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As a kid growing up in rural Mississippi, I had big dreams of living in a city with a high powered career. I thought a great career would save me from my problems. It would give me a beautiful home, an identity, fulfillment and purpose. But as I grew older, I found that no career on earth could give me all of those things. Doctor? Too stressful. Scientist? Too much worry over funding. Poet? “Not a real job.” Speech therapist? It’s not my passion. Accountant? Boring. After two bachelor’s degrees, a brief stint in grad school, and taking multiple personality tests, I still haven’t settled on one career path. Sure, I had a lot of interests. But there was always something wrong with every career I considered. I’ve had jobs, but none were even close to that elusive “dream job”. Why? Because there’s no such thing as a perfect career.
“What do you do?” It’s the first question people usually ask when meeting someone new. Even young children are asked what they want to be when they grow up. Society still tends to define individuals by their job titles. When someone answers this crucial question, others can consciously or subconsciously make various judgments about that person. He or he is smart or dumb, motivated or lazy, creative or boring, rich or poor. But it’s becoming difficult for many to answer this simple question. People are changing careers much more frequently than in the past. It’s also common to juggle multiple jobs to make ends meet. And some jobs, such as social media influencer, are hard to define and constantly evolving.
Changing How and Why We Work
Not only is the world of work changing, values are shifting. A larger percentage of workers expect work-life balance from employers. They would choose more time off or a flexible schedule over a high salary or fancy job title. People want to work to live rather than living to work. Even for those who generally like their jobs, it’s important to have time off to pursue hobbies, travel or spend time with family. After all, what’s the point of a big paycheck if you don’t have time to enjoy it?
I’m Not a Climber
“What do you do?” It’s still hard to accept that I’ll never be able to definitively answer that question. Currently I run a couple of websites and work at a college library part-time. I love both of these jobs, but neither define me as a person. My identity is not tied to them. I would rather be known as an avid reader, a writer, an introvert, a cat lover, a good listener and a sensitive person. Others my age might be high up on corporate career ladders while I’m down on the ground, but I have to ask myself if I really want to be up there with them. The answer is no. Because I just don’t belong on a ladder. It’s far from what I would have predicted 20 years ago, but I’m learning to be okay with that.