I was talking to a co-worker not long ago and we were discussing careers. She is less than five years away from retirement, I am more than 30 away from eligibility. We were talking about how my generation, given the crappy economy and increased competition, are managing in their search for the perfect self-fulfilling job that pays enough to allow them to live a comfortable—not extravagant, mind you—life.
This particular co-worker is not one that I would consider loves to work and is happy with the tasks she performs regularly. She is grumpy and frustrated after decades of service, but I like her. She doesn’t take shit from people and she reminds me a lot of my mom in her hard-shell, silly-humor kind of way. The ironic thing is that her daughter works for my mom. What a small world.
Anyway, we were discussing the tough choices my generation faces in the job market and how more and more people are sticking with one job because they are too afraid to be without in an economy that sees mom and dad getting laid off after a lifetime of service and entry-level jobs requiring both the education and experience. It’s a tough choice to make: a paycheck at an unsatisfactory job or the freedom to follow one’s passion that may not result in rent money at the end of the month.
I for one have chosen a well-paying job that I have virtually little-to-no interest in. Sure, I have my breakthroughs when things at work go in my favor, my co-workers leave me alone long enough for me to forget that I am doing their work and getting paid less for it, and I can basically commit horrendous crimes and still have a job come Monday, but I am still not what I would consider fulfilled. This is not the career I had always envisioned for myself. I have learned a tremendous amount in the few years I have been in my current position, but the longer I stay, the less I can see myself working there until retirement. That is just such a foreign concept to me.
I apply and apply and nothing. Even secure fields like mine are hard to move around in. But for now, I am taking it in stride.
I was talking with one of my mother’s friends about work and he told me point-blank that when he was my age, he wasn’t satisfied either. I guess what it all boils down to is just what people are willing to give up for the sake of their own livelihood. I for one have an apartment that I love that I enjoy roommate-free. I could never have managed to afford this place without the job I am currently in. Also, I have an incredible boss. Her presence in the office, as well as utter faith in my abilities, has made the last few years much more bearable than they once were.
But alas, I have settled into a career that I am not thrilled with.
I look at other adults around me—none that I work with—and see how much people look forward to their jobs. My mother for one would rather her eyes be gouged out than have her Blackberry service interrupted on a Mediterranean cruise (yes, I have embellished slightly, but when we cruised the Med on vacation, she checked in with work constantly).
I am not a work nerd. I put in my weekly hours and am gone. There are very few times throughout the year that I stay longer than necessary. 1) I can get all of my work done in the alloted daily hours while still getting in ample time for internet surfing and 2) I work my hours for my time off. I do not understand why people are willing to be called on vacation to discuss work matters. It’s not something I am jazzed to do, nor am I willing to call someone when they are out of the office. Why do it to them if I wouldn’t like it done to me?
But it’s not just about work. What about relationships?
So many people (including those who know very little about me) have said that the reason I am still single is that my expectations are too high.
Why would I want to settle with someone who I am not interested in? I am by no means looking for Prince Charming and seeking a mate with levels of perfection that are godlike, but yes, there are certain things that I will not tolerate. None of which I think are too outrageous to warrant me a perfection-seeking spinster at the ripe old age of 26.
And the thing is, I have even eased up on the mental list of characteristics that my ideal mate should have. Sure dark hair and light eyes would be nice, but it’s not the end all be all. I would be willing to date someone who had been engaged before so long as he had not been married or fathered any children. I know what I want in life, why should I make sacrifices when it comes to finding the father to my own children and someone who I can see going the distance with?
I think it is entirely too common to get so swept up in the idea of wedding planning and family planning that people forget what makes successful relationships last. I know this is the age for starter marriages (too many of my friends are on to their second marriages or engagements), but I for one do not want to have kids with several different men.
Despite my lack of a bride gene, I am completely traditional to the ideal of a family where two parents raise the child(ren) together. I know that the idea of a family looks different to many people, but at the end of the day I want to raise children with one other person. And why on earth would I want to do that with someone who is not what I am looking for?
So there you have it, I will settle in my career, but not when it comes to love and family. Life’s too short not to want to have a great mate to share it with.
For that, I’m willing to wait.