In Defense of Romanticized Careers

James Walpole/ May 15, 2020

Most of us have the jobs we do and the jobs we romanticize. We romanticize the jobs of cowboy, firefighter, soldier, farmer, and filmmaker – and we do the jobs of tech support, retail associate, lawyer, and corporate executive.

We all have an intuition that the former jobs are more beautiful, cooler, or somehow more meaningful than the ones we hold. But we also distrust that intuition: something that is “romanticized”, after all, must turn out to be bunk.

Of course things are rarely as sweet and easy as they seem from the outside. Farmers and ranchers live precarious financial lives. Firefighting is grueling work. Soldiers deal with drudgery and politics like the rest of us. And filmmakers have many small operational details to manage before they can focus on making great art.

Yet most of the people who do these jobs do it because they feel these jobs are cooler, more beautiful, and more meaningful somehow. They’ve romanticized their own work, too, and they manage to avoid getting jaded. Why?

Romanticization is its own superpower. If you believe that a line of work is more meaningful, more beautiful, and cooler, you will tend to find it more satisfying, even when it entails suffering. You may believe some myths, but a myth is a powerful living support for the person who believes and lives in it.

The person who loves the dream of farming will put up with freezing rain. “I’m a farmer – this is what farmers do,” they’ll say, and the nasty bits will get folded into the romanticization as well. The things that might disillusion can actually become a part of the original myth.

Going and living out a mythologized ideal of a work lifestyle may seem foolish, and it may yield some disappointments. But it’s much better than some other reasons people have to do their jobs (higher lifestyle, status, comfort). And it’s much more likely to generate meaning and feelings of satisfaction.

Photo by Gregory Hayes on Unsplash

James Walpole

James Walpole is a writer, startup marketer, and perpetual apprentice. You're reading his blog right now, and he really appreciates it. Don't let it go to his head, though.

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