June 14, 2007

There are some very nice things about my office job. There are the benefits, which range from a full time onsite chef to full body massages. There are the ridiculously chillaxed hours, and the universal acceptance of an excuse such as, “I stayed up too late playing WoW, I’ll be in around noon”.

My workplace is also, for its all foibles and bumblings, totally sincere. They are an honest lot, and while everyone wants to make a buck no one wants to do it by oil-of-snake methods. We are an engineering-driven company, not a marketing-driven one. No one sits around in meetings assessing the market and brainstorming product specs based on the highest return on the investment; instead, engineers tend to individually decide something is worth building and bang out a vat of code before any requirements are decided upon.

We used to have an employee who called this organic product development. It’s taken some getting used to, but despite the lack of planning and ever-elusive ship dates, it seems to work out very well.

My job is not to work marketing from the front end of the process—I have almost nothing to do with development or product management—but to put a shiny package on the completed piece of software. I write the words that are supposed to make the software sound enticing (someone else writes the words that describe how it actually works), for the most part. I work with a talented designer to create ads, retail boxes, and other collateral stuffs. I have a PR function too, which includes updating our blog with product development news, or sending out press releases.

While I might dip into the Well O’ Hyperbole on occasion (I can’t help it! I love the word powerful), the vast majority of my job is bullshit-free. From a marketing perspective, anyway. I mean I don’t have to LIE, unlike pretty much every other job I’ve ever had.

So: I don’t have to lie, my company is legitimately concerned first and foremost with making a good product, and I don’t work with anyone whose job involves thinking of ways to slowly butt-fuck our customers without the common courtesy of a reacharound. Compared to the place where I had to write about apps that didn’t exist and was micromanaged by a psychotic, pot-smoking husband and wife team who made their money from camgirl porn and infomercials, Workplace both kicks ass and takes names.

However, I keep experiencing what I can only describe as bourgeois career angst, a feeling that I should be doing something more meaningful. As problems go, I realize this one hardly registers past the “Privileged Whining” sector—when you have a good job that pays the bills, your focus should be on thanking the gods (SO SAY WE ALL) for your luck, rather than idly wondering why you aren’t more spiritually fulfilled by your work. I’ve been unemployed, and to say it sucks would be doing a great disservice to the sheer amount of suckage that comes from months of fruitless job searching, the inevitable lowering of standards (“Port-a-Potty sanitation engineer? Maybe they offer training?”), and the resounding echo coming from an empty bank account.

Still. I feel like I should have a Plan, an answer to the question of what I want to be when I grow up. What do I want to be doing in five years, ten years? I don’t know. I have some general ideas: I want to make connections, I want to help people in some way, I want to learn new skills. I do hope to write a book someday but I don’t have dreams of being a full time author in that sense (too isolating, for one).

Then there’s the enormous issue of family life and how to balance that with whatever I’m doing, and how that could change if I were to be doing anything different from what I’m doing now, and boy, I just don’t know.

What about you? Are you where you thought—or hoped—you’d be right now, with regards to your job (“job” = whatever you’re doing for work, which definitely includes staying home with children because if that isn’t work, then brother, I don’t know what the hell is)? Do you have long term plans for what you want to do with your career? Or are you like me, playing things by ear and hoping for the best?

Comments

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
126 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
dorrie
dorrie
14 years ago

GAH! Get out of my head. I have been struggling with this all week, not very gracefully, either. My kids are older (14 and 12) and I work part time right now. I can’t help but wonder what my next step is going to be, because I am bored bored bored right now with everything–the job, the kids, the house, the husband….love them to death but I need to make myself happy and fulfilled and that is hard right now. I will be breathlessly reading your comments for ideas….

btw. Great writing this week. Thank you.

Joanne
14 years ago

Before I stayed at home with my kid, I was an IT Director, I had Masters degree from a good engineering school, etc., etc. But I found that my career was kind of leaving me behind with our crappy economy. When I moved back to IN from NYC I had a very hard time finding a job and when I did, it was a LOT less money and a LOT less benefits. When I was in NYC, I felt like I was right where I should be, I had worked in progressively harder jobs with more responsibility and more money, and I was really living large.

I used to think that I would go back to work when my boy went to school, but lately I am thinking more and more that I will just get a ‘job’ once he and any siblings he has goes to school. I don’t want to have stayed home all this time just to put him in before care and after care. Selfishly, I feel like if I’ve stayed home through all the long, boring, non-talking days, I’d like to enjoy some of the good times! Anyway, this is all to say that in many ways I feel like my ‘career’ is over – LONG before I have gotten my Masters paid off, which sucks. Now I think that when my kid(s) go to school, I’ll get a job of some kind and make enough money to make a difference in tuition or something, and contribute to my family in that way. I don’t feel as bad about it as I thought I would, since I think corporate America is a tough place to be. At least here in my own house, I know I’m not going to get fired.

It sounds like your job is fantastic though, Linda. Do you think you could do something more there eventually? Or would you rather work in a different sector all together?

kalisah
14 years ago

I have worked for 10 years at one of the top children’s charities in the country and let me tell you – it’s no picnic. Sure, I guess I’ve put some good karma out into the world, but there is SO MUCH INSANITY involved that it’s just not worth it.

I say that if you’re happy & it’s a good company that seems to be a respectable corporate citizen, that’s worth its weight in gold. GOLD, I tell ya.

