Although growing up sometimes means defining a career, earning more responsibility, and hopefully more money, does it have to also mean losing the enjoyment of pleasures once appreciated? Year after year, I find myself caring more for the paycheck at the end of the week, retirement fund, and health insurance more than I do other things. Of course, I can still say with confidence that I’m a quite happy person and thoroughly adore my life. However, the meaning of a job and work, a place that I spend a majority of my time, doesn’t really mean to me what it once did. Even though changing jobs frequently and working for almost nothing isn’t a viable option outside of high school and college, I feel that revisiting the struggle of this time could be incredibly enlightening. Let’s imagine this, if my younger self could give my current self some career and life advice, what would I say?

You Aren’t Your Work

My younger self would definitely say this because during a majority of my late teens and early twenties I was working as a barista, day care employee, and customer service rep. While I did learn quite the array of crucial life skills throughout my employ at these miscellaneous jobs, I always understood that the job was separate from my home life. This is something that is much harder for me to comprehend at this time. I tend to take work home with me, not only physically, but mainly emotionally. Since I can now envision my line of work leading to a career, I tend to take it much more seriously.

So, what would my younger self have to say about that? I think she would say, “You deserve to enjoy time to yourself”. Making a good impression at work doesn’t have to mean stressing so much or working harder than you should. Do outstanding work while you’re at work. This way you don’t have to worry at home if you did every little thing that there was to do. I never doubted my work ethic for a second in my younger years. I know I do excellent work now, so why is today different?

She would also scoff at the fact that I tend to wear my emotions from the day on my sleeve. I can’t recall a time in my past when I came home from a long day at the office (meaning coffee shop) and took my bad day out on anyone else. My younger self would laugh at me for being so “adult”. “It’s just a job”, she would say, “family and friends and fun are what is important”. In other words, “Live life (not work) you dummy”.

Meet New People

One of the best things about working a ton of starter jobs early on was meeting new people and making a lot of friends. Getting the chance to hang out with people that you might not have been able to otherwise is really a special thing. Once a career is built, so to speak, a chance for stagnancy comes alive. Doing the same thing after work each day or always hanging out with the same people can become the norm. Chances are that some people from your past just didn’t align with where you are anymore.There is no rule that says people aren’t allowed to keep making friends their entire life. There also isn’t a rule (or shouldn’t be) about where you can make new friends.

I’m to go out on a limb and say that I’m more anti-social now than I have ever been. I know that in my teens and twenties I was much more shy and unopinionated, but I made friends like crazy. Now, I’m not afraid to speak my mind and I know what I want (for dinner, in a partner, with this part of my life…mostly). However, I don’t know how to speak to people at all. Even if I am friendly with people at work or elsewhere it is so much harder for me to say the words, “Hey do you wanna hangout?” Back then, I know for a fact, it wasn’t this difficult. I didn’t judge others so harshly. I didn’t try to figure out if someone might fit my life perfectly before even trying to befriend them.

Forget About the Paycheck

When I was the most broke that I have ever been, I was totally fine with it. I knew that I was going to have to live with the fact that I had no money and that’s just the way that it was. Nowadays, I get anxiety if I don’t have my usual safety blanket of benjamins keeping me warm. Even though this was rough from time to time, it always seemed to work out. I’m absolutely not saying, “throw abandon to the wind and burn all your cash” because that’s just idiotic. What I am saying instead is to just find pleasure by other means. That old cheesy saying, “money doesn’t buy happiness” is ruthlessly true.

Without a doubt, the best moments in my life come from enjoying what I am doing and spending time with the people I really want in my life. Even if your job isn’t exactly a picturesque dream, finding joy in a career that you are masterful at should be more of a focus than anything else. Working to get to the end of the day or the paycheck at the end of the week is just not a way to live. Unfortunately, I find myself just mentally waiting for the end of the day from time to time. Again, I know that I am a hard worker. So, for me I should really be bragging to myself about the great work I got accomplished this day or week. Even though that might sound pretty lame, just think of it this way, every awesome thing that you accomplish can be added to your resume of life.

If at the end of each day your only accomplishment is the money that was made or the idea of how to get to the next dollar, so be it. Although, consider this; a majority of our time spent each day (and realistically our lives) is spent in the office.

In conclusion, my younger self wouldn’t want me to be sitting at home alone, saving up money for nothing. My younger self would want me to do something – anything rewarding, have enough money to eat, enjoy good company, meet new people, and never think that I’ve got it all figured out.

Featured photo credit: Valles Barnepass i Hemsedal Skisenter/SkiStar via flickr.com

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