Why I’m not convinced I need a career
Over the holidays, I’ve reconnected with a lot of my really good friends from college. We all graduated a few years ago and are still finding our way in the world. Some people are in grad school, some have graduated grad school, some have very successful jobs, some have jobs completely unrelated to their major, some have changed jobs several times, some have traveled all over the world, etc. I like to think we’re all ultimately trying to live the life that makes us happiest. For most it seems that means establishing a career. For me, it’s not. Here’s (most likely just the beginning of) my thought process on the topic:
My goal in life is to be happy, and I don’t think a career is the thing my happiness in life depends on.
What does make me happy is being close with family and friends, meeting and getting to know new friends, experiencing new things often, and being excited about life. I’m sure there are careers that involve all of these things, but I also think I can do it all without a career. I admire the extremely ambitious people out there who want to achieve success and leave some sort of legacy, to be remembered for their accomplishments long into the future. Leaving a legacy just isn’t something I care that much about – I’ll be dead and won’t know the difference. Plus, at the end of the day, the universe will end and nobody’s legacy will last forever. (Ha sorry, too blunt?) I’d rather spend my conscious time on Earth focusing on whatever brings me the most happiness.
Maybe this all sounds a bit selfish, and in a way I guess it is. Shouldn’t we all be working towards leaving a better world for future generations? But I think it’s possible to do both – be selfish by prioritizing yourself and still be a nice, good person. Yes, I want to make myself happy. But part of what makes me happy is seeing other people happy. I want the world to be a better place, I want the people around me to feel good, and I think I can achieve this through other means than just my job.
I get bored fast, and I like change.
Being happy to some people means being content (and that’s fine!), but to me it means being excited. Sure I like feeling content and comfortable, but it doesn’t even come close to feeling excited. Travel and adventure excite me, and that’s because there are new things to experience all the time. Just thinking about living in the same place or working the same job forever makes me feel miserable and trapped. I’d rather feel free and always look forward to something unexpected happening. Life is so much more interesting and fun for me that way.
I’ve never had a job longer than 8 months. Throughout school, I worked during the summers. When I went traveling, I worked seasonal jobs. By doing this, I’ve acquired a lot of skills, seen how different industries operate and how work cultures compare in various parts of the world. I enjoy the challenge of a new job and most importantly getting to know a great group of new coworkers each time. Having friends in all sorts of industries, with a wide range of interests and pursuits fascinates me, and I learn so much that way! Maybe it’s a result of my indecisiveness, but I like trying different things. I want to own a hostel on an island, work on a dive boat, learn to fly, probably a lot of things I haven’t even heard of yet. I don’t want to do one thing for the rest of my life – I want try one thing for a while, and when I get bored, I’ll move onto the next.
I make money without a career.
And my husband will be rich. Kidding, but maybe? I know I’m in a very lucky position because I have a safety net in the form of my parents. They are super supportive and will always be there to help me if I fail. I am so grateful and quite aware that the majority of people in this world don’t have that. I use it to my advantage, but I still strive to be independent. I like to think I’m a pretty employable person – friendly, resourceful, happy to talk to strangers, decent at math, know how to use Google, follow instructions, etc. Basically, I want to always be capable of having a job that pays enough to live off of if not more.
I don’t see the point of working hard your whole life just to save money for your retirement. What if you never get there? Aren’t there things you won’t be able to do when you’re older? I just don’t get it – why wait? Instead of working hard to save up money to travel, I’d rather just travel now. And I do that by working and traveling at the same time. Say I were to have a salaried job with vacation time and all that grown-up stuff. (Okay, health insurance would be nice.) But, I’d be focused on saving up all my money so that I could have an awesome two-week vacation each year. But for the rest of the year, while I’m actually working, I think my life would be pretty average. If I work while I travel, I get to travel for longer, experience places more thoroughly, and I don’t feel the need to make a ton of money because I’m already doing what I’d want to spend it on. As long as I have enough to live and pay for the next plane ticket, it’s all I need for the time being.
I might change my mind, and if I do, I can get a career when I’m 40.
Maybe I will find my “one true calling”. (Side rant: that whole concept sounds ridiculous to me – it’s the same as believing you have one true love.) Maybe I’ll try 20 different jobs and end up in one that I stay in forever. But I can’t predict the future. I don’t know how I’ll feel and how I’ll change in the years to come. If I decide I want to go back to grad school when I’m 35, or start working my way up in a company when I’m 50, I don’t see why I can’t do that. Careers aren’t an exclusive club that you have to join in your 20s, and if you pass your 30th birthday without joining yet, you’ll never be allowed in. I’ll admit that maybe it gets harder when you’re not fresh out of college. But I do believe you can achieve whatever you put your mind to. And if it’s something I really want, I’ll be motivated enough to make it happen whenever the time comes.
Because I realize that this is not a popular opinion, I question it a lot. Am I being naive? Lazy? Childish? Too optimistic? Do I think life is about something it’s not? I guess I’ll find out eventually, but for now I feel pretty strongly about the whole thing. I still value education extremely highly. Having goals is really important – I always want to be working towards something. I also want to have a positive impact people’s lives and the world. But personally, I think I can do all that without having a career, at least in the traditional sense.