Jan
Jan
14 years ago

I’m not going to be much help, but maybe it’s nice to get another perspective. I am happy and fulfilled with my job as an elementary library media specialist. Love every single thing about it. Maybe one of the reasons I am so content is that I went back to school and got a second degree and didn’t start this job until I was 36. In two years, I will be 56 and, with 20 years in the system, I will be retiring to start a whole new life of traveling, spending time with family and possibly expanding my part-time Ebay business. I think it does take some time to figure out what you want to be when you grow up. Think long and hard about what you enjoy, what makes you happy, what fulfills you. We spend way too much of our lives working to do something that makes us unhappy.

Eric's Mommy
Eric's Mommy
14 years ago

I am sort of where I want to be. I said I would never have an office job (I have a degree in Animal Science) now I have an office job and I actually enjoy it.
I am glad I have a job and it does pay the bills (barely sometimes) and I work for a good company. My husband was laid off right before our son was born and it was nice to have him home but we had NO money!
It is hard to balance work and family, my husband now works weekend nights so somebody is always home with Eric. It’s tough, we don’t get any time together.
I am also playing things by ear and hoping for the best!

Connie
Connie
14 years ago

I am where you are. Love my job, love my benefits, know if I applied myself I could be doing so much more. I have almost decided that the bennies and the group I work with, far outweigh my desire to do something “meaninful” and I volunteer a lot on the side. I don’t have kids, so much easier to do.

Katy B
14 years ago

I have this inner dialogue at least bi-weekly. One thing I can say for sure is that the more solidly I plan my own trajectory, the more likely I am to feel that I’m not in line with what I really want. I’m three courses shy of an MA in English. My plan all along was to immediately surrender my full-time employment in IT upon graduation and run like hell to a career where I will “make a difference.” Lately, however, I’ve realized that just like I’m not using all of my natural skills in my current job, I wouldn’t be using all of them as a teacher. I think I’m slowly inching toward a healthy realization that I don’t have to make these black and white decisions. Maybe I’ll continue my current role and teach part-time. Maybe I’ll do something totally different.

I’m not sure if this is the case for you, but a part of me really just wants to be paid well for something I’m both great at doing, and also makes me happy. As you know from your work experience, the people who have stumbled into this rare state are few and far between. I don’t want to diminish hope for any of your younger readers, but now more than ever, I consider it a success if I’m satisfied with my job. Forget wildly happy and personally fulfilled. Work is work sometimes. You seem to have such a rich life outside work (I do, too). Don’t stress over deciding to be something when you grow up. Decide to live your life continuing to be open to all possibilities.

p.s. I’m going to finish my MA either way :)

JennB
14 years ago

Oh, hell no. I never wanted to do what I am doing with my life, I fell into it right out of college due to my parents soon-to-be-closing business, and I haven’t been able to extricate myself.

I’m definitely playing it by ear, waiting for my dream job to find me and offer me sick amounts of money to do what I love (I would like to read for a living…. ), and also great benefits, lots of travel, and the ability to work from home. I can’t seem to get my writing published by anyone, and I DO work for the company looking to “reissue, repackage, repackage, re-evaluate the star”* their content and suck the life out of all employees. They’re great people, but I’m ever wary that they will get a buy-out offer, take it and run, and leave the rest of us suckers to die a painful slow death in the hills of Vermont where a good job is hard to come by. My wariness is well-deserved – the company has done such a thing before.

*10 gold stars to whoever can name the tune, the artist, and the album that this comes from.

Susie
14 years ago

I’ve been reading for a while now (hm? maybe six months?) and this is my first comment — love your writing, btw. And your willingness to put it all out there.

To the subject at hand… I have worked exclusively in non-profits since graduating from college (10 years ago – yikes!) and I couldn’t agree more with Kalisah. Non-profits TRY to do good things in the world, but they don’t always. And many times, they are run by people with lots of passion and little to no expertise (read: mismanaged). Also, when a non-profit has been around for a long time, they often end up working just as hard and spending just as much money just trying to remain in existence as they once did trying to accomplish their original goals!

Someone I admire once told me, and I’ll never forget it: the terms non-profit or 501(c)3 are merely a governmental tax designation. They don’t necessarily indicate that the organization is doing any good in the world. They don’t necessarily indicate that the people behind them are good or noble or anything of the sort.

Like Kalisah said, if you’re happy where you are and you respect the company you work for, that’s HUGE. Good luck to you — I struggle with this issue myself and I know it’s not easy.

laura
laura
14 years ago

I’ve worked for THREE psycho husband and wife companies. After the first, you’d think I would have learned, but nooo…

I’m so definitely not doing what I thought I would be doing right now. Sometimes I still can’t believe that I left my job and put my career on hold almost 2 years ago to pursue full-time motherhood. I didn’t really know what I was doing when I quit, and I partially did it b/c I was so pissed off at my work situation and not really because I had an overwhelming feeling that I needed to spend 24X7 with my child. But now, 2 years into it, I know that it was the best decision I’ve ever made. The slower pace suits me much better than the road rage, caffiene fueled existence that I was living before child. And despite the occasional longing to return to the out of the house workforce, I know that these longings are much less frequent than the urges to maim one of my ex-coworkers that I used to experience. I’m much more suited to being a loner in this respect.

