We all feel it sometimes. The last few mornings in August I woke up with a feeling so poignant it could have been a physical pain.
But it wasn’t. The loss I was mourning was so complete I couldn’t even put a name to it.
So I thought “longing” might do. Dictionaries define longing as a strong, persistent yearning – especially one that cannot be fulfilled.
I live in Wisconsin, where we spend much of the year longing for summer, and round about March it really can seem like the dream of warmer days will go unfulfilled.
But of course it doesn’t. Summer does come, eventually, and brings with it cookouts, campfires and more fairs than you can shake an ice chest at. It seems to do something to the light, like the setting sun has the power to capture time and settle it down in a lawn chair.
And then, all too quickly, summer’s on its way out and we’re left with golden mornings we know are numbered.
Of course, longing is bigger than a season. Because, in reality, summer also brings with it mosquitoes, traffic, strange skin eruptions and – no matter how much you’d like to settle into that lawn chair – summer is just as full of deadlines and responsibilities as any other time of year.
So it’s the idea of summer that spawns the longing.
Which makes me wonder if it isn’t ideas that spark all our longing.
That would explain the unattainable aspect of longing – you won’t ever be able to capture something if it’s not real.
It also explains why longing is not a good basis for career choices. Postcard images and idealized notions of what it means to work in some field are more likely to leave you feeling ache-y and lost than successful and fulfilled.
The disconnect between career dreams and workplace reality is played out pretty dramatically in the arts and non-profits. I once worked in fundraising for public radio and I recall meeting a new colleague, a refugee from commercial radio, who was thrilled to work in a place where people didn’t care about money.
As if! Most of us thought about money constantly. It didn’t necessarily guide the station’s programming choices, but it was a major concern. My colleague might have longed to work at a station where money didn’t matter, but the only place like that is Radio Never Land.
And they’re not hiring.
If you have a career goal, or dreams of a career goal, study those goals and dreams. Test them against reality. If there’s a connection, fine. If not, know that you’re dealing with longings and don’t let these impossible expectations hang you up – any more than stubborn dreams of summer can keep you on the beach while the birds are flying south.
by Danielle Dresden