Living The So-Called Dream

Sunrise over Swans Cove Pool, Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, Assateague Island, Virginia

There was a recent post on The Online Photographer titled “How to be a Professional Photographer” where Mike Johnston commented about how difficult it was to make a living as a professional photographer.  There were a number of comments both in support of his post as well as lamenting the difficulty of the profession.  There were also a few humorous comments.

The joke that I’ve always loved about being a professional photographer goes something like this: An amateur photographer is someone who has a good job so they can buy nice gear and travel to exotic places to take photographs.  A professional photographer is someone whose spouse has a good job so they can buy nice gear and travel to exotic places to take photographs.  Somehow that’s never worked for me – I couldn’t get the spousal support I needed to pursue my passion.  I’m kidding, of course!

Kirk Tuck chimed into the conversation with a thoughtful comment and a post on his own blog.  Most of Kirk’s post was his usual well-reasoned commentary.  He is a professional photographer with a lot to be proud of.  He has seemingly mastered the business side of the business while staying current with technology and changes in the marketplace.  His is a voice to pay attention to when it comes to operating a photography studio as a business.  The statement that got a little under my skin, however – probably because it is a bit of a sore subject for me – was when he said that “retirement is only for people who didn’t like their careers.”

Of course the publishing world is full of people writing about how everyone should be pursuing their passion/finding their North Star/determining the color of their parachute, etc., and that if they aren’t living their dream they need to (after buying the author’s particular book, of course) set off on their own path of self-discovery and do their own wonderful passion-inducing thing.  Wouldn’t that be lovely?  In my opinion, very few folks are fortunate enough to even figure out what they are passionate about, let alone have all the skills and (to a certain extent) good luck required to actually make a living from their work.  And that assumes they figure out what they are passionate about early enough in their life to actually do something about it!

The rest of us get jobs.  Even if it is banking or insurance or hospitality or something that isn’t terribly glamorous, hopefully our jobs provide enough of whatever kind of satisfaction we are looking for, pay enough to cover the rent and save with a little left over to spend on something fun.  If we’re really fortunate we are able to keep our jobs long enough to call it a career while saving and investing responsibly so that at some point we can walk away from work and do something – anything – else.  Not that our work sucks or that our careers have been a failure, it’s just that instead of “pursuing our passion” we found a good enough job that we were able to do long enough to finally be able to walk away.  That’s not failure, it’s a different kind of success!

Retirement is a subject I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about and preparing for.  I’ve had a great career and am proud of what I’ve accomplished over 40 years in banking.  Even though I haven’t been “pursuing my passion” by someone’s arbitrary standards, I’m very happy with the direction things have taken and am looking forward to being able to explore the world with the person I love without the constraints and distractions of work.  And that is something I’m very passionate about!

Last day at work – for both me and Kathy – is May 25! 🙂

10 thoughts on “Living The So-Called Dream”

  1. Good post Tom. Much like you I’ve just had regular jobs all my working life though I can’t say I’ve ever felt passionate about any particular profession. I’m not even sure my interest in art and photography qualify as passions. When I see my son and his passion for writing, it’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced. He works at it 7 days a week, 365 days a year because, as he puts it, nothing else comes close to giving him the same sense of fulfilment and happiness.
    I’m not complaining though. I like the work I do, I like who I work for and the conditions I am afforded. Nothing to complain about and lots to be grateful for. So much so that even though my retirement age came around last year, I don’t see myself retiring. I’m hoping I’ll remain healthy enough to continue working for many more years. I really don’t know what I would do if I retired. Anyway, I’ll see what life has in store.
    As for you and Kathy, May 25 isn’t far away and I wish you all the best for many years to come.

    1. Thank you, Cedric. The ironic thing for me is that I currently have the best job I think I’ve ever had. The work and the people are great but even with all that it’s time to be done. We’ve reached a point where having more time is a higher priority than making more money, so off we go!

  2. Being able to retire and not “have to” work is in itself an accomplishment, a success, these days. So many of retirement age must work simply to live and I fear it will be even more so for the following generations. The elderly are becoming a larger percentage of the job market that use to be cosidered “teenager jobs”…fast food, waiting tables, stocking, etc. “Pursuing your passion” is great and I sincerely applaud and admire those who can do so and earn a living at the same time but there’s no shame in working a honorable job or career to live. Pre-congratulations on the 25th!

    1. Thank you, Earl. Kathy and I fully expect that one or both of us will end up doing some kind of “work” but only if it’s something we’re excited about. Then it won’t matter if we get paid or not.

  3. A very exciting time for you and your wife. From my experience, it takes some time to adjust to not having a job to go to. Sure I have my interests to pursue: travel, photography (similar to you I think)… but in my case I felt a sense of loss almost two years ago when I retired. My current job is managing a move, and that is more than a full time job, but I am still wondering how it will be once we are settled. It is an adjustment, especially if you liked your work and the people you worked with.

    I wish you a long and happy retirement.

    1. Thank you, John. There will be adjustments to make, certainly. We know that things are going to be different, but we don’t know how different or different how. We’re looking forward to finding out!

  4. First, congratulations to you and Kathy!
    I’ve enjoyed the different passions in my life. Some I still have and some have faded into the past but with good memories. In some ways I envy Cedric’s son, and others like him, and their passion(s).
    My four years of retirement have not been anything like I had imagined. Some of the dreams have not happened, yet, and others have appeared. It’s all a gift for me as long as I look at what I’m experiencing of life.
    By the way this is a well written post and wishing the best for you and Kathy! I am also looking forward to hearing about the adventures you will discover over the next few years.

  5. Well, Tom! Once again, congratulations to you and Kathy! You made it through the long haul! 🙂 Kirk has a lot to be proud of, for sure! I’m happy that he’s found a job/career/position/passion/vocation that he can work forever. Like Cedric, I think that I’ll continue to work for quite a while, at least until I come up with something else that I’d rather do. I really like what I do. It keeps my mind active and challenged.

    I must admit, though, I am noticing a bit of a green tinge on my skin from the envy that I feel about your impending retirement. 😉 I’m sure that it will go away! LOL

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