But, all that said, if I were in your shoes, and had I been happy with my job, employer and benefits when my daughter was born, I know I would have stuck around for a while.

justmouse
justmouse
14 years ago

i’ve thought those very same things…numerous times. mostly, i’m a living-day-by-day kinda person, so as far as i’m concerned, i have a good job, i love my family, we have food and a roof over our heads…life is good. but a couple times a week i start to look around and realize i am 33 years old. my son is already planning what college courses he’s going to take in a couple of years. i haven’t actually ACHEIVED anything. and the scary part is…this is exactly where i see myself in 10 years. also, with my discovery of Facebook, and finding all the kids i grew up with…i feel a little…pathetic. the kids i used to play street hockey with have traveled the world, gone to college, started companies, traveled the world, had prize winning photography from third world countries. and i….sit in an office all day, doing a job i really don’t care that much about one way or the other, and my biggest concern this week is that i need to buy new vacuum bags. i never went to college. i have no true PASSION. i have no idea what i want to be when i grow up. there are soo many things i’d love to do and/or see in my life, but i honestly don’t think i will ever ever get to. my biggest hope at this point is that my son will be better than me, and i can see all these things vicariously through him. i want him not to sit in a dirty rental house, wondering what he did with his life. i worry that he will resent me for not exposign him to more experiences. i hope that he never looks down on me or is ashamed of me. sooo many things that run through my head when i let guard down.

but on the days when the sun is out, and i am happy, and my boy and i can just be silly and giggle together, i wonder if it’s really so important for EVERYONE to save the world?

Moose
14 years ago

I am the mother-loving queen of playing it by ear and hoping for the best. For the past five years, I’ve been at a soul-hugging arts nonprofit job. I quit two weeks ago because I felt done in both the challenge sense and the “I’m sick of making half what everyone else does for doing this job”. I was actually upset to be turned down for a job by a soul-sucking corporation. I am a twisted human being.

So I’m hanging out in the between times, hoping to find something that works and that will make me enough to have an IRA and buy shoes for my kids. Not that I have kids, but when I do, I hear they’ll want shoes. When I get stressed out about the lack of money or lack of a fully-formed life plan, I am gently (more or less) assured that something will work out. Because it always does. (At least in the world of middle-class privilege.) I don’t have any breathtaking words of wisdom, but you sound like a smart gal who has her head on straight. So things will work out. They always do.

(Really enjoying your blog, by the way. Thanks.)

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
14 years ago

I had this desperate desire to be a stay-at-home mom and raise lots of perfect little smiling children. That’s what I wanted to do. I’m finishing my college degrees, but the Plan was for the hubby to work and for me to stay at home with the little ones. (The degrees are a back up plan in case something terrible happens, and I have to work, regardless of how much I would not love to teach high school French.)

So we had one, and I realized that my Type A personality and little ones are not exactly complimentary. After about 4 hours, as much as I love my son, I want to toss him out the front door and lock it or shove him into a cabinet with one of those handy cabinet locks, stick my fingers in my ears, find a corner to hide in, and rock back and forth reminding myself he’ll grow out of whatever he’s doing at the time.

So, long story short, not only do I feel like a terrible mother since I don’t want to spend every waking moment with my little darling, I also have no idea what I want to do with my life now. From reading what everyone has said and what I’m going through, I would certainlly say that you are not alone. If you happen to stumble onto a wonderous solution, please do share it. I’m at a loss.

K
K
14 years ago

Oh god. Just putting off doing anything, really. Graduated from college with a useless liberal arts degree a few years back, couldn’t think of anything better to do, so I decided that law school was a totally excellent idea.

$150K in student loans later, I’ve realized that I don’t particularly like anything about the prospect of being a lawyer, but I can’t afford to do anything else. Because I am so clearly ambivalent about the practice of law, I’m having a hard time finding a job, and I’ve kind of quit looking.

Law school = mistake. Expensive one.

Pete
Pete
14 years ago

The answer you seek is “42”

deanna
14 years ago

ok i come from a little different perspective in that i specifically entered a helping profession, in my case nursing, because i wanted a job where although i know i wont make a buttload of money, i can come home at the end of the day with the knowledge that ive helped someone. i can say that i experience this every single day and it is quite possibly the most rewarding part of my job, what keeps me putting myself through emotional hell at work day in and day out. however, there are also days when i just come home and feel like ive been shit upon [both literally and figuratively] and whats the point because in the end patients still die and things still go wrong and you cant save everyone? its incredibly stressful some days knowing that a childs LIFE is in my hands. i take a LOT home and thats one of the biggest downsides to my job. the constant threat of emotional flameout. is it where i pictured myself five years ago? probably not quite. is it what i want to do for the forseeable future? at least for now. would i give up my job for a desk job where i sit in a cubicle, stare at a computer screen and answer a telephone all day? no, but some days i would give my left ARM for that. in the end thats not me, but im ok with that. the world needs all sorts of people in it to function so more power to those who do that. im in graduate school working on a pediatric nurse practitioner degree and sometimes the amount of work involved in that really makes me wonder if its worth it. but in the end i figure everything will work itself out. im lucky to be young and not have family commitments yet. as a former full-time volunteer, i totally recommend doing some part time volunteer work to explore some future options and make those connections, learn those skills and help people… in the end, im more or less lucky to say that i love my job [heartbreak and all] and im glad for that because if you find a job you love, youll never hafta work a day in your life… [corny, but so true]

