Sep 1, 2007

What do you want to be when you grow up?

If you asked me that question 10 years ago, I would have said “a fashion designer.” Ten years before that, my answer would have likely been “an actress.” That was all before I realized that the point of work was to make money.

As a child, I was financially fortunate. My dad worked a job that made it possible for us to live in the “upper middle class” while my mother stayed at home and took care of me and my sister.

Sometimes I wonder if it would’ve been better to have grown up with a mother who had a “real job” for a living. Even though I knew I didn’t want to end up a housewife, it kind of felt like it was an option of last resort. Now I know I never want to stay home and take care of kids, at least not for an extended amount of time. Perhaps I’d take a year off or something, if I ever decide to pop out a baby or two, but I can’t see myself dedicating a chunk of my life just to raising kids.

Right now, I’m working both for money and to put myself in a good spot for my future career. I’m lucky that I have the opportunity to work for more than just money, even though I need the money to afford living on my own and the lifestyle I chose to live. But I believe that every job, even if it’s not perfect for you, always teaches you something about yourself and helps you take a step towards whatever is you’ll end up doing next in life.

While in some cases I’m high strung, when it came to my career, since graduating college I’ve generally followed the river where it took me. Sure, I went through really frustrating times, when I applied for job after job with no responses in my inbox for months. There was a time when a $12 an hour for a job seemed like my best bet, when pushing for $13 an hour seemed like a bit of a risk. I wasn’t sure what I was worth, with just my college education and experience of an internship or two.

I definitely have more experience now, but I’m still not sure what I’m worth. Being as I live in one of the most expensive area’s of the country, it’s hard to compare my salary with that made by my peers who graduated with me, and live in much more affordable areas. Still, sometimes I worry that I’m making too much. I know it’s silly to think that, given I’m working hard and trying to do the best I can. Besides, a salary ultimately ends up to be broken down into monthly earnings, and if you’re not worth your wage, the big boss will let you know before you have a chance to, uh, ask for a demotion.

Really, though, I just to find a job one day (like, a few years down the road) where I don’t even have to think about my work in relationship to my wage. I realize that might to be possible, given that work is always about money, unless you win the lottery or some giant inheritance, which makes it possible to work for fun alone. But I want to find a career path that makes it possible to do something where my ideas are a large chunk of the value I contribute to an organization. I like creating things, being part of a team and developing something – a product, a design, something that goes from zilch to an actual thing that can be used or looked at within a set amount of time. I like closure. It makes it easier for me to focus on a project, because even though the path from A to B isn’t clear, there’s a definitive start and some sort of way to measure the end result of a project.

Journalism is wonderful for so many reasons. In some ways, it allows for this sort of closure on a daily basis. Each story is a “project” in its own right. And then the collection of stories, looking back over the weeks and months of work, becomes a body of work one hopefully can be proud of. Still, sometimes I feel like I’d be better off in a career where the projects allow for a bit more time, and a lot more collaboration. I love brainstorming with other people, as long as my ideas (the good ones) are valued. I think I have pretty good ideas. At least one out of twenty of my ideas is worth listening to. It would be neat to work for a startup from the ground up – as an idea person - and to be part of a team doing that. I tried to get a job that would put me in that type of position out here, although it wasn’t for a just-born startup, but it would have given me the opportunity to be part of developing a product, which sounded cool. That didn’t work out, though.

And that’s fine. I’m really thrilled with how things worked out. My current job is 99% ideal. And the missing 1% has more to do with me and my abilities than anything else…. I just believe that the ideal job for anyone would be one where they can offer their best natural gifts to an organization. For me, I’m a visual person, and an idea person. I can write decently. I’m not the best at the details, though if I’m working with a team I can really focus on editing and fixing details along with a group of people coming up with ideas and making a project.

So what do I want to be when I grow up? I have no idea. I feel like I’m headed in the right direction to figure that out. I’m hoping I’ll have a clearer idea once I’m 25.


Sarah said...

I'm 26 and still not sure if I've figured out what I want to do with my life. I'm giving this lawyer thing a shot right now. :-)

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