When I was in graduate school, I fell in love with data communication and network engineering. I don’t quite know what it was that entranced me so much, but I found it fascinating. I could analyze packets until the cows came home.
Fast-forward to graduation, and getting a real job. I quickly realized that network engineers had to do one thing that, at the time, I simply could not do and maintain my sanity. They were on-call 24/7.
I know, what’s the big deal, right? But I am seriously traumatized about being on call. My parents were on call the whole time I was growing up, and that pager was like the Sword of Damocles hanging over our heads. No family vacations, because Dad or Mom had to stay home to be on call. Every fun activity carried with it the implicit threat that Daddy or Mom would have to leave. I vowed that I would never be on call like that.
So, what to do? Here was a career-path that I found fascinating, combined with a requirement that I couldn’t personally fulfill and stay sane. I thought long and hard about my choices. I could pursue the career track that most interested me for a few years, and then move out of it. I could try to find a job that didn’t require 24/7 support (not likely). Or I could try to move into the career later, when maybe I had less fun stuff in my outside life that I wanted to do.
I ended up compromising – I went into IT, but in a place where I could stay close to the data communication aspects and dip my toes in occasionally, but not make it my primary responsibility. My day-to-day work has never been as interesting as what I could have done had I pursued data communication, but I don’t regret the commensurate lack of stress.
I don’t regret not wanting to be on call 24/7. For me, that’s just not something I could handle. But I do regret not spending more time trying to figure out ways to pursue my other dream jobs in music.
It’s easy to fall in love with part of a job and not the whole thing. To find your dream job, you have to figure out where you can compromise, and where you draw the line for your own personal happiness. And don’t give up so easily. Think clearly about where you can and cannot compromise, and if you aren’t certain, give it a try and then figure out if you’ve gone to far. It’s better to try and then backtrack a bit than to just write something off as “too hard” if it’s something you are really passionate about.