I don’t have a dream job
Megumi Tamura | Thursday, November 2, 2023
I don’t think I have a dream job.
Growing up and throughout college, I’ve always heard everyone around me talk about “following your dreams” and “finding your passion” and using these dreams and passions as the baseline for career discernment. This kind of messaging that most kids and young adults grow up hearing combined with the dominant hustle culture mentality — where overworking yourself, putting in insanely long hours and putting work above relationships and well-being are glorified while resting and caring for yourself is seen as laziness — creates a perfect storm of what I now think is an unhealthy amount of anxiety and urgency that doesn’t work for everyone. After years of horrible cycles of stress and panic, overworking myself, breaking down and being burnt out only to start all over again, I’m in the process of attempting to shift my philosophy on what matters most to me in my life and how work fits into that.
I used to think that work is what defines someone and the rewards reaped from said work is what brings happiness. So, my grades in high school and college defined my worth as a student, the college I got into defined my capability, getting that internship in the summer after junior year that I worked and stressed tirelessly over would define my future, getting the return offer defined my worth and my summer experience entirely, etc. But, I started to realize soon enough — but also a little too late — that when I did achieve these things, I wasn’t much happier. The sense of pure joy that I envisioned as I stayed up late working and crying and isolating while telling myself that this will all be worth it once I got what I was working for — that achievement-based goal — never came. What happened instead was that I would achieve that goal and then immediately look to what I had to do next. I never even paused to ask myself if I was actually happy, if these goals that I was chasing after and toiling over actually mattered to me in some way that wasn’t just to add to a resume or do what I thought I was supposed to be doing rather than what actually made me happy. There was no finish line in this rat race.
If this has been my experience in college, then I’ve realized that I need to change my perspective and my priorities before I get thrown into the real world and into my first full-time job next year. So, I started asking myself questions: what matters most to me? What do I want my future to look and feel like? What actually makes me happy?
When I realized that, for me, achieving the goals that I set for myself at the expense of my health didn’t make me happy, I started looking for what does. I noticed that the joy and peace of mind that I feel after going on a walk with my parents back home, spending time with my friends and having hours-long conversations over dinner sharing our answers to deep questions we found online, going on long drives and just talking about life with my brother, playing with my cat, laughing uncontrollably with my sister or just spending an hour outside was so much more genuine, meaningful and pure than the hour or so of relief that I got after getting an acceptance letter or an A or an achievement of some goal. That’s not to say goals and working hard towards them aren’t important, or that I don’t care about them because I certainly do. I’m a huge believer in the intrinsic value of hard work but not at the expense of the little things that matter more.
I’m starting to think, to put it bluntly, that I won’t find my life’s happiness or fulfillment in a job. That might sound negative, but everytime I say it it feels like a little bit of weight is lifted off my shoulders. That doesn’t mean I don’t plan on working until retirement — it’s important to me to be able to make money to support myself and, most importantly, my family and to leave something behind to make sure the people I love are going to be okay. But, that’s all I’m starting to see work as: a way to contribute helpfully in some way while also making money with enough time and energy remaining to allow me to invest into what, for me, makes life worth living. I can’t think of a job — no matter my passion for it or the salary — that I would accept taking me away from my future family, not having any time to do what actually makes me happy like learning or being in nature, grabbing meals with my friends, spending as much time as possible with my parents and siblings and making sure our future extended family is tight-knit and healthy. Obviously, it’s not that someone who does prioritize their work above other things in life is doing anything wrong — I have a lot of respect and admiration for people who have found their passion in work or a job and have the dedication to commit their entire lives to it. I think that’s amazing, but I also think that there can be more than one way to think about work.
I don’t have a dream job, and that’s okay.
Meg is a senior majoring in political science and minoring in data science and business economics. Besides writing, she enjoys spending time with the people she loves, riding on public transportation and listening to good music.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.