One thing no one ever tells you when you’re in college—or at least, no one ever told me, although if they had I doubt I’d have listened—is exactly what the job will look like. I had this picture in my head of what teaching would look like, but years later when I became an adjunct professor, it looked nothing like what I’d dreamed. Instead I ended up in the marketing field for many years, completely by accident, like a lot of people in marketing—many of them English majors, too (technically I majored in Comparative Lit, but English is very similar). If I’d studied marketing I’d have had this picture in my mind that looked like a scene from “Mad Men,” had that show been on when I was an undergrad, and in many ways it was like that: people who revolved their lives around their careers, meeting with corporate bigwigs who know nothing about creativity, or how to sell dreams to people, which is essentially what good marketing does (not that I ever wanted to sell dreams to anyone). But I’d have had no idea that in reality I’d spend most of my days behind a computer screen, staring at Excel spreadsheets all day, doing calculations, trying to make sense of data, and worst of all, trying to come up with new ways that would sell more of whatever particular product or service being marketed, which, in my case, was a for-profit, online university. It can make a person jaded and skeptical in many ways, especially when that person has tens of thousands of dollars in student loans achieving a similar degree that resulted in two semesters of achieving payment similar to that of a McDonald’s employee, only to find that it’s just not the job I wanted.
This fear and frustration about the uncertainty of the future makes me want to scream and punch something. I’m afraid that one day I will look back and read this and find myself still in the same situation I’m in now, regretful about the path that I chose, except that in 20 years it will be the second path (technically, the third career path) and I’m worried that I’ll find that I just keep choosing bad paths. Looking back on it now I can see that I could have made better decisions from high school through my 20s and 30s. The question is, can I make better decisions now? Or am I just the kind of person who makes one unwise decision after the next?
Maybe everyone makes unwise decisions repeatedly because that’s what being human is all about. At 40, I still don’t know. I still don’t know if luck, divine intervention, hard work, or a combination of all of the above are the ways to get to a good station in life, whatever that means. A person can do all of those things and still wind up with nothing. And then what does it matter? Those are all just material things, right? Sure, but what about health care, shelter, and clothing? That’s what I worry about. I don’t need diamonds and gold, and I know I won’t be able to retire. But what about emergencies? What if I’m unable to work anymore?
I would be happy with a tiny house on a small piece of land where I can grow some vegetables and maybe one day some goats and chickens. Even a condo or townhouse would be okay with me. Even a mobile home, or my own 800-square-foot apartment would be nice. But maybe I am selling myself short. Maybe I should strive for more. I really do not know.
It’s hard lately to focus on the importance of living in the present moment. Life is here, now. I can’t worry about being homeless when I have a home right now. I want to know what the future will look like, some kind of guarantee that I’ll be okay, and that’s just not possible. Faith and trust that I will be okay, that I am okay today, is the only way through this. It’s just so hard to remember that sometimes.