The Twenty-Something Dilemma

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I submitted this article for publication and unfortunately it was not chosen.  Fortnuately, I can publish it here!

I am in my mid-twenties and I do not like the career path I’ve chosen.  It doesn’t feel as much a choice as it feels like something I was forced into.  Not by my parents, not by society, but my circumstance.  I recently accepted a job for a corporate software company in New York, which I have tried to convince myself I enjoy.  I do not, by any means, enjoy this type of environment.  I am a writer, both technically and in every other sense of the word.  I am creative, I am unique, and I get no greater satisfaction than knowing people read my words.  Sometimes I wish I had the overwhelming urge to become a doctor, or get a Master’s Degree, or do something with more stability and validity.  But alas, I love to write.  Like other creative professions, there are millions of others with the same goals and aspirations and I have to try and find some way to prove that I’m better than the rest, i.e., pray for a miracle.

I took my current job because I had been unemployed for several months and the only work I had found until I was offered this position was a freelance gig that could only offer me 10-14 hours of work a week.  I did not seek out my current  job during my countless hours of job hunting, my recruiters at a creative job placement service did not find this one for me; they found me on LinkedIn.  It was not a job I wanted, but it was a job with a good salary and full benefits.  As an unemployed 26-year-old without a trust fund how could I say no?  I cried when I told my boyfriend I accepted the job.  If there was a “corporate” version and a “real” version of myself standing side by side, I envisioned the “real” one strangling the “corporate” one with a colorful headscarf.

I felt like I was giving up pursuing my dream of finding a job that allowed me to use my creativity and voice in what I consider real writing; writing with the purpose of entertaining, inspiring, and engaging the audience.  Perhaps I stand alone, but I need to care (if even just a little) about my job.  I find no satisfaction in having a job “just for the paycheck”.

It saddens me that in the “Land of Opportunity” more and more young people who are supposed to be beginning their lives and chasing their dreams are settling for jobs that make their eyes glaze over.  What happened to passion?  Or purpose?  Or dreams?  It appears they were squashed by rent, insurance, and “being an adult”, whatever that means.

I always come back to the dilemma of the twenty-something’s: do you choose to follow your passion or do you take the safe route with a decent salary and a 401K?  Passion can still provide money, benefits, and everything else you have to worry about once you turn 25, but it never seems to offer the security of a 9-5, business casual, cubicle.  I’ve considered trying to change my lifestyle so that I could accommodate a lesser salary and not be “rent broke” (when your entire paycheck goes to rent and you can’t afford to do anything except eat ramen noodles).  That’s when the root of the dilemma reared its ugly head – do I want to love my job or love my paycheck?  In a perfect world, you get both.  But this is the real world and sometimes you have to make difficult choices.  I have truly hated my job before; it is a sad and empty feeling that slowly sucks the life out of you.  It is my greatest fear to wake up and feel this way and be 45.

For me, happiness matters more than money so I’ve decided that I want to pursue the career and life I dream of when I stare at my computer and pretend to work.  As a writer, it’s rare to find the type of innovative, out-of-the-box company I long to be a part of and expect to make the salary I do in corporate land.  But to wake up every day excited for the day ahead, to see my work and feel immense pride and satisfaction, to not need 6 cups of a coffee a day just to stay awake…yeah, I’ll take a pay cut for that.

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