A short off-the-cuff for you before embarking on my paper.
I look at my friends taking jobs and starting on careers — knowing them personally, their professional outfit/garment/what seems foreign and even surprising in many cases. If I ask them about their work, the way they describe makes it seem even more distant from what I know of them, their persons. It is a kind of disconnect. I suppose when someone who has known me through my youth would think the same thing when they hear about me in law school and working law jobs.
Trying to get a job never struck me as anything that may deviate from what you already know and do while I was in music, since in music one’s areer is a natural extension of one’s chosen training–in addition to the fact that something like music is a (total) expression/actualization of one’s self. For many people, though, now I see as I am doing the same thing, finding a job is, well, finding a job. Of course if one is lucky enough, one can find a job in an area of personal interest. More often than not, however, it is an opportunity one finds and clings to as a means of financial sustenance. [It is ironic that this generation has grown up being taught it had so many choices and the skies were the limits, yet the reality leaves little room for the flourishing of choice. Truth is, it isn’t all that different. Maybe the fact that the norm is post-secondary education and building a family becomes a delayed responsibility, but with so much debt in student loans it is probably about the same if not worse, the financial pressure.]
Sometimes, in some fortunate scenarios, one can grow to love one’s work, but a lot of the times people start identifying with what they do in a disconnected yet inevitably integrated way — their work, workplace, career, becomes integrated into their identity. They may not absolutely love what they do, but it becomes an important part of who they are because frankly, there isn’t much time or space for them to have explored or expressed their (true, inner ) identity outside of their work.
When I see the friends of mine taking a job and embarking on a career–and this will be me soon–they seem glad to have a means to pay the bills, sometimes an excellent means. They also seem excited about where that might lead, the career, even if it isn’t all engaging or related to what they are as persons/related only to a very little part of who they are. It’s like a stepping into an unknown white building with trepidation, excitement, and relief at having some place to enter, but with mystery hanging over them: whether they would get stuck, realizing what they had stepped into isn’t at all what they imagined their life or career would be like–then getting too comfortable with their habitualized work, which takes over the sense of who they are, despite a certain wide-eyed resolution to keep the two separate, and to step outside of that building years later, having lost the traces of brilliant youth that once existed, changed beyond recognition, resigned, though perhaps happily so.
That is what happens in life, I see, and for the generations and generations before this life has been the same. Youthful innocence, adult responsibility, happy moderate resignation. My complaint is the disconnect between the ideals we are fed, and the short window of time in which that switch to reality has to occur. I suppose we are all quite resilient, but amidst the pressure from the idealist expectations of both us, our parents, and “society”, it is yet another variable in the stressful modern formula of success. When the ideals of choice, limitless opportunities, and choice weren’t even there or so prevalent, it was ok to figure life out — but now, in addition to the unchanged financial pressure, we deal with ideological pressure of what we could be and should have been by now,* at the same time coping with the betrayal of those ideals in the face of reality. The miseries of life doing us in, or just plain growing-up catching up with you much faster than you ever thought.
* The rest of my original post from “should have been by now onwards” is now gone for mysterious reasons. I think I liked how I ended it originally, but I honestly can’t remember — it was a wrapping-up gesture but I liked it!!!!!!! God. So frustrating. Auto-save contained nothing useful. I am almost thinking that just before I published this, I accidentally deleted the last part of this post. Oh well — whatever.