This week on my journey I'm exploring what it means to have the 'perfect' job, does it really exist or is it a myth we have all come to believe as true...
On average most people work around 40 hours a week. This means that what you do to earn a living takes up a lot of your actual existence. Its also what we feel like we have been training for our whole life. We go to school to learn, to get good grades, to maybe then go to university and then hopefully get a good job. Theoretically this all sounds pretty simple and to our younger selves it all sounds possible if we work really hard. That was what I took away from school, that you always just need to work that little bit harder. It was etched deep into my brain. So when I left university with a good degree under my belt, I was confident that everything would just fall into place. But I was far too naive. Nothing had trained me for the real world. So when nothing happened the way I thought it would, I was truly lost. This was not what I had been taught. I felt lied to, let down more than anything by myself. I would continue to keep getting rejected, would have to pick myself up time and time again and it became a disheartening part of my everyday routine. I lost confidence in myself and didn't really see what I could offer people by them hiring me. I put my literal blood sweat and tears into my education but just wasn't seeing the outcome I expected.
Little did I know, caught up in my little 22 year old bubble, was that this was happening to people everywhere. I recently read an article on stylist.com where journalist Anne Helen Petersen explores the idea that millennials have been taught to do what they love for a career but this has lead to whole a lot of burnout. This really got be thinking, why is it we put this pressure on ourselves to have the 'perfect' and 'cool' job in the hope that this will solve all our issues and maybe fix our identity crisis. Should our identity be framed by the job we hold? Should we feel embarrassed if we don't go down the career path we had intended? Should how much we make, reference how good we are as a person? Obviously the answer to all these questions is a firm no. But why is it we forget that truth so often.
Whenever you meet a new person, one of the first questions you always ask "Is what do you do?", we ask as if it makes up the main part of ones being. But is this really the case? I have too been guilty in the past of making an assumption about someone based on the job they do. Its as if we have been programmed to think if its not what society deems as a 'cool' career, then someone is squandering their potential. But in reality maybe a temporary 9-5 job is what millennials really need sometimes. When I used to work as a sales assistant, one of the best parts was when it struck 5, you were no longer being paid so you had no more responsibilities. You were able to actually switch off and leave work at work and enjoy the time that was really yours.
I'm going to be honest with you and say I really struggled writing this post. I kept putting it off, refusing to let my mind really go there and actually finally write down my thoughts on something that has been playing on my mind for a while now. Recently I have been feeling that part of the reason I don't always feel ok is down to the fact that I am not on a steady career path. I like so many struggled to get work due to Covid-19 and especially as the creative fields took such a large hit. The only way forward I saw for myself was to take the jump and try setting something up myself...
But I still struggled seeing a lot of people around me climbing the job ladder and succeeding in their chosen path. I feel lost. Sometimes I feel as if I'm wasting the education I paid for, I'm letting the people I love down and that I'm just not good enough. To me as a teenager, success felt like what I just had to always achieve. Not because I had pushy parents, but because I pushed myself. I felt I always had to do better. I wanted to hurt myself when I didn't do what I deemed my best. Even though our best varies from day to day. Its not a set thing, it holds far to many variants that we forget to take into consideration. I always struggle even to this day to accept that I tried my best. I look at myself and still wonder if I could have done better...
I left my job at the end of January last year as I could no longer take it. The job I thought was one thing, turned out to be another. I fell for a dream and was shocked by the reality. I was sick to by stomach about going to work in this unsafe environment with a management I didn't feel cared. It opened me up to the world of fast fashion and behind all the glamorous clothes there was a different story - overworked, underpaid staff selling clothes made my people in an even worse situation. I spent everyday guilty I was playing a part. I was supporting a system I knew needed to change but I had no voice or platform to share my concerns. For the first time in my life I put myself and my mental health first. I had never done this before, I always just pushed through hoping to find my way eventually. They told me to take a year out of school when I got unwell, I said no. They said you could study and live at home, I said no. I never wanted to be ill, so I pretended I wasn't, but I just couldn't keep pretending that this isn't a part of my life. Whether I liked it or not, it was my reality. I will live with these issues the rest of my life, I now have sort of come to accept that. I now choose whats right for the whole of me, including the issues I struggle with.
My decision to follow my own path has always been guided by those around me. I look to the people around me to inspire me in my career choices. I look to my mum who gave up an established career to raise two children and then rejoin the workplace in a totally different area. I admire my aunty for being so brave as to leave a job of so many years to go freelance. I also look at all the creatives I follow and watch in awe as they set about their own way, carving a future for themselves that is completely and utterly unique. Everyday I think about the friends I have in my life, all doing very different things, all such amazing strong people, their jobs not defining them but adding and building on their existing character. I look up to this and seek to find my own sort of contentment in my own life.
So I guess all I'm left to decide is what do I want my career to mean to me. This is something that the last year had really made me sit back and evaluate. What do I really want to leave this planet saying I achieved. I think a job is part of it, but not all of it. I want to create memories, some of those through work but also through friendships, love and family. So, the best way for me to think about it is that a job is like a sort of extension of yourself. Its something that you dedicate time to but doesn't define every decision you make. Maybe its a hobby you transformed into something lucrative, maybe its a job you fell into by a happy accident but whatever the reason behind it is, you are so much more than that one thing.
I love what i have created this past year. Its an extension of myself, my passions, my personality, its all of me wrapped up in a nice messy little bow. I might fail, I might succeed. I might quit. I might stumble. But I will have done it by being my most authentic self and maybe thats all the validation I need. Jobs will most definitely come and go but how you view yourself should always be a positive constant. Well thats what I'm working on anyways... Because ultimately thats the most important job I will ever have, that of being my own biggest supporter.