I can imagine that few people enjoy getting up early five days a week to go to work, but that doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy what they do. I’ve never really understood how some pursue careers only for the money with little consideration regarding whether they enjoy the work or not. Over the past few years I have come to understand how important it is to love what you do, so I decided to reflect on it a bit this week.

In my time at a Jesuit institution, I have received a lot of exposure to a set of core values that foster education and personal growth. As someone leaving high school at the time, these values seemed nice and all but I didn’t really understand why they were important. They were certainly not priorities for me at first, but I have come to appreciate them with time. Incorporating these values into the curriculum included taking classes that paired education with these values. As a freshman, I really just wanted to go to class, turn in my assignments on time, and achieve my scholastic potential. As a result, these values were pushed to the side for my first year or so.

In my own defense, there was one value that did resonate with me as a freshman: community. This was probably the easiest value to accept and I did so fairly early on my freshman year; I wanted to develop those friendships that will last a life time and find those people that are there through the craziest four years of your life. I did indeed find those friends.

Around second semester sophomore year, I started to understand why the institution chose specific values, and just how important they are to being successful after graduation. A lot of my struggle with these values came from a misunderstanding of what they meant and how they would manifest themselves long term.

It was beyond the basic understanding of community that these values became difficult for me. Professors and administrators kept using the word “vocation” and for the life of me I couldn’t understand it. Vocation was always associated with religion or service in my head, which are in fact things I enjoy. In fact, I am fortunate enough to be a part of a program that allows students to go out into the community and serve for dozens of hours a semester. I just didn’t understand how vocation played into finding a career.

Throughout junior year, I started taking classes that allowed students to take our knowledge of the field and develop communication plans or designs to fit their needs. Service is a huge part of our school community, and getting experience with real clients has immeasurable value in my opinion. Through taking these classes, I began to understand the definition of vocation they were referring to was “a way of living that fosters growth to the individual while flourishing the surrounding community.” Finally, it made sense to me.

This concept absolutely manifests itself throughout the life of any individual, it is just a matter of whether you choose to acknowledge it or not. If you don’t, you might not feel as fulfilled. They emphasize this as a core value because if you don’t love what you do for the rest of your life, you may be doing it wrong. I have taken three philosophy classes and to be honest I’m not very good at it, but the one concept I understood most is this:

Work that a person does not enjoy is technically labor, and life is not meant to be filled with tasks that only feel laborious. Life at its core is meant to find fulfillment and self-actualization. In other words, we weren’t just given this opportunity called life to be miserable in an effort to make money.

Of course this hypothetical concept does not discriminate against those that have to work in fields they don’t enjoy, it is a critique on a society that has forgotten the meaning of life and requires people to work in fields that don’t promote personal growth. I didn’t understand how much I enjoyed the field I chose until I started working with clients and seeing designs and plans being carried out. It can be easy to get lost in completing hypothetical scenarios that require assignments for a grade.

I am grateful not only for the values that have been ingrained into my education, but the opportunity to witness how they manifest in real life experiences. It may have taken a while for me to understand, but I am grateful that I now know I am pursuing a career in the right field.