Ever since I was a child, I had this strong desire of opening up an orphanage in India – a place where children were educated and loved for who they were. For many years, well into my twenties, I thought the “only” way of realizing any part of that dream was to work really hard, make a lot of money and then find a way to open an orphanage.
However, when I started working, I was miserable at my first job. It wasn’t that the company wasn’t good but there was a strong misalignment between my personal values and what I experienced at work. And I realized very early that my model of working hard to climb up to the top wasn’t quite going to be the way I experience joy and purpose and more importantly how I defined success. And while it may have helped to open that orphanage, the journey wasn’t worth it.
So, then began my quest to find a job to fuel all parts of me. Over the next 8 years or so I switched multiples jobs, companies and industries. I worked in HR and I wrote code. I did ethnographic research and I managed incentive plans. I got my yoga certification, volunteered, led workshops and retreats. And oh yes, I even went to business school to learn more about the intersection of sustainability and business.
All in the hopes of finding that one perfect thing that would fuel all parts of me: nourish me emotionally and intellectually, allow me to express myself, contribute positively in the world and of course pay me a decent wage.
Once I was pregnant and had my first child, I realized my equation was even more complex. Commute time ranked higher on my priority list. My expenses were higher and when life at home was a little more chaotic, I valued stability and security more than I had in the previous years.
And my quest continued – with lots of self-doubt, frustration, a loud inner critic and yes, a lot of tears.
And then about 2 years earlier, something shifted. I got a job that fueled many parts of me in a very beautiful way(not all) and I worked on this blog consistently. This is the best I have felt when it comes to thinking about a life of meaning and purpose.
This integration of multiple bodies of work, projects & hobbies has collectively fueled all parts of me.
And interestingly, living in this mindset has made me less emotionally dependent on my regular job but I feel more invested in and committed to my career as a product marketer. And yet, I have also been able to make time and space to pursue other projects like the 10K project, 52 hikes project (on instagram) and create some small pieces of art for my home.
While I do know people who have one job or business that can fuel them completely, I know that’s not my path at least for the short term and here’s why.
- I have multiple interests and sometimes competing values (creativity & stability) and it is realistically hard for me to find that one thing. It’s not just about finding that one thing but then convincing someone that you are the right person to do that job:)
- I am relatively new to writing. As I am honing my skills and developing my voice, I really appreciate that I can write that I believe in and what I want to say. I don’t have to focus on aligning to what an organization or manager wants me to say or do. If this was my full-time job, I’d be a lot more nervous and anxious and that would take away from the joy of the creative process (at least as a beginner though at some point I hope to do more of writing)
- I have a myriad range of skills and relationships that add to the richness of my life in a way that one thing independently could not.
- Most importantly, having multiple identities has made me less attached to any one of them but more committed to the effort, process and journey.
If you are curious about the whole concept of side projects, here are my favorite resources!
- Side Hustle School – This is a great resource for people looking to start side projects that can generate an income. Great podcast, inspiring stories with a strong bias for action.
- How to be everything – I recently read this book and wish I had found this earlier in my life when I felt my day job had to fuel all parts of me. I was wrong and this book shows you the many, many ways to feed all parts of you with side projects being only ONE of them!!
- One person, many careers – Another interesting book and as the name suggests a guide to have more than one career in your lifetime
- Plan C: Full-time employee and part time entrepreneur – I had read this book a few years back and was a great way of thinking of how to combine a small business and a full-time career
And as I had shared in my previous post, I am working on pivoting my blog for parents who want to pursue or are currently pursuing side projects. To help me realize this vision, I am looking for what my target audience currently values and would love to learn from you. I’d greatly appreciate your participation in this quick survey or feel free to drop me a note with your ideas and feedback at Mandhani dot neha at gmail dot com