About eighteen months ago, I published a post that caused some controversy.
The back story to this was a conversation that I had with a friend of a friend, who I had met for the first time during a night out. I asked him what he did for a living, to which he replied, “I’m a photographer.” I immediately found the subject interesting (I love photography) and started asking him lots of questions – what his main points of interest were, who he worked for, how he got into it – and after a few minutes it became evident that he wasn’t a photographer at all. In truth, he was a barman with a good camera who liked taking photographs. I was a little confused (and slightly insulted) by the fact that this man had ‘bent the truth’ in an attempt to appear more creative and/or successful – I’ve done plenty of bar work over the years and in my experience it is a physically and mentally exhausting job that requires lots of patience, particularly when dealing with drunken, aggressive members of the general public. It’s a shame that he felt that he had to hide a profession that he should have been proud of.
The point of the post was to discuss the difference between having a profession and indulging in a hobby. The definition of the term ‘professional’ in itself is to be paid for doing something. In my own life, despite monetising my blog and earning a little each month from doing so after two-and-a-half years of blogging, I will tell others that I am a teacher when asked what I do for a living as this is my main source of income that pays the bills. (And for those who follow the blog regularly, I have freelance music workshops planned in different schools for September so it will still be my main profession despite quitting full-time classroom teaching). That doesn’t take away the fact that I absolutely love every minute of blogging and writing, and it has become part of almost every aspect of my life.
It was Freshly Pressed, and I had a number of comments from people (particularly writers) that took huge offence at what I had written, as if I had belittled them and their passions personally.
Last week, as I hadn’t shared the post in a long time, I tweeted it out during #SundayBlogShare and wasn’t surprised when I received another mixed response. While I respect everyone’s right to have an opinion (despite some of them being a little more aggressive than they needed to be), I spent much of the time writing the same replies to these comments:
Enjoying something, indulging in something, being good at something and pursuing a passion does not mean that this passion is not part of who you are, and does not take anything away from your creativity, ie. it doesn’t stop you from a being ‘a writer’ or ‘a photographer,’ but you cannot call yourself a professional at something unless you are paid for it. The barman/photography enthusiast may have been the most wonderful photographer the world has ever seen, it may have filled every essence of his creative soul, but he is not a photographer by profession. Being asked ‘what do you do for a living?’ implies that somebody wishes to know what job you do, and despite a number of people attempting to skirt around this question with various answers they would have given in an attempt to justify their anger (ie. I would have said I’m a ____ by trade but I also love ____) I know that most people would reply to the question directly.
It’s an interesting topic, and one that not everybody will ever agree on, particularly when debating the validity of creativity. I took the opportunity to ask some of my favourite bloggers the same question, many of whom are self-published authors, and I got a similar reaction. There were some who call themselves writers because they are paid to, and others who do the same because it’s what they feel they are, despite the fact that they don’t earn money from it. Some will simply tell others what their day job is, because blogging is an enjoyable hobby. One or two, despite earning money from book sales are reluctant to mention it as yet, and one, who is a teaching assistant, doesn’t talk about his wedding photography unless the conversation continues.
Of course, in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter what job someone does and should never be used as a point of judgement, but it was an intriguing topic for me at the time because I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my career and the direction in which my life was heading. However, these recent conversations and my new chapter also got me thinking about the professions that we have versus our passions and how different they can be. I spent fifteen years studying music and just under ten years teaching it, and I realised that, while it will always be a huge part of who I am and has given me the life I have now, my true passions lie elsewhere. I discovered that I was passionate about writing and photography, and starting the blog made me realise how much I truly enjoy the process of developing new content and being creative. I also love animals and animal welfare, and I’ve often thought that I should have trained in zoology. I love travel, being lucky to have visited many places on my bucket list in the last five years, and I love meeting new people and learning things about different cultures (it’s one of the many reasons why I live in a city as multi-cultural as Birmingham). I love cooking, baking, reading, and I’m starting to like running again.
Many others I know are in a similar situation. One is a very successful visual merchandiser for a department store, but would love to open a bakery (and I wish she would as her cakes are the best I have ever tasted). Another works for The Guide Dogs for the Blind, (which, to be fair, she really enjoys), but has a passion for fitness and nutrition and would love to become a qualified nutritionist. Another works in debt management, but loves writing beautiful poetry and would love to make a living from it. The Bloke, who is an IT Technician, enjoys his job, but has always wanted to write a novel and be able to play the guitar like many of his rock heroes.
It made me wonder: why did none of us pursue these passions right from the start and turn them into professions? Were we taught that the more creative subjects should be kept as passions and hobbies rather than careers? Is it the fear of not being able to meet our financial responsibilities that prevented us from following our dreams?
What do you guys think about profession versus passion? Do you make a living from your passions? Do you consider yourself to be a professional at something if you don’t earn any money from it? Are you one of those lucky people who wake up in a morning and look forward to going to work?
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