“Love what you do and do what you love.” This age-old phrase was preached by Ray D. Bradbury and now continues to be used, overused, and reversed. It has even been turned into an acronym — DWYL. But what exactly does it mean for us to do something and love it? Or to choose to do something for the rest of our lives because we love it?
After being fortunate enough to spend some time interning this past summer, I was able to gain insight into what adulthood is truly like. Luckily, most of my mentors were happily enveloped in what they were doing. So, seeing them take on task after task with enthusiasm was cause for hope. But when the questions turned over to me and my future plans, I reflexively responded with “I want to do what I love and love what I do.” Though this phrase was followed by synchronized head nods and uh-huhs, after thinking about what I had just said, the phrase seemed to only leave me more confused.
Everyone wants to spend their waking hours doing things they enjoy. No one goes out into the world wanting to work for something or someone they despise and actively choose to do things they hate. Yet, most people genuinely hate what they do and visibly and audibly complain about it. (I see you working on those problem sets, Econ concentrators shooting for Goldman Sachs.)
Thus, if everyone acknowledges the meaning of the DWYL phrase, why do people still commit to things they hate? Does the phrase not carry the weight that it once did?
Not necessarily. With looming financial and future obligations, it becomes ever more difficult to do what one loves as one gets older. Everybody loves and values things differently. However, a common characteristic among people who do not “do what they love” is that they love something else more. Their ultimate choice of occupation took a sacrifice.
In my view, we are essentially all doing what we love, just not in the typical way everyone thinks. For example, the custodian of your first-year dorm — more likely than not — would prefer to not clean up your vomit from the night before. Yet, there they are the next morning, at 9 a.m., mopping the bathroom floor and genuinely wishing you a good morning as you grudgingly walk to the morning class you thought you could handle but are now severely regretting.
As a twenty year-old, that custodian mopping up your vomit may have used the same DWYL phrase to describe their future. But at the time, doing what they loved most likely did not involve a mop and some disinfectant. And, this does not apply only to the lower paying ends of the spectrum. A doctor, lawyer, broker, or politician may not always love what they do. In actuality, many individuals in those fields warn against joining their field. They would suggest you avoid the troubles associated with the job entirely and tell you to choose something “better.”
So, how will we ever make the right choice? How will we ever know what loving what one does really means? And how will we choose a career and a life in which we are doing what we love?
After pondering the question for myself and then asking family and friends, the answer is simple: Doing what you love does not have to mean doing what we think we should love or what other people think we would love. It can often mean doing something that benefits those we love, including ourselves.
That custodian mopping the floors at 9 a.m. has a two year-old daughter at home who he gets to see every night after his shift. When he comes home, he can spend quality time with her and treat her to nutritious formula that he is able to pay for with his custodian paycheck.
The doctor, the hotel receptionist, the graphic designer, the mechanical engineer, the mail carrier, and the hundreds of unique jobs that an individual can have all have the potential to be worthwhile if they sustain a higher meaning for themselves. Doing what one loves, then, means doing what one values, whether that is in direct relation to one’s job or a result of it.
Thus, as finals approach and as the stress starts to fume out of students’ ears, it is important that we remind ourselves that we are not defined by what we assume our dream position or dream life will be. It is important to live in the moment and realize that what we are doing now is our dream. We are at Harvard, we are learning incredible things, and we are blessed with opportunities others do not have. Just breathe and everything else will fall into place.
Ridhwana Z. Haxhillari ’21, a Crimson Editorial comper, is a Government concentrator in Lowell House.