Donna
Donna
14 years ago

My job sucks so hard I’m sure you can hear it from there. The only plus is that it does pay the bills, the benefits are ok, and I only have 3 years to retire.
My boss is literally the antichrist, and the supervisors are his imps with pitchforks and or their dicks hanging out. There is no job satisfaction, safety, or any benefits to doing what we do.
It didn’t use to be so bad, but I tell you, when it changed, we were all making too much to quit.
However, in March, there was an overthrow of the union, I got involved in that, unfortunately it was heading to the same old thing, so myself and a couple other guys argued it around, and we just accepted the resignation of the people who were trying to be shady, and we are starting all over again, today. It’s been a real cluster, but hopefully, all the drama is done and over, and we can get our shit together long enough to get people involved again.
Your job? Sounds like heaven………

jonniker
14 years ago

Career path. Oh Jesus, welcome to my giant bucket o’ woes. I had a very serious corporate job at one point – a job that I hated, and subsequently left on a whim one day with no prospects, and no idea what I would do next. I planned to become a medical receptionist and write a book on the side. And then, suddenly, through an ad in the paper and sheer luck, I pushed my way into a job that I love, but is not sustainable over the long-term, as it pays so little and requires such long hours that it’s hilariously dumb to think of a family at this joint.

So, my next plan is…is…well, I have a vague idea what it is, but again, it’s something I’ve fallen into with sheer luck and a good friend. I’m in the application process now, and am spending most of my days quietly freaking out, hoping against hope that it works out, and giving myself intestinal cramps while I’m at it.

The thing is, I know what my passion is: I love to write and edit, period. Love it. And while people say that knowing your passion is half the battle, it’s so stressful trying to bring that passion into something real, it really is. I’ve put so much pressure on myself that I’m practically paralyzed with fear, too terrified to do anything about it and afraid that I’ll miss my shot at doing whatever it is I’m supposed to do next.

You’re sure as all hell not alone in this. It’s all, I think, in how we measure success. I haven’t gotten to the point where I measure success in friends and family, rather than ladder-like career accomplishments. It’s the only measure I’ve ever known. My goal, actually, is to get THE FUCK over all of this and just be happy. Have a baby, enjoy my husband, understand that success comes in other forms that can’t be measured by someone else, and have my job/passion supplement that.

I’m still working on it. In fact, I don’t even think I’m at the door of that goal.

Colleen
14 years ago

My career plan flew out the window when Zoe was born with bilateral hip dysplasia. I worked as a “Parent Service Director” (aka Assistant Director) at a child care center. The plan was to return to work with Zoe in tow at 6 weeks old. She would be in the infant room with the teacher I taught myself (and LOVED). I would work right out the classroom door where I could even hear her cry and quit what I was doing to hold her myself. Life looked good… and I’d continue up the ranks to high and mightly director of all things child care.

Well…. Zoe had to where a pavlik harness for 2 months, then a body cast for 2 months, then the harness again. I just couldn’t put anyone else in the position of caring for Zoe and her contraptions (and I didn’t trust anyone else with it.) So…. after 6 months of “please extend my leave another month”, “Another month please?”, “please please please”…. I was finally told all was well and Zoe was “day care friendly”. By then…. I loved being home too much and we had learned to live without my income.

Now… I have no “career plans”. We’re figuring at this point I might as well just stay home until we have another baby (in the next year or so). Sometimes life has it’s own plans and you have no choice but do go with it.

Operation Pink Herring
14 years ago

It is so fabulous to hear that other people struggle with this. I have mental debates on a daily basis, going back and forth between “Hey, you have a job and the pay doesn’t suck as much as your last one! You should be grateful for that!”, and “Man, I hate this job and I could give a fuck if this entire industry went down the toilet. Maybe I should get a job that I actually care about?”

I am most definitely playing it by ear. When I come up with something I’d actually like to do for 40 hours a week, that will be a happy day in history.

Emma
Emma
14 years ago

Oh man – I’ve just finished uni and, after chilling out and generally being a lazy ** this summer, I’m off to start begging companies to hire me… I’m slowly getting the impression that breaking into the industry I want to (film production, of all things) might be a little more difficult than first imagined… :)

Michelle
Michelle
14 years ago

I’m right there with you. I started a new job last October and it is everything I have ever hoped for in a company. I am a single mom to 2 kids ages 6 and 4 so flexibility is more important than anything other than the paycheck. I am so bored at this new job. I love reading your blogs, but I seriously should have enough work to keep me busy. I keep thinking that maybe I am not supposed to be here at this job. I don’t know what I want to do when I grow up either. You are not alone in the way you feel.

lea
lea
14 years ago

My partner and I are both IT Geeks with amazingly nice jobs with great benefits and decent pay. But with the good comes the bad and we deal with politics, BS, and the fact that I make less than all of the people on my team which has its moments of suckage as you say. Recently we spent 2 weeks in Alaska with my family and we decided “screw this, we’re moving to Alaska!” So we’re going to quit our jobs and drive a huge UHAUL up there right before the winter hits sometime in October. The fact that we’re changing our lives and moving to a place where the appropriate attire for any occupation is jeans and hiking boots makes us happier than we have ever been before. I’m in a place where I will continue to work with IT and hopefully make decent money doing it while my partner wants to have an enlightening job saving the planet and being happy. I say if you can do what you want and make enough to live and be happy you should go for it!

