I happened to stumble across Steve Pavlina’s blog post on Contributing through Your Career. His basic thesis is that most people feel driven to make some sort of difference in the world, and that if you do it on the side instead of through your career, it isn’t as fulfilling as it might be otherwise. I think he does have a point.
I have in times past struggled with the idea that I’d like to do something more… not ‘important’—that’s not really the right word. ‘Worthwhile’ is probably the right word. Eventually I came to a couple of realizations. One is that all of the information I put online for folks to help them be more creative (reviews of writers’ books and cookbooks, writers’ exercises, articles on writing and roleplaying, etc.) is worthwhile. So is making T-shirts. Things that help others do what they love, or that help make others happy, are worthwhile, even if they don’t involve feeding the world’s homeless or bringing about world peace. Someone has to make the little happinesses come about, and that’s okay.
The other realization is that it’s okay to say that reviewing books and designing T-shirts are my jobs. Sure, I don’t make a lot of money at them, and sometimes folks look at me like, “you call that a job?” but the fact remains that I put a lot of hard work in and just because I enjoy that work doesn’t make it a hobby rather than a job. And once I came to accept that these were my jobs, and not a hobby masquerading as a job, I became much more contented with them and far less restless. I’ve had far fewer feelings about what I “should” be doing, and can settle down to the far more enjoyable task of simply getting my job done!
So when you’re casting about for something to do that seems worthwhile, make sure you aren’t overlooking what you’re already doing. If you need something new by all means go for it—but sometimes you just need to come to terms with what you already love, even if you don’t realize it yet.