Why I'm Alright With Not Having a Career
Do you have a career? You know the kind I mean, the kind that others look up to, the kind that inspires awe when you introduce yourself at parties or meet someone new at a girl’s coffee catch up, the kind that means you have a C.V. as long as your arm with lots of indecipherable words on it, a C.V. few people can read and understand probably, the kind that means you’ve done well, you’ve succeeded, you’re not just a lazy, non-contributing member of society.
You know that kind of a career?
If you don’t its totally alright. I most certainly don't either.
In fact, since we’re being honest here, I don’t even have a C.V. It’s something so far out of my realm of understanding that I don’t even know if you include a picture or not, if you can use colors, if you have to update it every year or even five years. No clue. No idea.
I want to stress before saying anything else, that by writing this I’m by no means belittling people who do have fabulous careers or who do dedicate their time and their lives to building the kind of career that garners praise and accolades. I’m really, truly not.
I also am aware that not everyone pursues a career for the feeling it gives them or because of the ego boost it provides, and for many it is simply and only a means to support yourself. I’m not ignoring any of that or belittling any of it.
I also want to stress that I do feel like it’s fine for me to write honestly about how I feel about not having a career without worry of offense, because in all honesty, anyone can open any magazine, switch on to any pop culture web website, tune in to any podcast, and be met with a torrent of undeclared shame if they in fact, don’t, and never have had a career. And I think voices that speak the exact opposite are important.
I also want to make it quite clear that I’m not jealous because I’m writing this. I’ve had it suggested to me before that the only reason I feel this way is because on some level I’m jealous or insecure of other women who do have a career.
No that most definitely isn’t it. Not that my disclaimer is going to make anyone believe that I’m not jealous, but for what it’s worth, envy is most certainly not my motivator. Because the truth is, I don’t envy that life at all..
But I’m backtracking and disclaimers get boring after awhile so lets move on shall we!
There was a time probably when I aspired to having a proper old career, maybe sometime back in high school when everyone loved to talk about ‘what they would do when they grew up’. I don’t know if kids do this anymore but I’m pretty sure it was a massive part of almost everyones experience growing up.
What do you want to be?
I never, ever knew.
I knew what I liked to do, but not one of those things from acting in theatre to creative writing, was a viable ‘career’ and not one I could study close to home, where I intended to stay. So I never, even knew what to answer to that question. I simply didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. And even when I left the old halls of my school, a place I’d spent my entire education and formative years, and started on my first course at University, in design, I still didn’t know to be fair.
It took a long unhappy year studying something I felt a bit lost in, and a lot of rethinking, to switch over to a degree in journalism, which I’m really happy I did and I’ll always be proud of, but I didn’t see myself making a full out career of it. A bit of dabbling was alright, but years and years ahead to reach a pinnacle that someone else had decided? I never saw the appeal.
So when I did graduate, and graduate pretty well to be fair, I still didn’t know what I wanted to ‘be’ when I grew up.
What if I just wanted to be me? Just wanted to be another normal human being who made a life for themselves from all the little bits and pieces that come together to call themselves your life, and not by one defining feature, one defining choice, one industry that I would give up my weekends, sanity, and freedom for?
I was more than happy with the idea of just working as I needed to and on whatever came by than settling into a career trajectory, having five and ten year plans and committing myself to an institution that would in some way, own me for the foreseeable future. I avoided anything like that like the plague.
In truth I knew what I wanted from life itself. I wanted a happy marriage, a lovely home, and then by extension one day, a family of my own. And I wanted to have fun.
And to be honest, that’s about it.
I feel like as each year passes, there’s a suffocating clutch descending on women the world over. It’s subtle and insidious and its tightening its grip without us even realizing it. It’s the trope that says, women can and will do every thing, women can have every thing they want in every single way because it’s 2018, and women are just constantly from the moment they wake up to the moment they go to sleep killing it, as well as having amazing social lives and taking about three hours a day out to honor themselves.
And its not only the trope thats tightening and frightening…
It’s the fact that there are a lot of women seemingly doing exactly that.
Maybe these women with their multi hyphenated careers and full personal lives, replete with hours of self care, reflection and guests segments on podcasts, are totally at ease and loving every minute of it. But on the outside it looks exhausting, intimidating, and frankly… a little more than impossible.
And its also really, really toxic to women who can’t do the impossible.
But one of the key facets of every single one of these do it all have it all be it all women, is the centerpiece of a thriving, hard won, career. And if you’re not a woman with one of those thriving hard won careers- there’s a suggestion, a tiny by the way suggestion, not spoken but suggested, that you don’t quite measure up.
I mean what would your excuse be really? Why would you measure up when she can do everything you do, and more?
I know I’m not the only one whose picked up on this vibe, not the only one who feels it whenever I consume any kind of media, most kinds of entertainment, read any contemporary women’s novel that I’m meant to relate to- and it disturbs me a little. Because we aren’t all cut from the same cloth. We aren’t all innovators, game changers, and (I honestly kind of hate this word) hustlers.
And that is fine.
What is it about a woman with a career that makes her superior, better regarded, more worthy, than a woman without?
I totally get the hard won battle for women’s equality and that those women out there in the workforce, making their own way and representing their sisterhood, have a lot to commend them in the eternal battle of equality for the sexes. I get that. But that’s not enough of a reason, because even women who chose to stay home and raise kids, or who don’t have the ambition or drive to make their work a ‘career’, are still as equal and worthy, and still deserve to be on equal footing.
