I looked up the etymology of “career” yesterday and as I suspected, it comes from horse racing. Before it came to signify a work trajectory with personal meaning, the word meant galloping at full speed like a sweaty animal, which isn’t too far off the mark of how I feel sometimes.
It’s so complicated, balancing the ethereal bits and pieces that comprise success. So I’m middle-class and snooty, so I know I don’t want a “job.” My day-to-day livelihood earning has to be “fulfilling.” It has to have Meaning. In my younger days, I’ve been an absolute brat about well paying work because it wasn’t Meaningful (or at least Fun) enough for smarty-pants me.
Lately though, my bratty ass has had a wake up call. Being skint isn’t romantic, it sucks, and I’m re-evaluating my concept of success to include, you know, financial solvency. I’m also re-evaluating the peer recognition angle—I want to have good relationships with my colleagues and of course I want people to appreciate my work, but dang, f’n politics. Like my mom always said, other people’s opinions of you aren’t as important as your opinion of yourself. Right? Right?
Writer Alain de Botton (who’s almost as smart as my mom) makes a similar point in the TED lecture below, where he opines on the definition of success and failure. He defines snobbery as judging someone on one aspect of their self—like, you know, their job. As always, his observations are witty and thought-provoking, as he discusses envy, fortune and the oh-so North American concept of a Loser. He reiterates that you really can’t have it all. I’ve been reading about David Foster Wallace and Dash Snow this week, sad stories where talent and money didn’t bring happiness. Sacrifices are a part of life, and so it’s best to make them knowingly and peacefully. It’s definitely muse-worthy stuff, so here I am, musing.
Careering wildly seems a bit pointless, at least until I figure out where the track leads. For the next bit, I’m going to have a vocation, the definition of which is “an occupation to which a person has a specific calling:” I can’t help it, I still want to write. So, I’m going to write, pay my bills and be glad about it. I’m also going to nurture and be thankful for the non-work aspects of my life (love! health! food!). And, because it’s July and kinda sunny out, I am not going to let this fading summer pass me by.