know you were capable of. You are surrounded by friends. The work is meaningful and the momentum palpable.

I consider myself blessed to have had that experience. Even in the perfect job, though, things inevitably change. Cherished coworkers move on to something new, managers shift, momentum falters as new problems and competitors surface. Or maybe everything stays the same except you. A relationship or new addition shifts your priorities or your curiosity begins pulling you in a different direction.

Having tasted that, though, it’s hard not to chase it again and again. And if we happen to lose sight of it, we’re regularly reminded it’s out there, waiting for us, if we only follow our bliss and do what we love. New jobs are announced with great fanfare and quickly followed by celebratory posts about “My first month at _________.” It’s the honeymoon photos of our professional lives.

More often than not, the honeymoon comes to an end and about a year later, the cycle is repeated. When I’ve talked to friends who’ve actually had one of my dream jobs or worked at one of my dream companies, the stories never match the highlight reel. People are human, work is complicated, poor decisions are made, and success leads to bureaucracy.

I admire people who embrace that. They enjoy the challenge in front of them, regardless of notoriety. They pour everything they have into the work and those they work with. They understand there is reward in diligence, longevity, and solving hard problems.

They’ve shown me that the people who aren’t chasing the perfect job are the ones most likely to find it.

Prompted

The last dispatch asked, How many places have you lived?

Debbie wrote:

I lived so many places in my 20s that my mother had to use White Out to keep up with me in her address book. But I've lived in a very solid 1880's era Victorian farmhouse for the past 26 years. I recently had a party for professional colleagues, and it seemed like everybody asked How long you have lived here? As if it were obviously that we were settled in.

Oliver wrote:

I've lived in Albuquerque NM (home of Breaking Bad — of which there is now near ubiquitous, and probably illicit, coffee mugs, t-shirts, and blue candy). I've lived, for 6 months, in Oaxaca Mexico; which I remember being primitive, beautiful, and poor. I've lived in my grandmother's condo right next to Harvard. I've lived in the only shitty building on the most beautiful street in Boston. I've spent countless nights sleeping on floors, couches, roach-infested hotels, and in cars back when I worked on low budget movies. And for the last 9 years I've lived in the same 1 bedroom apartment with my wife and various cats; there are windows on 3 sides and the windows get sunlight from dawn to dusk.

Vivian wrote:

Living, in my mind's eye, is an extended stay of more than 1-2 weeks. So in reflection of all the places that I have lived, they total out to be a complete 4 distinct locations. How many addresses I have had, that is a total of 5. I have lived in 3 continents. They are East Coast United States, Northern France, and Costa Rica. Up to now, I have had 5 mailing addresses and they have/are all been in New Jersey.

What makes this all kind of über categorized? I feel that when defining places that one has lived, you have explored a new vicinity of the earth where you have had to survive. You have slept, awakened, watched television, showered/bathed, walked, taken public transportation, driven, schooled, eaten, lounged, laundered, cleaned, partied, cooked, exercised, and all out communed with the environment/humanity in which you had your "habitat". As a whole, it has made you either more independent and, at some point, particular to how you maintain your living habits and quarters.

Stephen wrote:

So far, just a few.

I grew up in Georgetown, romping in the woodland suburbs of Central Texas. At the turn of the millennium my family moved to a haunted house in hilly Bastrop for a couple of years, and then built a home in Hutto where I spent my angsty teens. For my college years I frequented the flat lands of Lubbock. Then for the past five years I inhabited a series of apartments and shared houses back in Austin proper.

As of June, I'm on The Road for the first time in my life. So I suppose you could say I live in the World now. It's my favorite home so far. :)

Sarah wrote:

3 continents, one country in each. 3 US states. 6 cities, with a new one coming up soon.

But before that, I'm going to spend 6 weeks in Brooklyn. I'm not sure if that'll count as "living" there rather then "staying" there. I haven't done a summer break since I was a student, so I feel like this should be different, but it may not be at all. I'll only know afterwards.

Sara wrote:

I've just moved to Singapore in the past week, so this is a timely question. I started out counting cities, but then I thought it might be more fun to think about the actual places, by way of street names, given that a city doesn't give a complete picture of the actual places and spaces I've lived in it. Here's the total count so far: 15.

Meadowview Rd, Holyoke St, Plympton St (x 4), 37th St, Baxter St, 41st St, Cowperthwaite St, Huayu Guangchang, Elm St, Hollybush Row, Royal Ave, and Clementi Rd

Drew wrote:

Two continents
Two countries
Four States
Seven apartments
Five houses
One suitcase and multiple hotel chains - I travel for work. A lot.

