On Loving What You Do (even if it’s legal)

People like to say that a key to happiness is doing what you love.  Or is it loving what you do?  For example, you might start out doing something you don’t like much, just because you need a job.  That happens.  I was a busboy in high school and it sucked.

Decades later, I met a bus “boy” at a Chinese restaurant in LA.  He was actually a man in his 20s named Bobby, an intelligent, amiable family guy who had (legally) immigrated from Central America.  Bobby worked at the restaurant at night to make extra money.  Very admirable.  On top of that, the guy was always smiling and friendly and engaged his customers, adults and kids alike.

Now me?  I’ve worked in the service industry in many capacities and have come to the conclusion that for the most part I’m not cut out for that kind of thing.  I could do it for the money (and have), but would never be great at it because I’m a big baby who likes to be waited on.  People pay for service at a restaurant, store, hotel or spa, and should get what they pay for, and so that would not be me.  I was a bad waiter.

Bobby seemed to love what he did, but maybe he just had a great attitude.  He took a job picking up dirty dishes and chopsticks and bringing people water and tea, which can be thankless, but then he just was himself, talking to these customers and their kids, asking questions and remembering names and sure enough, he ended up loving what he was doing because he made it enjoyable for himself.  So if you can’t do what you love, find a way to like what you do, even if it almost kills you.

Of course, I am incapable of this because I’m a spoiled knucklehead who is easily bored or overwhelmed, but not you.  As I always tell the kids, do as I say, not as I do.  Like my father before me, who also couldn’t suffer fools lightly, my entire goal in life was to work for the only person I can unreservedly respect: me.

Sometimes people figure out what they want to do early on.  And sometimes that works out.  Some kids want to be accountants when they’re toddlers. Okay, maybe not, but I do know a guy who knew he wanted to be a mathematician in third grade, and now he’s a prominent math professor (by the way, math people can get really pissy when you say “math” instead of mathematics. So no offense, brainiacs).

At 12 years of age, I wanted to be a lawyer because I liked TV shows such as Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law and old Perry Mason reruns. (note: there’s an Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law fan page on a site called ShareTV. It has 2 fans.)

Owen Marshall was a great lawyer. And why not, when you have the 6 Million Dollar Man as your associate!

Then, my parents decided that I would be a great lawyer. After all, I loved lawyer shows and arguing!  So like a good, brainwashed Jewish son, I became a lawyer.  I loved law school.  I liked my internships.  I didn’t even mind taking the bar exam, studying with my old friend Tony, who kept things lively by making incredibly inappropriate comments while doing flashcards, to see if he could throw me off.

But the actual practice of law sucked eggs.  Partially because I fell into the litigation world and, to toot my own horn, I’m not a big enough asshole to enjoy that kind of thing.  Or have a thick enough skin.

And to you litigators who take offense at this notion, one of my oldest friends was a litigator for many years and loved his job. He said he loved going to court and yelling and arguing and making the other side miserable.  If that’s not asshole-ish behavior, well, sue me.  Of course, one can be a professional asshole and still a good person in private life.

Case in point: New York litigators are vicious.  One time a very handsome, friendly, chain-smoking Orthodox Jewish attorney with a perfect blonde coiffure said to me with a warm smile after a settlement meeting, “just remember, whatever happens, nothing personal.”  He then litigated us to near death, sending pages and pages of expedited interrogatories at 6 p.m. on Fridays, discovery-ing the hell out of us.  Douche.   He caused me to develop digestive issues.  Bastard.

So even if you might like the idea of a certain profession (like the law), the actuality of it might not be what you expect.  On the bright side, at the rate he was smoking Marlboro 100s, it’s likely that no amount of prayer, synagogue attendance, or tefillin-laying would allow said blonde-coiffured attorney to be alive today.  Kidding.  Maybe he quit smoking and started doing pro bono work for the disadvantaged.

Doing something I love

That’s right! People change over the years, and so what you love also changes.  For example, as a teenager, working as a valet at the beach club in the summers and the catering halls year round was a great job!  It was fun! Outdoors! Working with friends! Driving rich people’s cars!

Today, this job would be hell.  Running to the lot to get the car.  Running back.  Driving these smelly, dirty cars (most of them aren’t Jaguars or Rolls). Working in cold and rain. Being cordial to assholes so they’ll give you a dollar tip.  But mostly all that running and sweating and working until one in the morning.  So even though I loved it in high school and college, this would not be my idea of a good time today.

And let’s face it.  Most people need to do jobs they might not even like.  No one wants to tolerate boring work, long hours, commuting, reporting to idiots, but… money.  At this point, the thing you can love about what you do is making the money.  Unfortunately, in this day and age, most working schleps don’t make enough money, so lots of people don’t like what they do and also don’t get paid enough.  That’s a double whammy.  This world needs more jobs that people like. Quality of life, etc.

Which brings me to one of our newest industries, weed.  I mean, marijuana.  The fast-moving legalization of marijuana in the U.S. is unprecedented.  It’s not just that people won’t go to prison anymore for possession or use of pot; the marijuana industry is taking off like a rocket, and creating jobs out of thin air.

And who is running these businesses?  Potheads, that’s who, especially on the local level.  Sure, the higher ups and investors are serious business people.  But it’s the garden-variety stoner running the shops, operating the software, doing the inventory, taking the money, paying the vendors, dealing with security issues, state authorities, licensing and the police.

Evidently, marijuana use can affect short term memory, but that appears to be only when the memory is about something other than weed.  (Aside: Maybe postal workers should move into this job market? You don’t hear about dispensary workers going postal.) It just goes to show that if you love your work, you’ll be better at it.

To sum up, it’s good to do what you love for a living, but for many of us, that’s just not possible, or there would be way too many rock stars.

Paul guitar
The author, doing what he loves and making thirty bucks.

The next best thing is to love what you do, which can happen by accident, or by adopting a great attitude.  And if all else fails, fill out an application at your local pot shop. They’re hiring.

I loved writing Smoking In Bed: dreams of love, sex, and terrorism.  If you made it all the way to the end of this, you should read it!

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