Thursday, October 19, 2006

Apropos of Nothing

I am amazed by the number of people I know who didn't follow their passions in life; they followed the money. Athletes who could have been championship coaches, but settled for going into the family business. Brilliant writers and photographers who decided to be lawyers.

One young man of my acquaintance still has time -- he's in his twenties -- but he has already given up what he enjoyed -- art and his love of the outdoors-- to pursue a stupid, dead end job at one of the bureaucratic agencies in Washington, DC where his girlfriend lives.

This is the kind of behavior typical of women from my generation -- throwing away what they loved to do for someone they loved. Later, they can feel a strange, unexplainable unrest in their forties that makes them end their marriages and go off to "find themselves."

Since he left high school, I've tried to encourage my artistic, outdoorsy friend to get a degree in computer graphics. The only question he asked me, "Can I make a lot of money doing that?" Wrong question. He should have asked, "Will it be something I'll love?"

Someone else I know wanted to be a professional golfer. He's working for one of the big consulting firms, and hating every moment. His plan is to make a lot of money so he can retire at forty.

I told him to follow his passion and the money will follow. He'd rather make a lot of money now so that when he's forty he can retire and then play golf. I warned him that he may suddenly discover that he's forty years old but can't retire. And hates what he's doing. Just like now.

Every time I hear a college kid complain that they don't know what they want to do with their lives, I tell them to remember what they loved to do as children. Who did they pretend they were when they played? What lessons did they take that they loved? What shows did they watch? What occupied their spare time?

On the other hand the kids who had to endure their parents' divorce or a death or some other trauma may have to delay their childhoods until after high school or college.  I think in many respects the lack of motivation among young people in their twenties may be because they didn't get to be children. They didn't have a chance to "play pretend."  To use their imaginations. To think about what they would want to do with their lives, instead of putting their lives on hold, while trying to hold their fragile psyches together in the midst of family chaos.

Their dreams were stomped on and they need time to pursue them again. So I've encouraged people like that to try things, find out what they like. Go someplace that makes them happy. Be a kid again.  But most parents just nag nag nag -- when are you going to get a job?  They had a job -- they were children once, and something or someone took that precious time away.

Childhood aside, women, more than men, for some reason, seem to have permission to reinvent themselves every ten years or so. We interrupt our careers for children. We have one career while we're going to school to start another one. Being true to ourselves was a freedom we earned the hard way in the sixties and don't want to give up.

On the other hand, any number of women stressed to the max with kids and career are starting to worry -- like men -- about losing that BIG paycheck their family counts on. 

On the other hand, it seems like men need to have permission to change their careers instead of slogging away at something they hate.  Unfortunately, too often there are wives who won't let them. She didn't marry a person.  She married a paycheck, especially if he's bringing in the big dough.

What usually happens is that the guys wait twenty years while doing what they hate, finally dumping their families in emotional frustration so they can change directions.

Maybe they won't have to anymore, now that women can make six and seven figures, too. But she shouldn't be stuck either. They can support each other in doing what they each like.  He can weave baskets and she can make potholders. As long as they're happy.  HEY!!! It shouldn't always be about the money. 

Just contemplating my navel here. I'd like to change directions again myself. This would be my fourth incarnation. Maybe there's a lemonade stand in my future.


salemslot9 said...

I'll have a vodka and lemonade, please :)

mombzbe said...

The littlest one is leaving the nest for kindergarten next school year.  
I'm gonna work a little more then, but basically, will continue on as we've been for the most part.  

Because I consider motherhood my job, too.  I'm passionate about it, and some days, I'm pretty good at it.  Ha, but I'm still waiting for the money to follow. :p lol

Believe me, this is not where I'd thought I'd be at this point, long ago when I was planning it out; but I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. :)

jevanslink said...

The easiest decision I ever made was quitting my job after my first child was born.  There was no comparison between raising children and anything else. And I left a career some people would kill for. Luckily I had the option.

Mrs. L

ladeeoftheworld said...

I've long since stopped dreaming of the perfect job.  Now I strive for retirement.  At the same time, though, values have a way of changing, and for the most part, life is pretty damn good.

sgeorge952 said...

Wow, that's a whole lot to ponder.  Great post Mrs. L.

rebuketheworld said...

well....I got a degree in what I enjoy and without sounding you can barely put food on your reflect differently...I  beleive in getting a job where you can make money and its a typical 40 hour week...your off time can be full of your passions, you can take vacations and not have the financial stress that is in the top three reasons for divorce...You dont need a job you love but a job your good at and isnt awful....can be mundane...can be slightly hectic...but if you pick your passion before your pocket life has high stress levels and your passion, takes second seat...............and the only exception I have to humanitarian with regrets..-Raven