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viewpoint

Passion versus paycheck

| Thursday, September 8, 2016

What do desk jobs and vampires have in common? They can both be life-sucking. Now, I say “can” and not “are” because some vampires refuse to suck human blood (throwback to the Cullen clan), and some people love desk jobs. They can’t get enough of Excel spreadsheets. They score Powerpoints. Their favorite song is the ditty played while they are on hold with the help desk.

Some office workers, on the other hand, feel like prisoners chained to their desk from nine to five. This summer, I was one of those workers. I worked on jet engines at a prestigious and exciting company. The majority of my work involved solving fascinating engineering problems. But I did not want to work on those problems for eight hours a day. Not even performing water ballet or eating chicken wings is enjoyable for eight hours straight.

I am not an anthropologist, but I am fairly certain that humans were not made to sit (or stand) at a desk for eight hours a day. Coming from college, where I bopped from class to the library to choir, I had trouble staying put. My dog sits and stays, but I cannot. I study sprawled out on the floor, so simply working at my desk was a challenge.

I spied on my adult colleagues to learn how they had adapted to the cubicle biosphere. Unlike me, they did not seem to be battling the urge to sprint outside. Putting my Sherlock hat on (which surely qualifies as business casual), I inspected their desks for hints. From a framed school portrait to a tacked-up watercolor, the evidence suggested that these adults had one commonality: kids.

Birds regurgitate worms for younglings. Maybe humans give up dreams for theirs. My mentor said he once envisioned himself in the biomedical field, creating devices to save lives. He already had this job, though, and it was “not bad,” so why quit? Yes, my colleagues described their jobs as “not bad,” and they weren’t British. What stopped them from searching for something greater? Maybe it was desire for stability or fear of risk. Their desk décor suggest it may have been the need to provide not only for themselves, but also for their families. It seems like a noble but disappointing way to live.

Twenty-one and single, I may never even face the dilemma of sacrificing my vocation for children. Yet, I couldn’t help but wonder if I could be as selfless as the parents I passed in the office and on the highway. If an office job is not my cup of tea, I will most likely take a lower-paid teaching job. I would probably not be able to provide my children with the same advantages I experienced growing up. Finances were far from a piece of cake in my family, but my mom worked her butt off at a job she didn’t love so that I could go to private school and take dance lessons. She wanted me to discover and develop my passion. She didn’t let hers get in the way.

Am I strong and selfless enough to be like my mom? Probably not. I may not be able to be Christ-like in the self-sacrificial sense, but maybe I can imitate him by living how I wish my children to live. If I pursue a vocation rather than a paycheck, I can show my children the importance of using your passions to improve the world. For if parents sacrifice their passions for their children, and those children become parents, no one will ever do what they want to do. The world will be forever robbed of passionate professionals.

There is obviously a balance that a parent must achieve in pursuing a passion. If unable to support my hypothetical family, I will have to re-evaluate my choices and possibly sacrifice my passions. If a more inspiring job only requires lifestyle sacrifices, such as driving a used car and eating beans for dinner, I and my family can deal. It may seem like a selfish choice, but parents who are happy at work are happier at home. If I encourage my kids to follow their dreams but don’t follow my own, they will see the discrepancy in my words and actions. When it comes time for them to make job decisions, they may be more susceptible to the siren call of job security.

A final note: Other than Sims life and occasional nannying, I have no real world experience in heading a family. It is possible that this article is completely erroneous and irrelevant to your situation. Or maybe it’s not.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Erin Thomassen

I am a freshman double majoring in the Program of Liberal Studies (PLS) and French. PLS (aka the Notre Dame Book Club) is the history of ideas through literature, philosophy, math and science. It was the perfect major for me, because I couldn't possibly choose one subject and hurt the other subjects' feelings. French was also a natural pick, since I have been prancing around my house under the pretense of performing ballet for eighteen years. If someone asks me what I do in my free time, I will tell them that I run and read. What I actually do is eat cartons of strawberries and knit lumpy scarves. If you give me fresh fruit, we will be friends. If we become friends, I will knit you a scarf for Christmas. It may be lumpy, but it will be in your favorite color. And if enough people become my friend, lumpy scarves might just become a trend.

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