Monday, January 20, 2014

The expectation

"I'm afraid I'm gonna be stuck here for the next  10 years". That's a sentiment you'd expect to be voiced by a jaded old man like me, not my 23- year old neighbor. He's barely out of college, has a job in the profession he loves and chose for himself, yet he's already worried about where he is and where he'll end up. "Give yourself time before you decide you're a failure for not having conquered the world. At least until you're 25"- I said laughing. The fact is he has a job. And unlike many people his age I've met  it's one that is actually related to what he went to school for. At least he doesn't have to wait for his next big break waiting tables and serving drinks. At least on paper what he does is impressive. Perhaps it's not ideal, but was he expecting to run a Fortune 500 company by the time he's 30?  Without a doubt it will open many doors later in life, but for now, it has to be enough. At first his fears felt silly for me, mostly because his age. I'm much older than he is, but I share a lot of the same concerns. How do I not get stuck in a small town for the rest of my life, should I be here or elsewhere, what is my next big step? I fear for the future, the type of career I want to have, live I want to live, places I'll get to go to (or not) as much as the next guy. What I would give for that little bit of certainty and stability and some reassurance that things work out in the end. But then it got me to think about it some more. Where does this expectation that you need to be at a certain point in your life by certain age or otherwise you're already behind comes from? What is this pressure that we put on ourselves to be successful, otherwise we feel like failures? It feels to me American kids struggle with it from college if not earlier. Your first job ideally must be the dream one that will set you up for the rest of your life. Why can't you just be happy?  I have a lot of respect for those of my law school friends who took a long second look at their careers and said: This is not for me. Not because I'm not good at it, but because it doesn't make me happy. I've written about it before: One of my classmates is a DJ, another a comedian and a third developed her own brand of dairy free cashew cheese spread she sells at the local farmer's market. There's no one set model for success, there's no one single thing that makes everyone happy. TV shows and movies of the 80's and 90's were forcing one model quite strongly: Study hard, land a dream job, have a career right out of the box behind a desk for years to come. It doesn't work like that for a lot of people. And even if it does, there's no guarantee that at the end of the day you'll be happy. As I'm leaning towards the idea that I should most likely join a law firm and bury myself in cases in research- not that they trip over their feet to hire me anyway- I come to one conclusion. Perhaps happiness is overrated. Maybe facing obstacles and struggles is what keeps us on our feet. Maybe being challenged in life is what gives it meaning. Maybe questioning, reexamining, reevaluating who we are and where we are is just a part of the human  condition. No matter what I do I might never feel different. And wouldn't it be boring if your life was served to you on a silver platter/ If on the day you graduated you got your ideal job, your dream house and dream routine? What would be next for you? How would you appreciate what you have, what would you've learnt? I sometimes think that what makes us who we are is all that we fight, face and rebel against...

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