The Job Slut: The Examined Career

Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

Remember that from some distant philosophy class? Maybe a little? I think the same applies to your career or job or however you’re making a living right now. How did you get here? Do you want to be here or somewhere else?

A few years ago, I went to Chicago with Anna, a friend of mine from college. We hadn’t seen each other in years, but easily picked up where we left off. Anna’s a few years younger than me and struggled in her freshman and sophomore years, changing majors as frequently as some people change their underwear. Her grades weren’t great, either.

By the time we met in Chicago, she was finally completing a degree she loved. Anna attributed the change to starting therapy. “It’s amazing,” she said. “All those years I thought I was a horrible student and lazy, I was actually just depressed.” Anna started taking an antidepressant, and everything else fell into place.

Obviously, depression is a serious illness, and antidepressants are not a panacea. (I’m not a psychiatrist. I just love watching them on TV.)  But it was a relief for Anna to finally figure out that she had a real problem with a few potential solutions.

Because, you know, there’s no pill for lazy.

The point is, this is exactly how I used to feel about my work life. I tried a few different jobs during and after college, and I worried about why they never fit. Why hadn’t I found a career path that gave me a sustained sense of accomplishment and stimulation? Why did I eventually become apathetic about my responsibilities? And why was I like this after always doing so well in school? What was wrong with me?

I’d met a few people who said they loved what they did. I wondered if they were just better people than me who knew something I didn’t.

I started getting a bad attitude. Maybe the majority of the world was right in this case — maybe work just sucks. Whatever it is.

Then I met a freelance writer who didn’t seem that different from me. His work combined the novelty of various projects for different clients with the rigor of deadlines. It was as close to school as I was going to get. Especially after seeing that teaching middle school wasn’t for me.

Freelance writing was the prescription for me. I’m not calling it a cure, because the same negativity can fester in any work situation. In fact, sometimes I think my angst at different jobs was a product of being so low on the totem pole and/or just being at the wrong companies.

I also don’t call freelancing a cure, because I don’t know that I’ll be freelancing forever. Sometimes even a job slut wants to settle down.

What I do know is that freelancing gave me more control from the start. I feel ownership of my work, because most of it involves my byline and comes as a result of pitching and selling my ideas.

Is it sustainable? We’ll see. Is the examined career the only one worth having? I think so.

Your turn: How did you get here [in your work life]? Do you want to be here or somewhere else?

Photo: Flickr

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