I’ve been having a difficult time this past week. I’m continuing my MBA degree program, moving from the study abroad in Paris back to Philadelphia where the program is based. In the summer, I’ll be off to Asia, and then when the program ends in September, I hope to be back in Paris. Not a bad life, I suppose. I added 4 countries to my list and have met some amazing people during my travels. And an awesome guy. So I’m not super happy about going back to the US, as you might imagine. But I’ll be back 🙂
Doing a ton of career research, networking, and thinking about my real priorities in life. We do often think our life’s work is in our career more than anything else. I don’t know if that’s true at all stages of life, but I do know we have to do the best we can with what we have at each moment. I have been doing a lot of thought as to how I can best do that in my next job. An MBA is for getting a better job, after all. (It doesn’t necessarily make you a smarter person by challenging your cognitive faculties, it just vaguely introduces you to some business topics. Shhhh)
I’ve been having some major difficulties concentrating on my school work and the odds and ends I need to take care of before leaving. Things have just kind of been weighing down on me. Maybe I’ve been a bit self indulgent and moody and all, but it’s been a little mini crisis of faith. I even feel physically kind of achy. My heart hurts. It’s been super hard too because I can’t quite see what this is all for, no clear light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve gotten some advice to go into management consulting, which is a smart and savvy career move that enables you to spend perhaps months or maybe just 4 days a week shipped out to your clients’ site, working about 12 hour days but gaining prestige, experience, and exposure to many industries. Maybe it’s not that bad, who knows. I’ve been wondering if I should have just become a French teacher instead.
In other words, I’ve been questioning all this bullshit. Is your career really the most important thing in your life? What are my ultimate goals, and what am I willing to give up to get there? Especially in regards to location and work life? Which jobs actually fit my skill set? Which jobs fit my values?
What have I come up with?
Well, it’s not the capitalist system that is evil, it’s the short sightedness of human nature. Intellectually challenging and financially remunerative careers are not always the most socially conscious. Nor are the most prestigious, versatile, and well-paid career paths amenable to developing long term relationships and having a good life outside of work. I mean this in terms of relationships, having time for friends, life, travel, etc. What does this mean? The people who reach the top ranks have sacrificed everything else for their careers. Perhaps in the past, people were equally appalled when the norm for professionals was an 8 hour day and being home for dinner with the family, but I think the kind of careers common to high level people with lots of travel, a need for face time at the office, and long hours are not only grueling but nearly irreconciable with a sane life outside of work. Unless you have a nanny maybe, but then what’s the point of having kids? So these are the people who make it to the top ranks of our society and have power over the rest of us and are held up as models. For people lower down the value chain, things are a bit different (depending on the industry) but the standards are set from the top.
I’m tired and digressing here a bit.
The point is, capitalism is an awesome system because it gives us what we want. People decry globalization and competition and everything else, but the world emerging reflects broader human norms.
We value stuff and/or prestige over relationships.
People are dumb, aren’t we?
But don’t you want the people at the top to be willing to make those sacrifices in terms of excellence? Aren’t you ready to make similar ones? What does it say about you if you are not.
This is the game we have created for ourselves to play. No wonder no one is happy, the environment is being destroyed, and people fight wars over resources and all that junk.
Crazy world we live in.
But this is just one element of the rules of the game we have set up. We can try to change them, bit by bit, person by person. But we have to live with them until then, we cannot deny they exist.
So take this moment for yourself, and decide what you really want. Don’t let “society” decide it for you, by letting yourself be lead by money, power, and prestige. Those silly humans just put them in those places, but you have to decide whether it’s worth the climb to get there.
Maybe you want to make a different climb altogether.
Where is your race? Don’t miss running your own.
Go dance to the beat of a different drummer. Even if no body else hears it, it will make them question why you’re dancing, and make them realize they aren’t dancing too.
I don’t really have any good answers for the general or for my personal case. Well, yes I do. I think having good relationships in my life and leisure experiences cannot entirely replace a feeling of mastery and accomplishment in a certain job or craft. But I think they should at least try to be balanced, even if balance at 24 with no husband or children means something completely different to what I’d expect in 5-10 years. Yeah, my career is not the most important thing, but fulfilling my mission and dreams for this earth are. I hope I find a career to be a good vehicle for them, yet I don’t think that the people I have in my life and smelling the roses aren’t important parts of life too.
Just ask yourself the questions. what are you working for? What would you regret if you hadn’t done it by the time you died? What is the most important thing in the world?
Good night and God bless,