A good deal of us go to college these days. The mentality is crammed down our throats that we won’t survive in the competitive world without it—and we are usually promised so many great opportunities upon completion. So, most of us, for one reason or another, go down that 4 (or in more cases than not now a days, 4-6) year walk. After we get through the “what is our major” and the “what do we hope to do once we graduate hurtles” along with the impact of facing new environments with challenges most of us weren’t prepared for at home, assuming we make it through all of them, we finally make it to graduation day. Now what?
After college the time comes when we must look at ways to actually take the degree that costs us four years (and typically a 5-6 figure debt we have to pay back with whatever job we manage to find.) Everyone knows that jobs in most fields are now limited. Many majors pursue courses of study that have no bit for bit application in many real world jobs at this point in time. Academia has a way of shaping our expectations to the point that we tend to think if we work hard and are good at what we do within the school system, when we exit the school system we will have all the opportunities in the world. The problem is—there are no real jobs for poets, there are more Ph.D’s than there are tenure track college jobs, and more history majors than museums that need curators. But of course, the inner drive to be successful at what we do nags us and pushes us forward.
A customer service clerk who went to school for editing might be making a decent hourly rate, might have benefits and might even have time to see his/her friends after work or on weekends. The job might be down the street from their house, and they might get along famously with their co-workers—but that feeling might still bug them in the back of their minds that they are not doing what they went to school for. Parents, friends, family, might all point out that they aren’t being consistent, or haven’t found that “real” job yet. In many cases, that nagging feeling of failing to do what one set out to do in a world where our standing is determined by our employment, might make a person feel unhappy with themselves. Now let us say this same person found an entry level job at a giant editing firm. Of course, the pay might be less the pervious job, and might demand more hours per week and be an hour drive each way, but that person might just take the job to be consistent with that pre-determined goal and vision of success. Of course, now that person might be just as miserable as they were in customer service—not for feeling like a “failure” but now for the longer hours, 2 hour commute, lack of sleep, disconnect from their friends/relatives and lack of time to pursue any hobbies.
It seems in these situations, we fight to the death to get that full time job we always wanted, and in some cases are never happy until we achieve it. At the same time, it seems once we do achieve it, even if it is something we love, the very thing we weren’t happy until we achieved takes away our happiness in the other areas of our lives. Screwed if you don’t get it, but screwed if you do get it. What is our generation supposed to do with options like these? Pick a better career? Go for something without as much competition? Be happy working a menial job if it provides good income—perhaps none of these. Maybe the idea of “success” and “failure” in the real world is a topic that needs re-examination.