Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Pursuit of Happyness (Recent College Graduate Edition)

Please Note: This is the most preachy/self-helpy this blog is going to get, I just figured it was an appropriate thing to write about. Certainly there's a little bit of relevance in that I talk a bit about teaching in China, but mainly just a bit of philosophical ramblings. Also, if anyone who does read this feels particularly moved by it, feel free to message me your opinions (either positive or negative), I'm interested to see how this type of (mainly irrelevant to travel) writing is received.

So a friend of mine and I were talking tonight about his future career plans. In short, he is currently working a job that pays pretty damned well, one that he has worked at for a number of years, and is therefore familiar with it, and one that he, for the most part, enjoys. However, he has also just graduated from a pretty well-respected state school, and is eager to start a career in his chosen path. We were discussing how quickly he should be starting to really search for a full-time job, and at one point he asked "at what point should I start panicking if I don't have a job?" This is a pretty interesting question, as it really says a lot about our society as a whole--the intuitive answer to "when should I start panicking?" is quite simply, whenever you're not happy, because the idea in life is, in theory, to be happy. However, when you throw society into the equation, you may find, for example, that it is difficult to be happy making a comfortable living at a low-skilled job, like waitressing, because it's basically frowned upon by society to work a job like that if you have a university degree. Or at least, that's what I've experienced. Consequently, you might just panic if you wake up at age 25 and you're not advancing in your life, even if you're the happiest person in the world.

I'm writing about this because I've recently graduated, and consequently I know a lot of people who have recently graduated. Many of those very people will soon be making one of the more important decisions of their lives--what should my first job after college be? (and certainly, many recent graduates have already made that decision) And again, outside pressures will probably cause some of you to take jobs that you may not want, for example, if my friend were to decide to take the first decently respectable office job that came along simply to get out of waiting tables due to the fact that it's not as respectable of a job. And how does one balance being happy with being socially acceptable? Because let's be entirely honest, oftentimes the things that make us as humans happiest (eating, drinking,and being merry, to name a few) are often the least socially acceptable.

I'm certainly not saying that societal norms should be completely thrown to the wind, you certainly should try to be an accepted member of society, but realistically, we're here to be happy. Certainly, if what makes you happy is the idea of living a life of obedience to a chosen religion, more power to you. If you enjoy playing 11 hours of World of Warcraft a day, great. Too many people seem to lose focus on enjoying life. One thought that comes to mind is the reaction I've received a few times when I've told people that I'm moving to China to teach for a year--basically "oh my gosh! that's so cool, I wish I could do something like that!" Well the fact is, you can. I'm not going to try to pitch the idea of teaching in China here, but the idea is, it is possible to do what makes you happy while also doing something that's (somewhat) socially acceptable (like, in my case, teaching English in China). So to those people that have graduated and gotten into that grad school that'll look great on a resume, or got that job that looks like it's a wonderful place to enter the corporate ladder, or maybe just going and doing your own thing by traveling through Europe or something, maybe just take a moment and assess, "is this going to make me happy?" Because oftentimes, the thing that's keeping you from doing what truly happy can be fixed pretty easily. Unless you're this guy, in which case there are many, many international laws keeping you from doing what makes you happy.

Because frankly, the only time to panic is once you realize you're a few years into a job you hate, chasing a promotion that doesn't exist, and paying a mortgage that you probably couldn't afford if you left said hated job.

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