Perhaps a discussion with dooce is in order – neither she nor her husband have to work and they make their money blogging and living their lives. I bet you’re getting up there in hits and could make a pretty penny being a professional blogger :-)

Swistle
14 years ago

I think Workplace should consider changing their company slogan to “Not thinking of ways to slowly butt-fuck our customers without the common courtesy of a reacharound.” That would look awesome in a big explosion-star on the front of the shiny package.

I have a constant, low-grade panicky feeling that I have completely ruined all prospects of a non-minimum-wage and/or in-any-way-satisfying career by taking so many years off to be home with kids. I try not to think about it. I will think about it later. Laaaaaaaaaater.

Claire
14 years ago

I sort of fell into my position. The girl who held it before ended up being at the county-wide teacher interview day a year ago and we ran into each other. She got an early childhood job, I got screwed over at a high school, and I went to my former teacher and her boss, and asked if I could take over. It’s a good job in that I am the person to whom grad students, who also teach freshman writing at the university, come to when they have any issues. I make the entire schedule of freshman writing classes each semester and help those students get into an appropriate writing class. BUT, it doesn’t pay a lot (more than any retail job though) and I have to teach a section of English on the side to make what I want. It’s a government job so the benefits rock (it’s only gonna cost me 250 bucks – total – to have a kid!). I somehow saw myself either teaching high school or pursuing a PhD in writing.

I lost my impetus to go back to school though and now, 7 months pregnant, I’m cruising along, hoping this job keeps me afloat for as long as I need to get through the first few year’s of my son’s life and then maybe, maybe I will get on track to that bigger, better SOMEthing where I’ll be fulfilled in the ways you speak.

Maybe we’re all like that.

Ali
Ali
14 years ago

I’ve been struggling with this issue for a little while now. Back in 1993, I became a single parent of my 3 kids and I set to work to provide for them with no assistance from their father (not my choice, his). In 1997, I graduated from college and began a job as a Programmer/Analyst and have been working at the same job ever since. Don’t get me wrong I like what I do but I mainly stuck to this job due to the financial security it provided so that I could raise my children alone. Well, my youngest is 14 yrs old and is the only one in the house now. So I’ve began to let my mind wonder to if I want to continue with this job after he moves out. I would love to branch out into some kind of Graphic Design career. I got a taste for it after I designed the collector cards that are for The Elephant Sanctuary in TN and I loved it! It is slowly dawning on me that soon I can make basically any choice about what I want to do, where I want to do it and to tell you the truth after 14 yrs of working for my kids, it’s kinda exciting yet terrifying.

DDM(Sonia)
14 years ago

I think I have finally made peace with the fact that I threw away my degree. Sort of. I worked in my degree related career for 15 years before I quit. My kiddo is special needs, and I needed to be more available for his needs than my job would allow. The financial blow was enormous. We managed by the skin of our teeth for a year before I went back one weekend day a week to lighten the financial strain. And then we had to give up family time. And THEN. I got robbed at work for the second time, at gunpoint, and that did me in. I no longer trusted a single person that walked in the door.

So I stopped working in that field completely. And got The Fluffiest Job In The World. My friend owns a tanning salon, and took me on two nights a week. This way we don’t need a sitter because I leave for work when my husband gets home. Do I feel like I’m contributing meaningfully to society? Uh NO. BUT, what I needed was a j-o-b that I could go to, enjoy, and go home. That’s what this job is for me. I also really love the clientele for the most part. In my previous career, I got 1 or 2 nice customers a week. In my current job, I get all nice customers with maybe one grumpy wanker a month. And I get to talk and smile and laugh through my whole shift while making a few bucks and getting a mommy break.

warcrygirl
14 years ago

If someone had told me, at age 18, that I would be married and a mother by the time I was 30 I’d have called you a liar. If that same someone had told me I’d also be overweight I’d have punched him/her in the mouth. Do I regret where I am now? Nope, although I’m not crazy about my waistline right now.

Emily
14 years ago

I am infinitely jealous of your job.

As for me … let’s not open that can of worms. Have I mentioned that I work in Public Affairs? For the Army? I’m surprised the word “propaganda” isn’t actually included in my job description. And needless to say, I’m counting down the days until I can get out of the military, rediscover my soul and do something a little less actively sinister with my writing.

Ironically, while I was writing this comment, my boss called me to say that I had to take a news brief about the President not getting his watch stolen in Algeria out of the daily newsletter, simply because it a non-super-positive story about Bush, and that might annoy the general. Did you hear me literally banging my head against a concrete wall?

Sorry. I’m done now.

Jennifer
Jennifer
14 years ago

Yeah, I thought I had figured it out. Waited tables for a few years, then ran screaming to corporate hell for a few, then got married and took a break to figure out what I “really wanted.” Chose counseling, went back to school — shoulda been 2-3 years, but I had a kid and a difficult delivery, so 3 years turns to 5, and now I’m realizing I have to keep my corporate hell part time to AFFORD to be a counselor, at least pre-licensure. And right now my 2.5 year old is having trouble with daycare, so I’m working as little as possible so I can get her out every day, which means I can’t do anything but make money this summer, which means I probably won’t do any counseling until next spring.

