In a staggering little piece for Jacobin called 'In the Name of Love', Miya Tokumitsu takes a good long look at the adage 'Do What You Love' (DWYL) - a mantra Millennials world-over seem to live by (or spend their lives straining to live by, at any rate) - and makes a searing case for how, in one fell swoop, DWYL "distracts us from the working conditions of others while validating our own choices and relieving us from obligations to all who labour, whether or not they love it." I start my piece on this note primarily in a bid to deconstruct this month's editorial prompt which informs me that studies on 'happiness' show that "job-related satisfaction" seems to be a recurring theme for Millennials. In fact, the Happify study's Chief Data Science Officer Ran Zilca goes as far as holding that, "if we overlay gratitude with long-term and short-term goals, a picture surfaces of a Millennial mind that is mainly occupied with landing the perfect job and that is subject to a good deal of stress and anxiety. Based on these results, it can be concluded that some Millennials place far too much emphasis on work as the key to their happiness.”
Now I don't know about you, but I find this disconcerting: what sort of a nightmarish Catch-22 situation is this? We seek 'happiness' not in who we are, but in what we do, because we inhabit a culture which glorifies the idea that we'll be happy only as long as we don't perceive that what we do is actually 'work' at all.
Of course, as Tokumitsu warns us, the real achievement of this insidious creed is that it makes "workers believe their labour serves the self and not the marketplace," - you don't mind putting in the endless hours, going nights on end without sleep, skipping endless meals, and basically neglecting your body till it threatens to break down all because you derive happiness from the comfort - the privilege - of loving what you do. I should know. I speak from experience. Time was, I'd convinced myself that I had never worked a day in my life (despite the fact that I've held down a job since I was 18) because how could someone paying me to read, write, teach and basically live the life of the mind I was born to live actually be considered something as base as, gasp, work? I think back to my time as a journalist, when I was part of the core team that launched a national newspaper in Gujarat: we'd make and edit mock-ups almost all night; be back at the news-room the next afternoon to have at it all over again. On the eve of our first issue, I remember staggering into my house at 7.30 am, only to be back in the newsroom less than 6 hours later. And I remember loving it: work gave me purpose. I derived (and in so many ways, continue to derive, although I promise I'm working on weaning myself off this dependence) my sense of self from that which I did because it gave me agency: I would write/teach the world better. Pfft. I sound fatuous, even to my own ears.