“That’s it! I’m leaving Buffalo, moving to Indiana, and starting my new life as a duck farmer!”

Several weeks ago, as I was eating lunch at my desk and feeling particularly disillusioned about the iron-clad fifty hour work week that sometimes feels tantamount to being locked in a cave, I started researching duck farms. This is not an altogether unusual pattern for me; having been a misfit and malcontent for most of my life, I struggle to find contentment and seek new adventures almost compulsively. 

So that week it was duck farming, but my daydream careers have also been: IT, ministry, pediatric emergency medicine, ski instructing, restaurateur-ing, writing, paramedicine, farming, ranching, zamboni-driving, supply chain management, salmon fishing, whiskey-making, foster parenting, produce buying, urban development, motivational speaking, architecture, professional sailing, chef, counseling, C-suite executive, and goat yoga instructor. In twenty-seven years I’m sure there have been more (feel free to chime in, mom), but the point is that my interests are as varied as the colors in a confetti bomb, and I’m left chasing little flecks of paper all over the floor. 

Most of the time I’m deeply pleased with the work I do, and relish the privilege of serving as a leader and manager in a fast-paced store full of truly kind people. I know how fortunate I am, and I try not to take it for granted, but sometimes, like all of us I suspect, my well runs dry and I find myself searching for the exit or dreaming of another way. When I’m in this place, I’m entertaining “burnout dreams.” These are the careers that probably don’t really make sense for us, but are so vastly different from our current circumstance that it’s tempting to pick up and move to Alaska to start a new life in halibut fishing. 

These are fun things to think about, and usually unrealistic, but they can reveal patterns in our longings that are worth noting. For example, my burnout dreams usually include nature and solitude. These are two things that I get very little of in my current role, so as I guide my career, I’m trying to get more time outdoors, and more time alone. For you it might be the opposite (especially if you’ve been working from home). So while I don’t often think it wise to follow an impulse borne of frustration, your dreams in those moments of exhaustion may reveal some important needs that are going unmet. 

For me, the current dream is ranching somewhere way to the west, bringing new health to the soil and caring for animals. Solitude and nature. It will change when I start getting more of those things, which is why I won’t follow the whim, but I will listen to what it says about my head and my heart—maybe there’s space for you to do the same.

2 Comments

  1. Bob Kaus

    I think most of us think of our lifestyle as mundane and predictable at times. You however are anything but predictable and you seem to lead a very full life with your sailing, hunting, skiing, writing and other talents. I predict you will soon find your passion in life and your cup will be full. Keep on reaching for those stars!

    Reply
  2. Tavia

    I had to laugh my way through this post. It’s all true! Add spy, climbing (rock, mountain and/or tree) and purveyor of wine. I agree with Bob, you have been anything but predictable, but you have always made the next right step. Keep taking deep dives into your “daydream careers.” For one, I like listening to them, but also, I agree with you that they’ll lead you where you need to go. Dad and I will do the same.
    Along for the ride,
    Mom

    Reply

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