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Hi. I'm Laura.

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When the Work You Love Feels Hard

When the Work You Love Feels Hard

I got my dream job the summer after I graduated from college.

I would spend the summer working at an outdoor theatre company on two productions: as an ensemble member in a hokey but heartfelt original musical, and as the ingenue in a well-established straight play.

Not bad for a history major who changed streams at the last possible minute. I would be paid! to act! and my housing would be provided.

Remember being on the cusp of leaving college? All the fear and uncertainty and the can-I-get-job? I got the job. I was going to live the dream.

And truly, it stands as my most favorite summer ever.

I was on a actor high for most of my time there, incredulous that I woke up and went to work at a theatre every day.

I was the greenest one there. Professional actors from Washington D.C. made up most of the rest of the cast. But this was good–I could pick their brains. I asked them upside of Tuesday all about the business and auditions and postcards and craft. My own personal actors studio.

I did the best work I could do. History major, remember? I had grown up acting and had lots of experience, but very little formal training. I had good instincts, but I started to feel out of my league. Unprepared. Inadequate.

Could everyone see what I could feel? Did I look like I didn’t belong? Would it look that way to the audience?

This was not some performance review I would receive in the privacy of a dingy office. This was public.

Some days were a breeze and my pup-like energy carried me a long way.

But some days just felt like suck. Especially as we rehearsed the play that required more nuance. I was sharing scenes with a veteran of the stage. A D.C. powerhouse. I was dwarfed by his presence on stage.

This was going to be hard. Shit.

I put in extra work on my own, working on my voice, scene analysis, how to play the beats. I was lost, groping, and felt like a fool. Embarrassed.

Instead of waking up and looking forward to my day at the theatre, I began to dread the notes I would get from the director, the way I couldn’t vocally compete with my scene partner.

I was losing it.

And then there came a shift.

I remembered how goddamn lucky I was to be at that theatre. How else could I have spent my summer? Back clerking at the courthouse? It was struggling, but look at the struggle I got to have. Better to sweat it out on stage than be stuck in the filing vault where I wouldn’t learn a single thing about being a professional actor.

I stuck a little post-it note by bedroom door, so that as soon as my feet hit the floor each morning I would see its simple message:

Enjoy the luxury.

The luxury of the struggle, of the opportunity, growth, the potential, the chance to get better at what I loved.

I would have liked it better if I was a natural genius who didn’t need improvement, but I could enjoy the luxury of doing the work instead.

What do you do when the work you love feels hard? Share your approach in the comments.

  1. Kristin@9thandmayne.com

    October 11th, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    Oh, I’m having a hard time with this right now! Thank you for this post! I needed it.

  2. lisa@hitthosekeys.com

    October 11th, 2012 at 3:15 pm

    I like that, “the luxury of the struggle.” I’m going to carry that around with me for a bit.

  3. jamabardy@yahoo.com

    October 11th, 2012 at 4:24 pm

    Thank you for sharing. Perfect post. When it gets too tough…sometimes I have to step away, breathe and remember it truly is a luxury just to learn.Even learning, is a step forward ( :

  4. sage@sagegrayson.com

    October 11th, 2012 at 4:46 pm

    Still figuring it out! When work feels hard, I try to focus on how I can blast my music, hug my puppy, and take a break whenever I want….things I couldn’t do in my old corporate job. Appreciating the freedom my work brings makes it easier to keep working when it gets hard.

  5. beth.brandon@yahoo.com

    October 11th, 2012 at 5:49 pm

    Gurl this was exactly what I needed! I love the idea of the Luxury of a struggle… and I also hate it. I’m struggling! Mostly because I’m challenged in a way I haven’t been before. But I’d so rather be doing this than almost anything else.

  6. laura@yourcareerhomecoming.com

    October 11th, 2012 at 5:56 pm

    Gurl, the next thing will feel like cake. You’re earning your ease.

  7. ecmadore@gmail.com

    October 11th, 2012 at 5:58 pm

    Laura, this came at the perfect time. I’ve been struggling with pulling together the final touches on a novel I’ve been working on for 3 years and honestly it’s been hard. Hard enough that I Just want it to be done. But this, this reminded me why I do it – I LOVE to write. Yea, it’s hard, but it’s also what I love to do. So thank you for the gentle reminder ๐Ÿ™‚
    You can check out more info on my upcoming book at http://www.ErinMadore.com! ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. pattybechtold@gmail.com

    October 11th, 2012 at 9:28 pm

    Great story. Took me back to the year I did summer stock. Love the idea that being a novice can actually be a luxury. I tend to continually place myself in new learning/growing/novice experiences, and there’s a very sweet spot I’m feeling right now about sinking into the luxury of that. Thanks for sparking that for me!