Chandley wrote:

Eleven places on three continents, in four countries and in five states.

Ryan wrote:

My parents moved all the time throughout my childhood and youth: Ft. Lauderdale -> Brookville, OH -> Detroit, MI -> Brookville again -> Union, OH -> Dayton, OH. All in all, I lived in 11 different houses or apartments before I went away to college.

I got so tired of moving I swore that when I controlled my own fate at last, I’d pick a place I liked and stay in it, so I bought a house in the town where I went to college and lived there until I got married. Then my wife wanted to go to school for Fashion Design, so we moved to California and came right back again when she was done. Add Winona Lake, IN and Los Angeles, CA, then Winona Lake again to the list, bringing my total number of residences up to 16.

We will certainly one day move from our current rented house, so I guess that tells me something about my ability to plan my life in advance.

Brad wrote:

I have lived in eighteen homes in my thirty-one years. A large majority of my childhood was spent between just two, and I enjoyed the stability and friendships from that continuity. After I moved away to college, I moved on average every nine months for the next eight years. From the two-bedroom apartment in La Jolla with three messy college roommates to the wonderfully bizarre little house in the middle of a forest in urban Seattle, and on to the smallest apartment I’ve ever had, three blocks from the sand in the Pacific Beach neighborhood of San Diego.

Later highlights with my wife included a brand-new apartment on the bay in Emeryville across the water from San Francisco; a century-old apartment in the heart of San Francisco, right off Market & Guerrero; another brand-new apartment on Town Lake across the water from downtown Austin; and finally our own home in East Austin. I’ve been lucky to have many great living places, all contributing something unique to my life story.

Rare experiences have also enhanced my memories of some homes, like fire alarms, earthquakes, wild fires, floods and tornadoes. There’s something fascinating about such a vivid and poignant reality being painted on an otherwise inert structural landscape like an apartment or house. Being forced to ask “Where are our most important papers?” with the implication that everything else in your home might perish is sharp and chilling. I am lucky enough that I have never faced those worst of possibilities in one of my homes. I feel deeply for those who have.

Uncommon reads

Why Whiskey Is for Sharing by Jami Attenberg:

I realized I’d had enough to drink when I saw that the notes I was taking had turned illegible. I left the rest of the Double Cask—the heaviest of the bottles—with a neighbor who had liked it a lot. Earlier he’d offered to watch my dog when I traveled over the 4th of July, so it seemed a fair trade. Another one. We could keep trading things forever. There is always something left to give.

The Great Gift of Reading Aloud by Meghan Cox Gurdon:

To curl up with children and a good book has long been one of the great civilizing practices of domestic life, an almost magical means of cultivating warm fellow feeling, shared in-jokes and a common cultural understanding. Harvard professor Maria Tatar has written of its origins in medieval fireside storytelling, “before print and electronic media supplied nighttime entertainments.”

“We let down our guard when someone we love is reading us a story,” Ms. DiCamillo says. “We exist together in a little patch of warmth and light.”

Against Productivity by Quinn Norton:

We dream now of making Every Moment Count, of achieving flow and never leaving, creating one project that must be better than the last, of working harder and smarter. We multitask, we update, and we conflate status with long hours worked in no paid overtime systems for the nebulous and fantastic status of being Too Important to have Time to Ourselves, time to waste. But this incarnation of the American dream is all about doing, and nothing about doing anything good, or even thinking about what one was doing beyond how to do more of it more efficiently. It was not even the surrenders to hedonism and debauchery or greed our literary dreams have recorded before. It is a surrender to nothing, to a nothingness of lived accounting.

[...] Some thoughts are long, they can take years to think, or a lifetime. Some thoughts take many lifetimes, and we hand them off to the next generation like the batons in a relay race. Some of these are the best of thoughts, even if they can be the least productive. Lifetimes along, they shift the whole world, like a secret lever built and placed by the loving imaginations of thousands of unproductive stargazers.

Web Design: The First 100 Years by Maciej Cegłowski:

We see a whole ecosystem of startups and businesses that seem to exist only to serve one other, or the needs of very busy and very rich tech workers in a tiny sliver of our world. At the same time, we hear grandiose promises about how technology will fundamentally improve the lives of every person on Earth, even though that contradicts our own experience of the last thirty years.

Your turn

What do you love about what you do?