This is one of the responses I got when I asked you guys for writing prompts: In what ways has your life turned out differently than you thought it would when you were growing up? This post is part 3 of a five-part series in which I answer this question.
When I was in school, all arrows seemed to point toward landing the right career.
You got good grades in high school so you could go to college so you could go to grad school so you could start your career. No one really talked about what would happen after or alongside that, which I took to mean that the right job must be the final step in ultimate life fulfillment; school was just what you had to endure in order to get there.
Overall, here’s how I felt about being in school: it was fine, some of it was interesting, some of it wasn’t, I worked hard but not too hard, I liked my friends, I didn’t like waking up early.
Overall, here’s how I feel about my job: it’s fine, some of it is interesting, some of it isn’t, I work hard but not too hard, I like my clients, I don’t like waking up early.
As a student, I was always far more interested in what was happening in my life outside of school: who I was becoming friends with, who I had a crush on, what I was doing on weekends, what books I was reading.
As an adult, I’m usually most interested in what’s happening outside of work: where I’m traveling next, what I’m writing, plans with family and friends, or just looking forward to another quiet evening with Doug, the cats, and my Kindle.
In high school and college, I spent summers working part-time as a waitress. I’d serve lunch to tables full of business people dressed in ties and blazers and feel immensely jealous. As I walked around refilling their waters, all I could think was “I cannot wait until I have a real job.”
Now that I have a “real” job, I sometimes wear blazers and I sometimes go out to lunch. And as servers refill my water, what I’m usually thinking is this: “It would be so nice to be a young waitress again—heading home at two o’clock each day with a wad of cash in my pocket, a to-go cup of mango iced tea in hand, and the rest of the day sprawling out ahead of me—mine to spend however I please.”
I now understand that jobs are what adults do to survive—not, in most cases, a means to ultimate fulfillment. No matter how enjoyable my career may or may not be at different stages, working is always just going to be one part of my life, the same way school was: the daytime, weekday part.