Job Talk

I've been thinking a lot lately about how I operate as a person, and what I want from life, my friends, a career. Not really job titles or specific areas so much—I'm floating hopelessly, completely ungrounded—but what the work environment would be like; how many people, how much responsibility. I've thought about a whole wide range of work-related things, but these thoughts come and then go again, mostly without being recorded.

This week, I worked about 47 hours, maybe more. Last week was around 54. This is silly because I don't think I want to work even 40 once I have a real career with benefits and decent pay. I know that you have to work hard to move up, and I also know that high-paying jobs are more likely to demand extra hours of you. But I'd like to work my way up to a nice amount of pay and then cut back my hours, say to 30 or 35, and get paid a proportional amount. (I'll go into why in a minute.) So far, I haven't set myself up for greatness—I started at the bottom of the job-ladder and haven't hopped my way into anything remotely ambitious so far—so I should probably be scrambling to increase my income as much as I can, as quickly as I can, instead of dreaming of what I would do with my sizable chunks of free time in this easy future. (Of course, everyone I read on the internet says that as long as you're learning things and doing things, it doesn't matter what you're doing in your twenties—but don't sit them out and don't do nothing! That's why I quit my old job for a temp job: to learn something new.)

But I also know my free time is really only going to shrink in the future. Sure, one job takes less time than three, but my friends are going to have kids someday, and I'll want to see them. I'll probably have kids too. I want to travel once I have more flexibility with my income, and also start seeing my parents regularly, immediately. (Maybe I should not be so certain of this future financial solvency, these easy family developments; I hope I'm not jinxing things!) Even recently, those weeks in October when I worked just a little over 40 hours, it was hard to keep up with my friends and my laundry, my cats and my kitchen. Plus I have a boyfriend I'd like to spend meaningful time with sometimes.

I've never felt passionately about a career. As a kid, I picked them willy-nilly. I was going to be a ballerina, but I never danced. I wanted to be a piano player, having never taken a lesson (and though I did eventually take lessons for eight years, and really loved it, by then I was too scared and too behind to consider it as a career). I liked school, so I'd be a teacher. I liked reading, but almost never wrote good stories in school. Then I wanted to be a writer, assuming I'd have to have a day job, too. I didn't want to study writing or English in college. By then, I sort of thought I'd just end up with some sort of office job like my mom, but hopefully with more security—she was let go my senior year of high school, just in time for all those college bills, and didn't get re-hired for three years. I'd do my work, get paid, save for retirement, have a 2-income family, and I'd be ahead of the game. When I wasn't at work, I'd read books and watch movies and go to exciting places.

But there was that other part of me that assumed I'd have this magic moment in college where everything would click and I would have a path and goals and meaning. I needed for this to happen, and then I did my best to avoid figuring anything out. I want to rewrite, really examine the story of my college years. I feel ambivalent about them. They might not really matter, though. More important is what I've gotten out of the past few years as a poorly paid, but fortunately working person.

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