Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about where I am in life, and where I thought I would be at this age. Geographically, I’m exactly where I want to be. My career could use some improvement.
I look at my current job as a good stepping stone. It has taught me a lot about what I want, and what I don’t want in an office environment. After a year and a half in my current job, I know I want a different role at a company with a little more structure.
When I worked at a newspaper in the Midwest and earned less than $24,000 a year, I was constantly stressed about money. Reading “The Bonfire of the Vanities” probably didn’t help, but I could barely afford rent, groceries, student loans and a credit card payment. Now I’m not as stressed financially, but like a lot of Americans, I’m still living paycheck to paycheck. I have a savings account and I’m making progress on the mountain of student loan debt. But for a lot of people my age, work is about more than the paycheck.
On weekdays we spend more waking hours at work than with our families, roommates, friends or significant others. Fundamentally I think it’s ridiculous to spend 8 hours a day doing something you don’t like. Why stay at a job if you’re not satisfied? Because it pays reasonably well or it’s comfortable or quitting is not a financially viable option. But it’s not fulfilling and I think happiness should factor into the equation somewhere.
Once I got complacent in my job, I started buying things (mostly clothes) as a way to validate going to work every day. After wanting one for months, I got an iPhone last fall. And boots from Nordstrom. I thought maybe if I had work clothes I liked, the idea of going to the office might be less dreadful. But the thrill of new clothes wears off after a week or two.
So I searched for ways to improve my skills and updated my resume. I wonder about going through a temp agency, because two friends had positive experiences as temps. I’m leery about the inconsistent paycheck. I think it comes from being raised by a single mother in a working poor household. And in the past year I started to depend on a comfortable paycheck; losing that and my health benefits is scary, because I still feel like I could be two weeks away from financial ruin.
I remember when my mom and I were on WIC and dinner was Mac and Cheese with tuna, or refried bean burritos. I know how to eat relatively cheap because we did when I was a little kid. But I have friends who grew up eating sandwiches made of Miracle Whip and white bread. My mom and I were never that poor; and I’m fairly certain I’ll never eat a Miracle Whip sandwich.
But that doesn’t make Monday any less dreadful.