I started college as a psychology major. Like everyone else calling themselves a psychology major, I wanted to help people. But the summer after my freshman year, I started to feel anxious about psychology. I wasn’t sure I liked it as much as I thought I would. I struggled through my third psychology class and lacked motivation to try harder.
I entered sophomore year with a goal to try some journalism classes along with my psychology classes. Immediately, I liked journalism. It was challenging, but I was motivated to the do the work. I loved creating something every week. You could say I felt the yay.
“The yay” is what I call the feeling that makes me want to tell everyone I know about the exciting thing I’m doing. It’s the thing that makes me want to get it just right – even if it means spending long hours on it because those long hours don’t feel like work.
In recent years, I’ve learned that I need to follow the yay. If something leaves me feeling energized, I need to find a way to get more of that into my life. For example, my New York apartment had easy access to Central Park, and Hudson River Park. I found myself struggling with each step through the park. But running by water made the steps feel lighter, so I stopped turning right when I stepped off my stoop and went left to the river instead.
Earlier this year, my work team embarked on a long-term project. The first two months were all logistics. I’m a content strategist, and I love the content part. I love crafting a piece. I love putting fingers to keys and watching the words come together. I don’t even hate revising it after a stakeholder or colleague takes a crap all over my original. In my experience, two brains almost always make a piece stronger. (Four or more brains ALWAYS makes it worse. Much worse.) I love measuring the success of my work and revising it if I can make it perform better.
I don’t love the strategy part of my job. This is things like deciding the best order to put the pages in, putting together the flow for a user to reset their password or seemingly endless debates about why it should say “sign in” vs. “log in.” (There’s no right or wrong answer. Just make a decision and let’s move on!)
I like my usual mix of content writing and strategizing. But with a big project like this, we had months of all detailed logistics, planning and ugh! I was miserable at my job those months. I wasn’t doing any of the writing that makes me excited to go to work. The hours at work were dragging on.
Then we reached the part of the project when I got to start writing. Not completely, but when it shifted that direction, and I immediately felt the yay again. I remembered why I like my job. I started seeing my co-workers as people who are a joy to be around, which means I was a more pleasant colleague. I stopped coming home and searching for a different job. Even though the writing is a lot of work, it doesn’t feel like a struggle the way the planning did. I could knock out pages of content in an afternoon.
This is important information for me when making life decisions. Follow the yay. It’ll lead me where I need to be.