Last week, I talked about learning how to say “no” to things and how to discern what I should actually be saying “no” to. As I mentioned in that post, saying “no” is all about self-awareness and understanding your needs, your likes, your limits, and how you want to be treated. In order to really understand myself in this way, I’ve had to learn the difference between dislike and dread. For me, there’s a very fine line between things that I just don’t enjoy and things that I truly dread doing. While dislike is something that everyone has to put up with every once in a while, dread, for me, is something that makes life not worth living. Dread is a sign that something needs to change.
I learned the difference between dislike and dread when I was graduating from college and choosing my future career path. I went to college to become a research scientist. I spent my entire college career ignoring what I did not like about research. I dreaded each lab and each research paper, and I even sobbed hysterically during one of our animal lab procedures. I kept making all kinds of excuses as to why I could still enjoy research. No job is perfect, after all, and I wouldn’t love every part of anything. It wasn’t until I understood that I could, and even should, say “no” to becoming a researcher that I realized how much I dreaded pretty much everything about research. While I had decided years previously that I would go into research, it was okay to change my course and do something else because research would make me profoundly unhappy.
My blindly diving into academia wasn’t over after my undergraduate career, however. When I graduated college and began to work my 9-to-5, I decided to go back to school to get my degree in Student Affairs because, from my undergraduate experience, I believed it would make me happy. I spent countless hours applying to and interviewing at schools, psyching myself up the entire time. Sure, I wouldn’t enjoy the schoolwork, but that was okay. Sure, I wasn’t nearly as excited about conferences and professional growth as my peers, no big deal. Sure, I doubted I would enjoy working in Student Affairs as an administrator as opposed to a student, but so what? I would get over it. It wasn’t until I really considered the fact that I shouldn’t dread all of these things about my professional life that I was able to take away the blinders and make a realistic decision as to what would actually make me happy.
When it comes to our livelihoods, it’s important to find something we’re at least somewhat happy with. When you’re spending at least a third of your day at work, you can’t wake up dreading every single day. You don’t have to look forward to every single day and every single aspect of your job, but dreading getting out of bed every morning is a terrible feeling that no one should have to experience. As mentioned in my last article, I’m striving to be as transparent with my bosses as possible at work. If there are projects I’m dreading, I make sure they know my feelings. Don’t get me wrong, I would never complain constantly at work, but I’ve found it’s best to be honest with your boss about your strengths, weaknesses, and happiness. Every boss wants their employees performing optimally, and no one is performing optimally if they’re dreading coming in to work.
For me, this learning experience didn’t just stop with my career. There have been so many hobbies/clubs/organizations that I’ve had in my life which I continued participating in even though I dreaded doing them. If you’re dreading doing and it isn’t necessary for the health and well-being of yourself or those around you, here is the sign you’ve been looking for: CUT. IT. OUT. Seriously, it can feel like a big deal to just completely drop something you’ve been doing for a while, but if you’re dreading it, then you will be living a better life once it is gone. Just imagine getting rid of it and replacing it with something you love doing. Don’t you feel better already?
I personally grew up around a lot of influences that said quitting anything was despicable and that you really need to stick with things and persevere for some strange and unnecessary reason. As an adult, it’s been hard to break out of this mindset and realize leaving something behind that isn’t serving you isn’t only good, but necessary! We only have one life to live here, and there’s no point in spending your time doing things you dread.
This can even mean standing up to or cutting off toxic people or people that you’ve simply outgrown. As kids, we can be too afraid to stand up for ourselves for fear of not fitting in or being seen as too sensitive or too mean. As adults who have matured (at least a bit, hopefully), we can more realistically assess how we’re treated and demand to be treated correctly. Like everything else, it’s okay to dislike people and not mesh with them perfectly, but if you’re dreading seeing them, it could be time to reflect and move on. There’s no shame in distancing yourself from people who make you feel bad. Protecting your energy and putting yourself first is important, even if it means cutting out people who you’ve known for a long time.
I’m sure I’m not the only one with a lot of feelings about…everything. There’s only so much control we have over what we face in life and how much of it we enjoy. There are plenty of things that we dislike and even dread, but the best thing that we can do is carefully exercise the control we have over this life. Unpleasantness is inevitable, but dread can be avoidable. Take a step back and see how you feel. If you find that there’s something in life that you dread, find a way around it. You’re not actually living your life if all that you’re feeling is dread.
Photography by my talented fiancé. You can find him on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/hope_grows_here/