Sunday, January 12, 2020

Vocation, Avocation, and the New Detective

Having just come off a very heavy work week, which drained all the good Sherlockian time, my thoughts quite naturally turned to that whole "doing what makes money" versus "doing what you love" question we all face. Some rosey-gazed folk always preach "do what you love to earn a living," but in practical terms, that falls into the "crystals with healing properties" category of something that just doesn't seem to work for anyone but the rare few.

Sherlock Holmes did what he loved, of course. Young Sherlock seems to have been something of a "murderino" to put it in terms of a current podcast hit. He also worked out his own skillset and created his own occupation from scratch, based upon his avocation. Yet, one gets the feeling that, like so many who turn hobby into career, he started with some family money backing him up. It wasn't a lot, and he still had to share rooms to get a good address, but he sure didn't pay Mrs. Hudson by laying around the flat so often and solving puzzles for match-girls, governesses, and lost-and-found items brought in by neighbors.

When Sherlock Holmes says "I am a poor man" and pats that nice check at the end of "Priory School," he's not doing it as a joke, even though he probably isn't that poor at that particular moment. (Did his hiatus in Asia and Europe drain his funds?) He's probably just reminiscing about the start of his career when the cash flow wasn't so good.

Still, Sherlock did well enough that he was able to retire and leave London at a relatively young age and buy a place in Sussex. And, as we oft forget, he did have an ability to find other work when he needed it. While he used his disguise as a groom to get information in "A Scandal in Bohemia," he slid into that role very easily and made a few coins at it. And that Irish-American named Altamont surely had to have some visible means of support during his American stint. Holmes surely had to hold down a whole lot of short-term jobs during his wide-rambling life.

Lucky for him, doing what he loved included being able to do and understand other jobs besides that of the detective. Other opportunities were available. For most of us, though, a vocation and an avocation are two decidedly different things. And if we're lucky enough, the joy of the latter actually makes the doing of the former worthwhile, and the balance of the two makes for a pretty fair life.

Careers can by puzzling things, especially for the free-lancer like Holmes. And we don't even want to get into the work-life of a John H. Watson . . . "hanging out with your buddy" for long periods isn't really something that looks good on the resume. But that's a consideration for another time.

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