For me personally, the whole vicious world of careers sounds pretty awful, and so I never feel like I’m lesser because I haven’t gone down that route, never feel inferior because I’ve taken what I know career women will vouch as the easy route, because the truth is- I hate a desk job (I know not all careers are desk jobs but I use this as a euphemism for its connotations) enough to disregard the intended or unintended judgement.
But not every woman will feel that way.
Not every woman will be confident or stubborn enough to not care what the female zeitgeist pushes at it, day after day, obviously and inadvertently.
But these are the reasons I am okay with, more than okay with, not having a ‘career’, and if you are like me, and feel that rush of comparison being shot at you wherever you look, maybe you’ll find some of this resonates or helps.
Worth Is Intrinsic
I don’t believe, or rather I refuse to believe, that human worthiness can be attributed to what you do when you wake up in the morning and what you’ve done by 5pm. I know I like to achieve in my own small way, and I know a day where I’ve ticked off all the items on my to do list gives me a great ego boost, so maybe this sounds really fresh coming from me… but I repeat: I really refuse to believe that your worth is down to what you do.
Your worthiness and worthiness of a place in the world just comes from being a human being, from living, existing and striving to do your bit in your day to day life. That’s all you need to be a human being worthy of recognition, attention, and praise, if that’s your thing.
Working for a bottom line does not make you intrinsically more worthy than anyone else, whether they’ve made a ‘success’ of a ‘mess’ of their lives. And if anyone tells you otherwise, question their motives. Worthiness is not earned.
What Does a Career Actually Mean?
What is a career anyway?
In the time our species has been on earth (bear with me), we’ve seen a lot of change in the way we live but surely careers and the force of them, the literal all consuming nature of them, is a very, very new concept. We aren’t really built for the madness of the career driven world that we’re told to join or be shunned from. We were never made for that. We were made for other ways of living and its not wonder that the current mood leaves so many of us stressed and sick.
So what is this new concept we’ve invented and subsequently tortured ourselves with anyway? What does it mean?
Who defines the parameters of a career? Who separates the real career from the fake stand in career? The person parading?
Who gets to pick that for us and why do we take their word as gospel?
If a career is based on work, lots of people are working. Work has many definitions. A woman taking care of her family is working hard, a housemaid caring for someone else home is working hard- but surely we never define that work as a career? Why not? What is a career, this holy mystery, based upon if not sheer hours and input? Why the admiration and respect for work put into a corporation, work meant to drive profit, sales, and the economy, but no credit given to endless, unrelenting work to sustain homes, health, and comfort? The idea makes no sense when looked at objectively.
Promotions, accolades, awards, incentives- the lingo of the career space are just concepts we’ve invented. The time, energy and dedication that go into making a career, go into making anything, and the base dedication and work ethic should be equally regarded and equally awarded regardless.
I don’t think work, meaningful work that gives you a sense of purpose, has to be an all or nothing thing. I don’t think it needs to be structured or on a trajectory or labeled a career, or recognized as a series of goal posts ticked off and recognized by some lofty other who somehow have gained the credibility to tell you of what you’ve done is worthy, is right.
That’s certainly what a career is touted as, but I don’t think the entire world needs to buy into to that definition. What is a body of work? What are the parameters that decide you’ve dedicated yourself enough to something to have a formal stamp of approval, some arbitrary stamp of approval created by a system that very wants your hours, your sweat, your tears, your time, in exchange for recognition? Why are those parameters taken as truth?
I don’t think a career needs to be decided by someone else. I think any body of work, any effort, any dedication is equally worthy even if it doesn’t come with a contract and title.
You Can Have Passions Without A Career And They Matter Too
There’s a definite ethos that those with a career are passionate about what they do. Their achievements at work become extensions of their drive and passion as human beings, a sign of the fire in the bellies burning brighter than the fire in other peoples bellies. The idea that they are somehow more switched on the further they go, more powerful, more alive, trying harder.
I call bull****.
Passion isn’t something that is born in a company, a corporate structure, an establishment, and absent anywhere else. Or lesser anywhere else.
There’s no real difference between the passion required to be fabulous at your job and the passion required to be fabulous at baking on the weekend, or being a great friend. Passion is passion, it just depends on where and how its channeled.
And one channel doesn’t automatically deserve more regard than another.
Relationships Are Everything, We’re Social Creatures, Be Proud of What You’ve Built
I was talking to a family member recently about achievement, accomplishments, and that general ilk of conversation. And she said something that really made me sit up and think: whilst musing on whether I really had any accomplishments to speak of (she on the other hand is a highly gifted career woman), she said, with completely conviction, ‘you’ve built a relationship and managed to sustain it, that’s a massive accomplishment.’ And I was like, ‘umm excuse me what?’
That was the first time in my life that I had heard someone speak of a relationship as something I had achieved. As successful relationships as something that we should be proud of.
My default reaction was to say, no thats ridiculous, thats silly, I just got lucky.
And I truly do think I did. But maybe she has a point.
Perhaps we should be as proud of the relationship we give time to, often at the expense of other things like an esteemed career, because they take effort, passion, dedication, commitment, too. Perhaps even more. Actually scratch that, definitely even more. And at the end of the day, those relationships, whether with your family, a partner, your kids, are always, always going to matter more than the recognition, the raises, the promotions, the circus of the career driven world where you are essentially interchangeable when the next best thing comes along.
So yes, value the effort your relationships take and be as proud of them as anything you achieve out of the home. Your job isn’t going to give you a cuddle at the end of the day.