It’s like everything I’ve learned with parenting: you think it’s about the decision — cloth or disposable? formula or nursing? — but really it’s the day to day b.s. that comes after you’ve made the Best Decision Ever, the one you wouldn’t change for the world. It doesn’t stop being hard, no matter what. So for now, I watch her sleep and realize the counseling will wait, this is more important right now. This is the best “good” I can do in the world, to feed and clothe and nurture her; it trumps all the other good I will definitely do when the universe has calmed the fuck down.

Thanks for listening. :)

Lex
Lex
14 years ago

ohhhhh woman.

I work as an administrative assistant for the first and only forensic nursing station in the midwest…so yes, of course i have this immense feeling of accomplishment when i go home at night.

but if/when i/we screw up? the world collapses. if we can’t help someone? my heart breaks.

with this job i hear and see terrible things nearly every day. i have to study forensic anatomical pictures of horrifying and gruesome things…and it doesn’t even phase me anymore. my husband takes one look and his face goes pale…

that makes me seem almost freakish and terribly alone. what i find interesting makes others see me as a monster because i’m not immediately turned off and offended at these stories and pictures.

so, as always, “with great power comes great responsibility.”

i’d kill for your job.

Tess
Tess
14 years ago

I am not at all where I thought I would be, but really think I am heading to a great place. In high school, I thought I would become a teacher and work in underprivledged neighborhoods changing the face of the world one child at a time (not even kidding, that is a quote I told people when they asked what I was going to do with my life after high school). Well, I met a man, dropped out of school, and moved three thousand miles away from anything familiar. After settling down and obtaining residency, I am crawling towards my degree three credits at a time; though I have switched my major from education to business. I recently incorporated myself as a residential real estate appraiser, and am supporting my boyfriend (along with our savings) as he completes his doctorite in psychology. We feel that this will give him greater earning power, and hopefully a more flexible schedule so that I may finally have my dream job of being a SAHM of five kids.

Kirsten
14 years ago

Wow, no way am I where I thought I would be! I was convinced that my career was all I would ever want. I had no idea that I would be having the time of my life at 28, married to a man twice my age with two girls under two, staying home and loving the hell out of my life. I miss my career. I do, but I am too happy playing and showing my kids about the world.

I am also terrified that when I am ready to go back to work I will have to start at the bottom and no one will want someone who has a huge employment gap. It is a tough balance, but I am just trying to be content with my choice because really, it is a hell of a lot of fun.

Emily
14 years ago

P.S. Nope, I never thought I’d be doing this. Never ever ever.

Ter
Ter
14 years ago

Welcome to my world. If we’re going to be technical about this, here’s my current resume:

* forever on-call as register jockey of a costume shop. I technically quit in February of ’06, but I’m friends with the store owner and she knows I only quit the manager at the moment of one of her shops.

* I’m technically an employee at a local community college as a professional tutor, but my student never showed and no one wants a writing tutor. At least not last semester.

* I work part-time at a shoe store. I get benefits and it pretends to pay the bills. It’s the most steady work I’ve got going for me

* I sub at 2 schools and sometimes I count them as separate jobs. With the school year winding down, that gravy train is drying up. And I want to quit them in the worst way.

I just got turned down for a technical editing position for some big government-owned company. I’m a certified teacher that would rather be a writer… or a panda bear. I have 2 degrees and no clue as to what I want to do with either of them. Any hints/suggestions/job offers would be wonderful! I’m not 100% sure I’m joking with that last bit.

omu
omu
14 years ago

I’ve been out of college for nearly 10 years. That time has been spent bouncing around in three year employment spurts trying to decide what I want to do when I grow up. I think I’ve finally decided what that is – and it actually is something I wanted to do when I was little. In a little under 6 weeks at the age of 31 with a toddler and a husband and a mortgage to pay I’ll finally be starting law school. I know it’s going to be hard. I feel like it’s something I had to do. I will be able to better support our family, and I’ll finally be doing something to realize my (formerly untapped) potential.

Leah
14 years ago

I’m lucky enough to say I have my dream job. Not only is it perfectly suited to my skills and temperament, but the people are genuinely goodwilled and hardworking (to a point) and because we’re a nonprofit, we are actually official, government-sanctioned do-gooders. BUT. That comes with a price. I make about half of what I could make at a larger, corporate publishing house, but am I willing to give up 11a-5p workdays, shoelessness, pride in my output, and vacations whenever the hell I want just to make more money slaving for The Man? It’s hard to monetize peace of mind, and so I’m content to stay where I am for now, but I have to admit that if I’m still here in ten years (or even five?), I’ll feel like a bit of a loser. Plus, what happens when babies start pouring out and I’ll have an even greater need for both schedule flexibility and cash to buy diapers? What then?

GoingLoopy
14 years ago

If you decide you’re tired of your job…PICK ME.

