Friday, April 11, 2008

Something on the Internet you've never ever heard before

Now that I'm a wise old mother, I'm qualified to dispense advice, regardless of whether it has been requested or is appreciated.

So, here it is, my primary pearl of wisdom these days:

Don't follow your the expense of your happiness.

People from my generation are taught that we can do anything, become anything, be anything, and that we should dare to dream, and dream big. Hey, little girl putting Barbie in a suit--want to be CEO of a big company? Do it! You kid over there screaming into the microphone--want to be a huge recording artist? Go ahead! Don't let your uptight parents, with all their talk of "reality" and "earning a living," get in your way.

Being a lawyer is probably in the list of the Top 25 Last Things I Ever Expected I Would Do. It's certainly one of the last things I ever thought I'd have any interest in.

You know what? I never had some radical conversion. I went into law school knowing fully that I probably never would. I was right. There was never an Aha! moment when the Rule Against Perpetuities suddenly struck me as scintillating. I've never read a single John Grisham novel; I seldom watch legal dramas; most of the time, I couldn't care less. My leisure hours are spent reading fiction, or autobiography, or science, or celebrity gossip. I like my work and find it interesting enough, but it's not my life's passion. In fact, I don't have one single life's passion; I have many. And being a lawyer is one path that allows me to indulge most of them.

I would have loved to be a doctor. I still think it's both a noble and fascinating calling. I could have had a lot of fun onstage. I would have loved to be a full-time writer; in fact, I haven't quite abandoned hope that I may possibly be one someday. But if not, no biggie. Being a lawyer, right now, in my life, allows me to earn a little money while spending a little time with my children. While gradually sewing a dress. And (occasionally, these days--still working on making it more frequent) writing blog posts. And it made it possible for me to date, meet my husband, get married, and have children, all before I hit thirty. I highly doubt I would have been able to have this fairly balanced life that I have if I had chosen any of the aforementioned other careers, although I likely would have loved my work.

But not exclusively. Doctors have their share of frustration and stress. Actors, even successful ones, get rendered obsolete pretty quickly. Writers get frustrated. Every single profession in the universe has its own complications, frustrations, and annoying aspects.

I have friends who followed their dreams--they pursued careers in medicine, acting, writing, etc. Some of them are quite successful at their chosen professions. Some of them are not. Some of them make huge amounts of money. Some of them make very little, and must supplement with other work. Many are my age, and are now hitting the point at which they are starting to take a long, hard look at their private lives. And many of them are seeing that they aren't where they had hoped to be at this point.

So, yes, by all means, think about whether you'll like your work. Don't go into something you'll hate, no matter what. Definitely go into something you can tolerate, and hopefully go into something that you'll find at least mildly interesting. And definitely think about your life as a whole. If you want a certain profession so much that you are willing to make the necessary sacrifices in your personal life, then do it. But be realistic about your chances of success, and if they're really low, and you can't bear the thought of making those sacrifices to your personal life for such a low chance of payoff, then do something else.

Don't go into music, acting, etc. if you require a certain income to fulfill your dreams for your personal life. This does not make you a sellout; it makes you a realist who is taking care of your whole self. Don't go into medicine if you definitely want to be married and have kids while you're young. Don't go into high finance if you'll hate it, and will be rich and miserable. Don't go into hotel management if you don't want to work weekends. Look at people you know who have happy, balanced lives, and ask them where they made sacrifices and where they didn't. Ask unhappy people what they would have done differently. Decide what's important to you in your life, what's not, and how you can put together a package that will fit together what you need to be reasonably happy. And, also, if at all possible, get yourself a TempurPedic bed. They rock.


Anonymous apathy lounge said...

Where were you when I was deciding what to do with my life? Glad you're back. I miss chatting with you TB and Mignon. In fact, I have no idea what they're even up to these days.

2:24 PM  
Anonymous Janet said...

I have been thinking about the life,I have no idea about it.

11:47 AM  
Blogger ptg said...

Sage advice. One of these days, after I've handed in my license, I'll write about why answering a call to the bar ain't all its cracked up to be.

"Its good work if it doesn't kill you." - Cy Pres

12:10 AM  
Blogger Velma said...

Wrong, wrong, wrong! About the Tempurpedic, I mean. I'm a 100% latex mattress fan, myself. Everything else was completely dead-on, though. Great post!


11:48 AM  
Blogger Sarah said...

I'm late in commenting, but thank you for this post. I've been struggling with making this decision lately and feeling like a sell out for admitting that I might not be able to follow my passion because I's also like to make a nice living. Thank you for writing about this.

1:57 PM  

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