We Need Deeper Connections, Not More Fulfilling Work
People make people happy and give life meaning. Work is just secondary.
I checked my personal email before leaving work the other day to find my approximately 10,000th rejection email for a job. I felt my chest get tight and my frustration mount, because this was a job that I really, really wanted.
I’ve been trying to move away from working in an office and towards getting some clinical experiences in a hospital or doctor’s office to see if going back to school for nursing or physical therapy is something that I really want to do.
I know that I need a change. I know that my office work is soul crushing and I hate sitting in front of a computer day after day. I thought I was perfectly qualified for this job. I thought it would be something I enjoyed. I thought it would be fulfilling.
When I pulled into my driveway, my mother was sitting outside.
Immediately, she could see the frustration on my face. I couldn’t help but to break down a bit. I let her hold me, rocking me in her arms like a child until I managed to tell her between gasping sobs what was wrong.
I admitted to her that I don’t want to go back to school, but that I don’t feel like I have a choice.
I hated working in an office. I hated doing mindless, soul crushing work day after day.
I admitted to her that I’m terrified I’m going to end up homeless one day because I can’t afford my student loans on my salary and I can’t ever see myself making that much money.
I told her my fears over the future crush me day after day. And the worst part of it all is the overwhelming guilt that I feel because I still rely on my aging parents to take care of me financially.
By the time I was done talking to her I felt better, lighter. She had assuaged many of my fears and worked to actively problem solve with me to make my situation better. We were going to figure things out.
I’m quitting my job next week.
Not because I have something better lined up or because I want to make more money, but because I desperately need to get away from a toxic situation and take care of my mental and physical health for a few weeks or a few months before I try to work full time again.
It’s just enough money, just enough hours to pay my bills and not much else, but I won’t starve and I’ll still have a house over my head because I have my parents. And right now, that’s enough for me.
Of course, I know that any of this could be taken away from me without a moment’s notice. My parents could die in a car crash tomorrow. Either of them could become terminally ill.
I can’t rely on them forever, but for now I have them. I have that safety net that allows me to do what’s best for my health, even if it’s not what’s best for my finances or future career prospects.
I’ve been given a lot of hell for it too, but I’m just here to say that I don’t care.
People my age put a lot of pressure on each other to find the perfect job and build a fulfilling career. We want a job that makes good money, of course because we are buried in debt, but we also want a job where we feel challenged and where we can change the world. We want to go to work and be in a constant state of flow.
I’ve only been out of school a little over a year, but I’m not sure if this is entirely realistic.
And maybe that’s the problem. Maybe that’s why so many of us are so miserable.
We find a great job, for a great company, but we don’t take it because the salary isn’t glamorous. On the other end, we find an okay job, for an okay company that pays a lot, but we end up miserable and depressed because the work is soul sucking and the culture is toxic.
Of course there are some great paying jobs working for great companies, but I think anymore these are more of an anomaly or that people convince themselves that this is the case when it’s clearly not.
Finally, you have people like me. You work for a crappy company for crappy pay because that’s all you can find and you sit there day after day desperately wishing you could find a more fulfilling job.
You think that it will solve all of your problems. You convince yourself your life would be so much better if you could just find this elusive job.
Truthfully, there probably is a job out there or a company that you are much better suited for, but it’s probably going to take some time and some soul searching to find it.
So in the meantime, we let our mental and physical health suffer, because we want the money.
We obsess over our careers. We sharpen our resumes. We polish our cover letters. We network. We never. Stop. Job. Searching.
Our careers become the central point around which the rest of our lives rotate because we think having the right career is the key to happiness. And why wouldn’t we? That idea has been drilled into our heads from a very young age.
I’m here to say, you don’t need a fulfilling job.
I mean you need a job that’s probably better than the one you have now, but most of us do. You need a culture that’s not toxic. You need a boss that respects and trusts you. You need a job that’s challenging, but not overwhelming. You need to have free time.
And if you’re not cut out for corporate culture for the love of god please stop trying to convince yourself otherwise. Take a lower paying job far, far away from that negativity. Take a job that gets you on your feet, that allows you to be with other people.
Even if it means that you can’t afford all the luxuries that you want. Because you deserve to not feel miserable day after day.
I know its hard. I know that life is expensive. We have apartments, cars, student loans. We want to have fun and be able to go on vacation, but I’m $90,000 in student loans and I’m figuring out a way to make it work. You can too.
Because your health and happiness are more important than that paycheck and work does you no good if it ships you off to an early grave.
Honestly, I wouldn’t have been able to make this move without my support group, but this is what finally brings me to my original point.
You don’t need a fulfilling career. You want one. And that’s fine to admit, because I do too.
But what you actually need are connections. You need your family and your friends. You need people to love you and you need people to love.
If you have people that love and care for you, they will help you out when times get rough. They will make sure that you don’t end up homeless or starving in the streets. They will give you the freedom to take care of your health when you need to the most. They will help to lift you up out of your darkest times.
You probably couldn’t do it without them. I know I certainly couldn’t.
At the same time, my connections provide more than just a financial safety net, they fill me with joy and hope.
They help me to navigate the world. And when they aren’t guiding me, they are simply there for me to enjoy my time with them. They make me laugh. We have fun together. I forget my problems and all the darkness in the world when I give myself over to them.
They help me to feel at peace in a world full of turmoil.
There are plenty of reasons to be unhappy right now and I get that. Inequality is rampant. Wages are stagnating. Debt is soaring. People don’t have healthcare. Our planet is dying. Children are being locked up like animals. Debt collectors are hounding you or your family. You haven’t taken a vacation in years.
I’m not immune to any of these problems. My social supports can’t shield me completely. But they make it bearable when I’m dealing with them. They remind me that there is hope. Tomorrow is a new day, after all.
So if you’re unhappy and you’re struggling, you hate your job and you’re broke and you’re being crushed by the weight of your student loans, I know how you feel.
You think that landing that perfect job and getting on the right career path will solve all your problems. You think that your dream job is the key to happiness.
The only way to be truly, completely fulfilled in this world is to connect with others.
You’d be surprised how unsurprised you are when you finally realize this.