I thought I would be doing something more lucrative, or at least more tragically hip and cool. Instead, I deal with asshole attorneys with a rapidly declining patience level because, dude, for the money they make, I would actually pay attention to what’s going on around me.

angela
14 years ago

Last month I almost quit my job to enroll in cosmetology school (to which my BF said that “he wouldn’t mind” if I became a hairstylist which made me flip out because since when does his “minding” what I do for a living have any real bearing?). This month I want to go to be properly trained as a chef. I’m good at my job and I worked my ass off to get where I am, at my age, making more than my friends who graduated from fancy universities while I dropped out of community college. Sometimes I want to do something that makes me happy. Sometimes I want to do something that will make an impact on the world. It changes daily. The hardest part is maintaining a grip on reality. Sure, becoming a concert violist would be completely fulfilling, but I’m 26 and that’s not gonna pay the bills.

Julie
Julie
14 years ago

I work for a small non profit and am happy most days with what I do (customer service). It wasn’t what I went to college for, but that’s OK. What put this job into perspective, actually, was my last job. I worked for an emotionally abusive tyrant and did have to lie every day to customers on financial matters (we overcharged them, and we knew it.). I figure if I have a job where I don’t come home crying, or wake up in a cold sweat every night, that’s enough for me. For now.

victoria
victoria
14 years ago

This is off-topic, but I still can’t get over how great your writing about the DUI is. First, pretty young women usually feel obliged to be NICE as well as pretty, to be charming & sweet and never angry or sullen. And I think you feel this pressure, Linda: your writing is usually funny and charming and almost completely devoid of anger.

There was nothing adorable about the DUI but you wrote about it in great detail, honestly and movingly. I sort of thought writing about it was progress for you as a writer as well as a person.

Also, you just wrote about it *so* well. The description of you sitting there, trembling and viciously hung over, facing your impeccably groomed lawyers’ beautiful family in photographs behind him. The description of your drinking as your “daily drown.” You always write well but these entries were particularly well done.

Also, you gave me something to like about JB. All I had known about him before made him, uh, seem sort of insensitive? He likes guns, he thinks killing animals is fun, he likes the global-warming-be-damned BAMT (and vehicles like that always make me think, “well, SOMEONE’s compensating for a tiny penis”), he likes pronography, he forgets mother’s day, he likes to make you spend six hours in traffic en route to Oregon with a squalling baby so he can visit his family’s cabin or build a fence for his brother or enjoy some other get-together with *his* family who make you use single-ply toilet paper etc., (while you never impose your family on him), regardless of the fact that these trips define the absolute opposite of “vacation” for you and in fact rob you of the chance to use those days for some activity that would be useful or pleasureable for you.

And then we learn he stood by you through thick and thin, loved you when you were unlovable, forgave you when you thought you didn’t deserve it, gave up drinking to help you, and generally acts like a man who really loves you and does the right thing by you even when you’re not pretty and charming and adorable.

jenna
14 years ago

Love reading everyone’s comments. What a fascinating group we are!

I am officially in limbo land which is fine by me. I spent my 20s as a modern dancer (read: semi-starving waitress/grant writer/massage therapist/Pilates instructor). I made the conscious decision to make no money but do what made me happy (relatively) because I knew I couldn’t go back and dance when I’m 40. Now that I’m a wife and mom (holy crap that still blows my mind), I am home most of the time, teaching a few Pilates classes here and there and pondering a return to the working world. I’m a bit surprised to find that teaching Pilates, which started as a way to feed myself without waiting tables, has actually become quite a passion.

I have a great model in my mom. She was a librarian before she had kids, a paramedic while we were in school and now she’s a counselor at Planned Parenthood. She’s had three different degrees (or trainings) and three distinctly different jobs. I never really wanted a single JOB. I really like thisbook my friend just turned me onto: “The Renaissance Soul. Life design for people with too many passions to pick just one” by Margaret Lobenstine.

Anne L.
Anne L.
14 years ago

When I was 20, I would NEVER have thought that when I was 40 I would be a head cook of a large-ish catering kitchen at a private uni. Or that I would be married and tryingtryingtrying to start a family. I think I may have possibly looked down on people like myself, back then.
I’m pretty happy with what I do, it’s a challenge most days, and allows the creative side to come through. The money is great, but only because of weeks on end without a day off, and days that begin and end in the dark. Hourly pay is pretty sweet that way.
I am constantly baffled by people in my line of work who juggle a demanding career, husband/wife/other, kids, social life, on and on and on.
And I always wonder, how am I going to do all of that when my time comes? I guess I feel like I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.

gabby
gabby
14 years ago

I am a journalist. I have always wanted to be a journalist, since I was itty bitty. So, yes. I am what I have always wanted. HOWEVER, I am doing it differently than I imagined. I wanted to be a foreign correspondent for a major daily newspaper. Instead I am home with my kid doing freelance from time to time. I’m assuming I’ll carve out some time when the kid is in school to write more regularly, but for now this is fine. Same finish line, different execution. But still ok.

biscuit
biscuit
14 years ago

I’m not @ all where I thought I would be. I fell in love with an Army officer + now I go where he goes. Where we are stationed has a horrible economy with even lower values when it comes to culture. I have a Bachelor’s in photography so it’s not doing me any good until I can move to a real city. I wish I had the money to buy an awesome SLR digital camera so I could start my own business, but no job = no spare cash. I’m up to my neck in student loans so I don’t dare take out any more loans. It sucks, but I don’t regret marrying my husband. Life is unpredictable + of course, unfair. I have no “real” experience in my trade other than having gone to college. Not even one-hour photo labs or gangster studios like Wal-Mart/Sears/Glamour Shots will give me a chance. It really has taken a toll on my self-esteem. @ least I found my soul mate, right?

