the problem(s) with “Do What You Love”

The “Do What You Love” meme has been flaunting itself all over my pinterest feed lately. It’s a popular sentiment, and one that I vehemently supported as a teen. With parents who not only indulged my musical aspirations, but who could afford to support private music lessons and a university education, why wouldn’t I? The sky was the limit.

In her article, In the Name of Love, Miya Tokumitsu writes: “by keeping us focused on ourselves and our individual happiness, DWYL distracts us from the working conditions of others while validating our own choices and relieving us from obligations to all who labor, whether or not they love it. It is the secret handshake of the privileged and a worldview that disguises its elitism as noble self-betterment.” In other words, being in a position to embrace DWYL is a privileged one, and pretending that DWYL can apply to everyone denies this fact. (You should really read the whole article; it’s so good.)

My teenaged self thought that if I worked hard enough, and wanted it badly enough, my dreams would materialize. I didn’t really have a concept of how my socioeconomic status was the foundation for those dreams, and I certainly didn’t understand that DWYL was becoming and all-pervasive subliminal doctrine that helps to devalue and exploit labourers.

My teenaged self also never imagined that an invisible illness would quite suddenly take away my aspirations to sing, teach, and conduct choirs for a living. But here I find myself teaching English, and searching for new career options that will allow me to better manage this incurable, lifelong condition. Not only is DWYL for the elite, it’s for the able-bodied. Sure, I could come up with examples of people who turned their passion into a job despite seemingly insurmountable limitations, and good for them, but the reality is that this is not always possible.

If I could give advice to my teenaged self, it would be this: aim to do what you love, but pay attention to the rights of all workers, whether or not they love their work. And for heaven’s sake, have a back-up plan!

I hope that I will find new money-making things to love as passionately as the things I can no longer do, but the DWYL lustre is gone for me. Now when I come across the DWYL meme, I think fuck that:

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  1. […] of my favorite posts besides her #SpoonieSelfie call to arms: 1. On Getting Through The Pain 2. The Problem(s) with “Do What You Love” 3. On Guilt What are you guys waiting for, share, contribute, have some fun with this and educate […]

  2. […] I’ve done my grieving about leaving music education behind, but I still miss it so much that I basically just try not to think about it (so please don’t bring it up!). When I come across Do What You Love and Follow Your Dreams memes, I still think, bitterly, stupid priviledged, ableist propaganda. Do what you can, do what you can! […]

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