I am not one of those people. At least, I hope I’m not, because I sure haven’t found that job.
I have been an English teacher, in the United States and abroad. I have worked in retail. I have worked for non-profits. I have been a dog walker, a sign placer, and a telephone interviewer. I have earned income writing, blogging, and proofreading. I have served coffee and food. I have a Master’s degree. I have worked at McDonald’s.
None of these things has brought meaning to my life. I loved what I studied in grad school and I’m glad I’ve lived abroad … but I’m not An English Teacher or a Writer or Anything Else.
I’ve lived and worked in countries with tremendous unemployment. Countries where people used to study what their parents or someone else made them, and now work in whatever job they can find. They don’t have the expectation that e a job should bring meaning to your life.
But we feel that in the US. Particularly on the East Coast, your job is your life. It’s almost more excusable to be unemployed than to be working a crappy job. It’s almost unthinkable that a person could look for happiness outside of work, that work is really just something to earn money.
I can recognize this, and I even think it’s unhealthy. I know it’s okay that I am not my job. But it’s still hard. I sometimes – often – cringe when I have to tell people, yes, I came here for grad school, I actually came here instead of New York because my university offered me a 2/3 scholarship, and I have this job that is completely unrelated to my degree.
I know I have choices, and a lot of people in the other countries I have lived in do not. I am fortunate for that. But having choices also makes me feel that if I’m not satisfied with my job, it’s my own fault. It’s something I’ve chosen. And it’s hard to live with that.