Speaking of photography, I LOVE your images. I honestly think you should turn that into something, a home business perhaps. This is coming from someone who knows what great pictures look like… think about it. :) Living in Seatle too… man, you could really make some cash. OR submit some of your more fine art images to galleries.

Melissa
14 years ago

I had no idea what I wanted to do when I was a high school senior 10 years ago. I chose nursing because I couldn’t bear the thought of hearing my future college major announced as “UNDECIDED” to the entire city at Senior Band Night. It’s true. And when I ended up very unhappy in nursing halfway through college, my family and friends were totally shocked. Everyone told me “Stick it out, you’re halfway done.” My father yelled that I was “giving up” and he wasn’t going to pay for me to continue college past the 4-year mark just so I could become a “perpetual student.” (By the way, he never spent a dime. I had a full academic scholarship.) I knew nursing wasn’t right for me, but I had no clue what ELSE to do. So I stayed in the nursing program and was miserable. Then I worked as a RN for 5 years after college and was even more miserable (as Deanna quite truthfully said above, it can be “emotional hell”). I’m 28 now and I’m still trying to figure out what career would be a good “fit” for me–a job that I’m good at AND that I enjoy.

One thing I never saw myself doing was being a SAHM. Heck, I didn’t even want to have kids up until a few years ago. And here I am at home with an almost-11-month old. It’s much more rewarding than I ever imagined. However after baby #2 (in another 1.5-2 years) I plan to go back to school for something else. Thankfully I still have a little time to figure out what that “something else” will be (graphic design? teaching? law school? who knows??). I have the motivation, I just need to pick a direction.

I have many friends in their 20’s and 30’s who feel the same way, in all different careers and situations in life. Our parents and grandparents were happy to find a job to earn money, and they usually stayed at it until they retired. We (and those younger than us) do not feel we are stuck on one path–we have the option to change once, twice, ten times–which is good, but at the same time, it’s overwhelming!

Good luck to you!

Keri
Keri
14 years ago

I NEVER would have expected to be where I am now. I always imagined that I would have a husband, children, a house of my own, and a successful, fulfilling career. I don’t have any of these things. Yet. I’m still hoping I will. I think part of what I enjoy about your blog is that I am able to experience some of that life, the one I want, through you. So even if you are angsty, realize that you already have what many of us aspire to have.

I graduated from college with a useless liberal arts degree, hoping to go to grad school to pursue said useless subject in order to teach it to eager undergrads thirsting for knowledge. Financial problems and relationship issues compelled me to consider alternative career options, and so for nearly 10 years I worked at a large variety of unfulfilling jobs, both clerical and professional, always hoping either to find a job I loved (but I pretty much despised them all) or go back to school. Applied to law school a few times, thinking law would be more “practical,” but the prospect of adding to my already sizable student loan debt (from college) kept me away from law.

After obtaining a Master’s degree, I am finally (at 36) in the midst of getting that PhD I have always wanted, in a field for which about zero jobs exist. (Academia does NOT offer many job opportunities.) The idealistic vision I had of college faculty living lives inspiring college students, studying fascinating subjects, contributing to the expansion of knowledge, etc. — well, I didn’t realize how much bullshit, politics, petty rivalries, and incredible pressure (plus low pay) a professorship involves. That is, should you be so lucky as to GET a full-time tenure-track position.

I am now seriously thinking of dropping out of the program, because I am sick of my dissertation subject, sick of the pretentious egomaniacs at my school, and sick of having no money to speak of. But what else could I possibly do? I am profoundly unqualified for so very, very many things. And I, too, want a job about which I can feel passionate and which offers the chance to make a positive difference in people’s lives. As a professor, I could have this, but as a . . . what? realtor? office assistant? library clerk? . . . I couldn’t.

Finally, it would be nice to be able to afford to support myself. Properly. I can’t even think about getting a dog, because I can’t really afford one, much less have a child.

But I’m still hoping that everything will work out, even if I have no earthly idea of how and thus no specific plan for getting there.

Teralyne
14 years ago

I am working as a system/network admin. I like my job but I do not DO NOT like The president of this company. I know I am under paid here also so my goal is to get somewhere doing similar work for what I am worth and it would be nice if I atleast liked who I was working for. Wish me luck.

Suki
Suki
14 years ago

Great post, and I share your general malaise. It’s sort of like, is that it? Although it isn’t bad, it’s just not rocking my world either.

And Jenn B. – is that a Smiths song? Something about a Sycophant?? Not sure of the album, maybe Meat is Murder.

Keaton
14 years ago

I was recently told that small children bite (imagine that!), and as such I hope that in the future my job involves some sort of NOT dealing with children, at least for the next, oh ten years. But hey, I told myself when I entered high school I wanted a good education and to study abroad in Japan for a year. I am now at a school that people have classified as a “new Ivy” (whatever that means) and will be in Japan starting in September, but only for a semester. Ya know, that just makes me pretty satisfied, all things considered. Things could improve in several areas, but hey, I have good friends and I’m enjoying my time, and what more is there? I don’t know, but I’m content not knowing for the time being, because my life is my own and I will not regret being unable to save the world or have superpowers or whatever. I guess all I’m hoping for is to make it through school well and get my black belt while I’m at it.

1 2 3