  9. kbergen1@gmail.com

    October 11th, 2012 at 10:33 pm

    I identified with what you went through, Laura. I was sooo privillaged to be able to go to Art School in Calif. for 9 months…it was the best summer of my life and my work grew in leaps and bounds. I got so I didn’t know where my rent was goning to come from (I only worked 4 hours a day in the school library). Should I stay in school or quit and get a full time job? Everything said “stay”. And I got through…and every morn. when I woke up…I would leap out of bed in joy, for I was going to art school and I loved it…not like a regular job where I dreaded getting up.
    And now, all these years later, I have 2 shops on etsy, and they are trickling in sales. But I am over-loaded with local commissions…and I have been wondering what I sooo loved about painting, sewing, etc. Wondering HOW I am going to get this all done. I do take long breathers…play with my new kitten, walk my dog, talk too long with a new friend…watch a movie with hubby. But the work-load awaits like a mad dominate king…sternly tapping his finger on the tall pile of work that awaits me.

  10. roots.of.she@gmail.com

    October 11th, 2012 at 11:23 pm

    Oh, Laura. I needed to hear this so much today, thank you. ♥

  11. anne@annehubben.com

    October 12th, 2012 at 12:08 am

    What a great post, Laura. I love that line, “enjoy the luxury” and also “enjoy the luxury of the struggle”When I feel challenged, I’ve always hit the books + internet for inspiration + today you provided a golden nugget. Thank you!

  12. katrina@living-from-center.com

    October 12th, 2012 at 1:09 am

    Thank you SO much for this Laura! This a perfect timing post for me right now. Been allowing myself to be stuck in a little wallowing lately, which is of course getting me nowhere with the growth that I want to do. Reading your words “Enjoy the luxury of the struggle, of the opportunity, growth, the potential, the chance to get better at what I love” really hit a chord and touched me deeply. I have been so fortunate to have found work I love over the past bunch of years. Time to make sure I keep journeying with it every day, even if it’s ‘hard’! Thanks again, ~Katrina

  13. annching.wang@hotmail.com

    October 12th, 2012 at 4:08 am

    Totally identify with this. I recently made a career switch, from freelance copywriter and photographer to starting my own fashion label. By far, fashion was the hardest (even though it’s been my lifelong passion and what I happened to study in school).
    I even thought about giving up for this exact reason. After all, it had seemed like things had come to me so easily with my other businesses, that I felt like I was doing the wrong thing. But..it’s like you said, sometimes the most worthwhile (in fact, often) are the hardest, most challenging, and perhaps they include hints of why we chose to go that route in the first place.

    When I think back on it, I remember choosing fashion as my career because I wanted to do something different and challenging. So now that’s what I’m going to do!

  14. Anonymous

    October 19th, 2012 at 12:00 am

    […] bedroom door, so that as soon as my feet hit the floor each morning I would see its simple message: Enjoy the luxury. Pin […]

  15. Anonymous

    April 24th, 2013 at 9:53 pm

    […] the opportunity for the luxury for the luxury thank […]

  16. Anonymous

    September 15th, 2013 at 12:04 am

    […] When the Work You Love Feels Hard. […]

  17. julie24601@hotmail.com

    September 15th, 2013 at 3:09 pm

    This:”The luxury of the struggle, of the opportunity, growth, the potential, the chance to get better at what I loved.”
    is exactly what I needed to hear today/this month. I’ll be posting that on the back of my office door. Thank you!

  18. victoria.rudi@gmail.com

    October 11th, 2013 at 7:42 am

    Hi Laura:
    I dare to think that the work we love starts to feel hard, when we forget about the fun part of what we’re doing…

    And doesnโ€™t matter if this project embodies our life passion; when we forget about having fun, we forget our initial excitement. Under the pressure, we tend to sabotage our own project. We want to feel again this playful feeling, annihilating the weight of the external and mental tension.

  19. Anonymous

    February 27th, 2014 at 2:27 pm

    […] Having choice in our careers is a privilege we take for […]

  20. Anonymous

    October 28th, 2014 at 9:59 pm

    […] I work. I WORK. I mean, I work way more than is healthy sometimes. But it doesn’t feel HARD. It doesn’t feel like I have to bow and scrape and bend to make […]

  21. Anonymous

    March 2nd, 2015 at 8:50 pm

    […] job as a professional actor. I was out of my mind happy to be doing the work, but it was hard. I wrote a message and posted it by my door, and it would keep me going when I was […]

  22. bintangungu20@gmail.com

    April 23rd, 2018 at 7:34 am

    I love this post. Really, encourage me to enjoy the luxury that I have now. Thank you for sharing Laura. You made my day ๐Ÿ™‚

  23. laura@laurasimms.net

    April 23rd, 2018 at 1:17 pm

    Thanks, Liana!

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