11.11.2008

9-5

Yes, I have a job. A great in-between sort of job while I wait for (and wade through) the first call process. I'm working for a healthcare revenue management company, doing nothing at all related to healthcare management. I'm basically working as an administrative assistant in the IT department, in an awesomely swanky office downtown where I have to wear a suit every day (I did a lot of shopping over the weekend...), where I take the bus downtown each morning and leave the office with the rest of the world at 5pm. This is the first (and probably last) job where I work normal hours: Monday-Friday, 9-5.

It's funny being a 27-year old in a corporate office where every other new or recent hire is just barely out of college. I didn't think that the 22/27 age gap was that huge, but apparently it is. I work in a big room with lots of tables - no one has a reserved place, you just plunk down where there's room. Today, most people were scattered around the room, 2-3 to a table, but just next to me was a table of four: two women, two men, all recent college grads, working and chatting about relationships and life.

I was amazed at the greed and arrogance they exhibited as they talked (loudly, seemingly unaware that everyone else in the room was quietly going about their work, unaware that it was impossible not to overhear the entirety of their conversation, unaware that they might be bothering anyone). They talked about significant others, and how they weren't sure why anyone would want to be in a rush to get married, or why anyone would want to get married at all, because what difference did it really make? And one of the guys commented that he wanted to date his girlfriend for at least six years before talking about marriage, because he wanted to get himself established in a career, to save up a lot of money, and to be able to buy a huge rock of an engagement ring when the time came, because that's what women want. And the two women at the table with him agreed that the size of the diamond is crucial to an engagement. Moreover, he went on to talk about how much you change in your twenties (as if, at 22, he were an expert at what it means to be a twenty-something), and how he wanted to make absolutely sure they were compatible before entering into something as big as marriage.

It occurred to me that some of my frustration with this foursome's conversation had nothing to do with their ages, though some of the above conversation was certainly colored by age (like when the other woman at the table decided out loud that 27 would be a good time in the future to get married...as if 27 were old and many years away...hrm....). But much more of the troubling tone of the conversation came from the assumptions and aspirations of that foursome.

In my upbringing, family was central. I was brought up to value family first - to value relationships and mutuality. Success/money/fame/fortune landed far lower on the list of values. Achievements were celebrated, but more celebrated was the work along the journey. Effort was valued over end result, and vocation was valued over reward. Never once was I taught (or did I observe) that the value of work was the paycheck at the end of the week. Never once did I watch my parents endure jobs they hated, simply because they paid well. Rather, I watched my parents do jobs that were meaningful to them, that gave them a sense of purpose and value.

The foursome next to me look at life a little differently. Jobs are a means to success and money, and establishing future fame and fortune are more important than establishing relationships. They talked about their extraordinarily expensive, tiny studio apartments right in the heart of downtown. I thought about my extraordinarily reasonable one-bedroom apartment a mere 15 minute bus ride north of downtown. They talked about careers as utilitarian means to upper-class ends. I thought about my call to the ministry and the fulfilling, if not high-paying, nature of its work. They spoke out of the assumption that corporate America would catapult them into the upper class early in life, spoke out of the assumption that their relationships and eventual marriages would only succeed if they first gained material success, spoke out of the assumption that every man or woman in their future would be more interested in their money/success than anything else.

I feel sad for them. Not because they are any different than many people in this world. But because they are part of such a huge population that has been duped into believing that anything is worth enduring for the sake of money, and that anything meaningful in life (family, friends, home, hobbies) can only be attained on the basis of money and success. I get saddened by the cultural assumption that people care more about your title and your money than they do about the things you love and the person you are. I feel frustrated by my generation's sense of entitlement and its disproportional focus on material success.

I value the fact that I have a job right now - a way to pay the bills, something meaningful to do with my time (instead of just sitting around home like a lazy bum) - and I am grateful to have been hired by good people in a good place. I am thankful for a fair wage, for all of the perks and benefits of working in the IT department for a new, young, successful company. But I do not take all of this for granted, nor do I base my self-worth on it. I have a wonderful husband and a wonderful family and wonderful friends. Matt and I didn't put our relationship on hold until we were both financially well-off. Really, we did things the complete other way around! We got married before we were done with school, with no money, with no material success or renown. But for us, family was first, and we knew the rest of life would work itself out. It has caused some stressful times, some uncertainty and anxiety, but through it, we have learned to be flexible, learned to support one another, learned to keep our values and priorities in check. If either of us (or both of us) have changed drastically during our twenties, it surely has only been for the better. And, looking back, I wouldn't have done things any other way.

6 comments:

  1. I love you. I have heard similar things from my friends and while I don't know if the added stresses of becoming an "adult" hurt or hinder a new marriage, I have to think that it helps to have someone to emotionally support you through those times.

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  2. Wow, so are you a Pam Beasley then?

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  3. Sheila7:55 AM

    I think I know exactly what you mean. I was thrown into this philosophy shortly after I started school again, and even though I only experience for about four hours a night, it's still appalling the social/moral chasm between the two groups (I group myself into the older adult crowd because I definitely don't fit into the 23/24 somethings). I suppose I've been lucky in that the career I've chosen has been fulfilling intellectually, financially, and most importantly, surrounding myself with people I respect and admire. However, I try not to take that for granted, because, at the end of the day, it's not a paycheck and what your "status" is, it's who you come home to at night, and that includes living with myself. Blog well done. I'm glad you were able to put these thoughts into words.

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  4. I agree with you that it's not the age that really makes a difference here. You could have just as easily been overhearing a group of people your age -- except they'd just be commenting on the size of one of the girl's new engagement ring instead of discussing it in abstract.

    This was an excellent post.

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  5. Thank for the comments! I figured that I wasn't the only person to feel these sorts of frustrations...

    And as far as my place in the office goes...I think that my job description (assistant to the CIO) makes me closer to a Dwight (Assistant "to the" Regional Manager), though without all of the neurotic quirks.

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  6. Anonymous11:52 AM

    Wait until they're 40 and they start midlife-crisising all over the place and they realize that money does not buy happiness. You'll probably never have to face that because you've long since figured that out!

    I could really relate to this post.

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