Unsolicited advice is the worst, isn’t it?
Even when people mean well, the advice you didn’t ask for is almost always a little bit patronising, a little bit awkward, and often just plain wrong. In fact, even the advice you DO ask for can end up steering you down a totally wrong path, and recently I got to thinking (I have no idea how or why) just how different my life would be if I’d taken some of the well-meant advice I’ve been given over the years. Things like…
Don’t make your hobby your job
I remember being told this when I was a little girl who was totally sure she wanted to be an Olympic showjumper when she grew up. And, I mean, thank God I didn’t take the advice given to me, because just look at me now, with my gold medals, my stable of prize-winning showjumpers, and my… oh no, wait: that didn’t actually happen, didn’t it? The advice I was given, though, wasn’t to avoid horses specifically, but simply to avoid turning a hobby into a job. (Yes, Olympic showjumping was totally my childhood hobby, I swear.) “It will ruin the hobby for you,” I was told, “because once you HAVE to do it, you’ll find that you don’t WANT to do it.”
I was really confused about this. For one thing, I could’t even IMAGINE not wanting to be around horses 24/7, but for another, if I wasn’t allowed to pursue a career doing something I loved, the only alternative on offer seemed to be that I should deliberately seek out a job I DIDN’T enjoy, just so that the few hours of free time I had every week could be spent on my hobby. This made absolutely zero sense to me, because either way you looked at it, I was presumably going to spend my working life being miserable, and wasn’t life too short for that?
Well, fast-forward a few (OK, OK, more than a few…) years, and here I am, with a hobby (blogging) which I turned into a job. And honestly, I couldn’t be happier about it. I’m not for a second trying to claim that it would be the ideal solution for everyone, and I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who would, indeed, find that their hobbies were effectively “ruined” if they tried to turn them into a career. Happily, though, I’m not one of them: I still love blogging every bit as much as I did when it was a hobby rather than a job, and in fact, I think the challenges that full-time blogging bring have helped make it more interesting to me. No job is perfect, obviously, but then again, no hobby is either: I loved horse-riding, for instance, but I wasn’t quite so keen on mucking out stalls, so it’s not like keeping something as purely a hobby will allow you to simply skip all the things you don’t like about it.
Get a nice, sensible job
Most of the people who told me not to make my hobby my job advocated getting a nice, sensible job, instead. I actually DID take this advice, and I’ve never been more miserable in my life. Just to contradict the title of this post, though, I AM glad I took this particular piece of advice, because it taught me that I’m just not cut out for “traditional” employment. I like being my own boss, I love being able to set my own schedule, and work on things I’m passionate about, and if I hadn’t had a series of “normal” jobs first, I wouldn’t have known that, would I?
Still on the subject of work (I swear I didn’t intend these to all be career-related when I started this post!)…
Don’t work with your partner
“You’ll argue all the time,” everyone told me. “You’ll start to hate each other.” “You need to spend time apart.” Again, this definitely wouldn’t work for everyone, but Terry and I met at work, and then started a business together from home, and so far none of the dire predictions people made about couples who work together have come true.
I think it helps that although we both work from home, we don’t work on the same projects: Terry is involved with the business and technical side of my blogging business, but for the most part he’s busy with his clients, and I’m busy with my blogs, so we’re not working “together” per se. Terry also likes to watch TV while he works, while I require complete silence (he wears headphones, so we’re both happy!), so it’s not like we’re sitting chatting all day either – we do talk, obviously, but we’re both fairly engrossed in our separate tasks, so it doesn’t get too claustrophobic.
Again, it wouldn’t work for everyone, but it works for us, so it’s all good.
Don’t buy a dog
The first thing I did when Terry and I had the offer accepted on our first house was to go out and buy a puppy. Pretty much everyone I knew was absolutely aghast at this. “Don’t do it!” they told me. “A dog will tie you down!” (I always get a mental imagine of Rubin tying me to a chair or something when people say this…) “It will eat your stuff! Your life just won’t be the same!”
Well, it’s true that travel is a little bit trickier when you have a pet to consider, and yes, he did eat a LOT of my stuff when he was a puppy. (RIP those green and gold shoes: how I loved you!) But, I mean, just look at this face and tell me I’d be better off without it in my life?
You can’t do it, can you? (If you can, I’m giving you total side-eye right now, I swear.) He can be a complete pain in the butt when he wants to be, but honestly, he’s such a little sweetheart that you just can’t stay mad with him. Not even that time when I got up at 4am to catch a flight and discovered that he’d had really explosive diarrhoea in the night, and … actually, I’m not even going to finish this story: it’s just too gross.
We love him, is what I’m saying. And I’m really glad we got him.
Cut your hair short and completely change your wardrobe as soon as you hit 30
No one in my “real life” ever said this to me, but I read it – and other advice like it – in so many magazines etc that as my 30th birthday approached, I became convinced that I would soon have to chop off my long hair and start wearing boring, matronly clothes befitting my advanced age. I remember buying a particular dress which hit just a couple of inches above my knee, and absolutely agonizing over whether or not it was appropriate now that I was so OLD.
I’m SO glad I got over all of that. I actually didn’t really find my style, or have fun with fashion, until I was in my 30s, and I’d have missed all of that if I’d accepted the received wisdom that after a certain age, women should essentially become invisible. And imagine how dull life would be without all of those dresses I didn’t think I should be wearing!
I’m sure I could come up with some more examples if I tried, but, well, I’ve talked for long enough now, so I’ll simply close by re-iterating that I’m not saying any of this advice is “bad” necessarily (Well, apart from the last one…): just that I’m glad I didn’t take it, because my life would’ve been so different if I had. What about you? Any advice you’re glad YOU didn’t take?