Thursday, May 29, 2008

Careers, Anxiety, & Being a 20-Something.

So, what are you going to do next?

The loathed and ever-present question posited to every graduate that ever lived.

Graduating from high school, the answer was easy: "I'm going to the University of Dayton to study education!"

As a senior in college, though, the need to find an answer to that question filled me with anxiety - I was trying to decide amongst my own options and juggling those decisions with my soon-to-be-husband's options. (The easiest answer to The Question would have been, "Get married!" Then it sounds like I'd be a housewife...which, on second thought, wouldn't be all that bad...I'm an awful feminist.)

I made the decision to forgo the teacher path, because I knew that wasn't my calling. So the answer to The Question wasn't clear-cut or simple. I found a one-year program to keep me busy and challenged, as well as help me grow personally and professionally. (I work with urban youth an after school center and manage volunteers from my alma mater.) That one year will be up in July, and I've found another one-year opportunity within this program, this time working with college freshmen. So, I've managed to stave off coming up with answers to The Question...for now.

But, honestly, I'm already anxious about What's Next in July 2009. What do I want to do, anyway? Do I need to love what I do, or just make money and do what I love on the side? Last month, I wrote about how I torn I was about all of this, and that anxiety is still present.

Work takes up the majority of my time, so shouldn't I do something that I enjoy doing? But, then again, is there anything I will honestly enjoy doing for 40 hours a week? Is employment slavery, like the side of that homeless guy's van says? :) (I kid, I kid...I think...)

I used to think that there was some career out there that was the magic bullet, the answer to all my problems.

But as I look at going back to school to start a career in a new field, I'm scared that there is no perfect-fit career for me - that I will spend money and time to get qualified to do some job that will still make me miserable.

Part of me just wants to stay at home in my sweatpants - cooking, cleaning and watching TV all day. The other part of me knows I'd be bored to tears doing that and wonders if I just need to learn to be a happier person. It might never be fun to work full time, and I might not ever have the privilege to work less than that - so maybe I can work on myself and my own ability to be happy and fulfilled under any circumstances.

I wish I knew the answers to these questions.


  1. I think part of the answer is to remember that what you want and who you are today will change as time passes. When I graduated I knew what I wanted, and I went for it. Then, as the years went by, I realized that it wasn't a good fit anymore. I've moved around in different fields and tried different things. Now, I'm a full-time Toddler Wrangler, and when my toddler is in school, I'll need to figure out what I'm going to be when I grow up...or I should say, "What I'm going to be next." ;)

    Good luck finding where you fit!

  2. i love reading your blog. i also love NPR podcasts: Prairie Home Companion, Wait wait don't tell me, and This American Life... grrrrrrrrrreat.

    anyway, tomorrow's the last day of school!!!! that means i have 3 months to go on expensive and wasteful roadtrips to visit friends and family, experiment with cooking, and waste as much time as i please. glorious. anyway- we're all going to bounce around for a long while. you're not the only one. call me. byyyyyyyyyyye.

  3. Oh man, do I EVER hear you....I could have written that EXACT post about that EXACT issue. My time in Vista is also up in July, and I'm at the same crossroads. AGAIN. I feel like I was JUST HERE like, two years ago when I graduated from college. Now what? I've really struggled with finding that ideal career path, and also with the issue of whether I should find a job I genuinely love, or one that I can tolerate and do things I love in my free time. There are definitely pros and cons to each of those, but ultimately I think either way you go has the potential to satisfy. I've come to a point where I've pretty much decided that in order for me to be truly happy about my job, I'm going to have take the reigns--that's why lately I've seriously been considering starting my own business. So I think my plan for the next year is to work a job that I can tolerate while figuring out how to run my own business (sustainable event planning?) in my free time. I think. Man, this is tough! Good luck--I'm sure something will strike a chord in you and you'll figure it all out!

  4. There's a lot of truth about work/careers in "Office Space"--and truth aside, it'll make you laugh and help with the anxiety a little.

  5. You might want to read "Your Money or Your Life" to see if it can help you change your perspective about a money a little bit. You might see that you need less stuff and so less money to sustain your lifestyle. And that might open options about working part time doing what you like. And what you like definitely changes. And, a lot also depends on the people you will work with. If you don't get along with them, even doing what you absolutely love would be a pain. And don't stress out so much. You really don't have to figure out what you will do for another 40 years, just next year or so ;-) Good luck!

  6. This post is exactly why I love you. I was a women's studies major and my only answer to the question "What are you doing after graduation?" has been "Follow the boyfriend wherever he gets a job, duh!" Not quite so feminist... But I figure, as long as I'm with someone I love and we have time to spend together doing THINGS we love, it really doesn't matter what I do 8 hours a day, right?

  7. It's so hard - I have no idea what I would do if I had a full on choice right this second. I've even toyed with the idea of retraining in a TOTALLY different field, just because I can.

    I dunno. Follow your heart, Ash. :-)

  8. so, i went to school and landed a job working real estate, not using my degree one bit. but? i'm happy. no day is ever the same, and that's what i love. i'm close to my family, close to my friends and i wouldn't change a thing.

    trick is finding a balance that you can live with. you're not going to love your job EVERYday, just make sure you love your job MOST days.

    i absolutely ADORE your blog. xoxox

  9. I should so copy and pasteyour post - the only think I would need to change is where i went to college... I feel the same way you do.... where am i going? what's next? Maybe that's why my anxiety soars!

  10. I definitely know how you feel. I just started my new job right out of school, and I'm learning some days, you love it, and some days, it's just OK. And while that doesn't mean it's not the job for me (because I truly believe it is), I don't think ONE job fits perfectly for anyone and that there will always be things that aren't perfect with it.

    So, that probably doesn't help at all, but it's a tough thing deciding what you want to do. You write beautifully, and I'll be back to see where things are leading you. Good luck and take joy in the fact that you don't have to have a definite answer right now!

  11. Ah, the eternal quarter life crisis question ;) I've been mulling over those same questions for the past year or so, and I've just recently made a choice to go down a path that I THINK will be very fulfilling. But the thing is, you just don't ever know. Sometimes you just have to weigh all of your options, screw up your courage, and then leap!

    (PS I'm currently staying home every day cleaning the house, watching tv, and cooking dinner, and I'm ashamed to say--I love it! Ha!)

  12. Ugh I remember my quarter-life crisis and just in general being unsure of what I wanted to do with my life. I still don't have that 100 percent figured out but when I finally got into what I wanted to do, it's had its ups and downs. Ironically, I find myself now wondering if I should take a job I'm more bleh about just to have more of a personal life.

  13. I used to go back and forth on what I wanted to do with my career and finally realized that I actually really loved what I was already doing! Good luck!

  14. gah i FEEL you. after i graduated i had one job i thought i'd love and then realized i HATED it after 5 months. then i moved on to job #2 at my old university, which i thought i'd love, and sort of did, but wasn't challenged enough and i got super bored. so then i decided 'll really challenge myself and go get a phd. you guessed it.. this morning my first thought was wow i really want to go back to job #2 and work with alumni. so easy. no stress. so yeah- you arent alone in your angst. and though i think we, as college educated women are often ashamed to admit, i too really just want to stay home, cook, clean, go to yoga class and work on little projects. sigh. i seriously hope we figure it all out soon.. that or turn 30?


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