On Hobbies, Jobs, Careers, and Vocations

I sent this newsletter out late in January that referenced a blog post from Elizabeth Gilbert. That post continues to sit with me and makes me want to delve further into how I occupy my time. There’s a certain element of fear that comes with exploring this topic: do I appear ungrateful for the work I do now?

Does it change your perception of me (as if I have any control over what happens when this post leaves my fingers and ends up on your screen!)? Will I ever sort out the right combination of work? Have I ignored a certain set of talents, strengths, and skills for so long that they no longer want to be friends with me?

As I look at what activities in my past and present fall into Gilbert’s categories (hobbies, jobs, careers, and vocations), I go on a little archaeological dig to overturn stones and find little nuggets of truth embedded in the dirt.  If you feel like coming on the journey with me (and I will take you ALL OVER the map), read on. Otherwise perhaps you might like some of these past posts.



Anything that brings joy, relaxation, distraction, satisfies a curiosity. I enjoy trying activities and I’ve collected a number of hobbies over the years:

  • Baking (only works well when I’m in a peaceful state of mind otherwise the end product is inevitably crap; also I thought of this one time as a job but couldn’t wrap my head around not being able to leave my storefront [always wanting to work for myself] to travel)
  • Reading
  • Journaling (I love spilling words out of my pen onto the page)
  • Travel
  • Watercolor and oil pastels

What do you enjoy doing in your downtime?



“It doesn’t have to be awesome.” Gilbert thinks everyone should have a job – tasks done for money – no matter one’s status in life.

I’ve held any number of odd jobs since about the time I was twelve. I’ve answered phones at a church rectory, delivered newspapers, lifeguarded at a pool, worked in a flower/gift shop, worked the Toronto municipal elections, held a number of administrative and professional office jobs, and I’ve guided wilderness canoe trips.  Some of these jobs have strung together into a lovely career.

And while Gilbert may not think a job needs to be soul-fulfilling, if I’m going to spend time doing it I want it to be soul-fulfilling. It doesn’t have to be 100% all-fulfilling all the time. Just enough to keep me plugging along when I’m in a slow or low period. I recognize what’s meaningful to me might be different than what’s meaningful to you.

How do you feel about having a job?


Something that should be done with excitement if you’re going to devote years to it! And not everyone will have a career – interesting thought.

For the first thirteen years out of school I had a career as a finance professional. I followed it until I wasn’t excited about it anymore.

As I transition to an outdoor industry professional and an independent business owner, I might be meeting some self-resistance at slower, lower points. Even three years into this I may – deep-down – occasionally judge myself for having a Masters in this and two Bachelors in that, that somehow not having a job or a career specifically tied to those fields is wrong (oh, the money and time invested!). Even though logically I know better. Logically I know that if I want something enough, I will work my ass off to get it.

If I never had another career after this one – the one I’m still transitioning into – would I be okay? Me – the queen of “CHANGE IS GOOD!” – off and running to the next apartment, rearranging the furniture every six months, hopping careers… I’m not sure I fully know what this one looks like yet.

Some of the doubt has started to shift in the last month. The projects I have on the go generate a lot of excitement for me. I was able to muzzle the inner critic long enough to get 4,000+ words down for a writing project and an application to exhibit some of my photos at an outdoor art exhibition.

Do you have a career? Want a career?



This where the calling falls. Will it translate into a job or a career or will it be something I do no matter what else is going on in my life?

The photography, the writing, the time outdoors – I should hope these will be things I’m going forever and ever. Truth be told, I haven’t been writing my whole life, creating stories on paper. As a kid I wanted to be an archeologist, an artist. I had some books about writing from my parents but I never worked at it.

I am forever learning and I love it. This became abundantly clear to me when I sat in on an Association of Experiential Educators’ webinar last month and it drew me back into thinking about the bigger picture. I get excited when I can connect the dots between theory and practice, but disillusioned when the theory doesn’t get put into practice or falls off somehow. I had a conversation recently about the lack of consistent strategy in transitioning strong individual contributors into managers of people. Corporate North America doesn’t have the right answer and neither do small mom and pop shops who may have sprung from a terrific individual contributor wanting to work for herself. I could talk about this for hours. However I suspect if I pursued this as work, I’d get a concussion from banging my head against a brick wall. So there’s a tangent for you.

What calls you in your life, brings you lightness?


This likely will continue to sit with me for a long while so expect to see more on it in the near future.

Published by Kate Monahan

Travel happy. Outdoors professional. Writer. Photographer. Educator.

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