settle, baby, settle!
April 27, 2021 9:22 AM   Subscribe

You, a compulsive overthinker and career-angst-haver, decided to "settle" in a job you rebelled against at times over the first couple of years. What was this like for you in the long run?

I'm looking for personal anecdotes here, but assume for the sake of argument:

* the "settling" i have mind assumes a situation where compensation, benefits, coworker relationships, and basic psychological safety are at least pretty good, and the work itself is non-flagrantly-evil, and
* the "rebelling" comes more with uncertainty about some of the tasks, the direction of career, the industry, "i never wanted to be doing this kind of thing, although it's growing on me a little!?", more of the "wonder and express frustration to friends" than "cry sunday night" variety

especially interested in circumstances where, once settling, you found a way to emphasize the fufilling pieces and compartmentalize the rest (or cases where that wasn't possible!) thank you!!
posted by Sock Meets Body to Work & Money (18 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Yes of course because I am not my job.

No one dreams of growing up to become an HR professional. But I am paid fairly, I am treated well by my boss and team, and I get along with my coworkers. I get reasonable job satisfaction knowing I do my job accurately and respectfully. But most importantly, I don't have to care about it after 5pm. I can go enjoy my real life and hobbies, and I've been unemployed enough and badly employed enough to know that I can only enjoy my real life because my job is perfectly adequate. Friends I've had for years can attest to how much time I have spent bitching about previous jobs. Now that I'm doing something where I CAN settle without an existential crisis? The best thing ever.

Honestly I'm pretty certain I'm a person who would never be suited for a true vocation. I do not dream of labor. I like my boring job because it's boring. It is a thing I do and get paid for, and then it is a thing I do not do and can forget about. Release yourself from caring about the minutiae of what you do for money and put all of that extra time into cultivating a fulfilling personal life. It is a privilege to be able to settle.
posted by phunniemee at 10:01 AM on April 27, 2021 [37 favorites]

Oh boy. I have been at my job for more than a decade. About four or five years in, I very much wanted to leave, but it didn't make sense for my family or finances or really for many practical reasons. I still have days where I like it more and days where I want to bolt. I will say this: stick around at a job long enough, and things do seem to change. There are more opportunities that arise when you work somewhere for a while, not necessarily because of seniority, but because you know how things work. I can say that right now, my job assignments (which have shifted) match my interests and skillsets better than at any other time in my career. I say that with some surprise. I didn't angle for this to happen. I just stuck it out. I'm not particularly resilient; I mostly just didn't really want to move my kids, which would have been the alternative.

I can say that I am much happier about my job, and to be doing my job, than I was a few years ago. It's not an inevitable decline.

There have been other benefits to staying put: I've tried to keep in mind what has been most challenging for me, and work to change (if slowly) the culture and practices I don't like. I get to know folks new to the organization, and, to the extent that I can, shield them/help them through the tough parts.

Unlike phunniemee, I don't like boring work. I love the idea of a job that I feel passionate about. But, I also know that that's an easy way to make my passion ... boring. So staying up with new developments in the field and working with newer professionals is a good substitute and helps me remember the good things. I'm not sure of your age, but I think part of what happens for some folks in their 30s and 40s is the realization that we might not be able to achieve the glorious hazy ambitions we had when we were younger. Most of us aren't superstars, and that's okay, and sometimes even the superstars aren't so shiny up close.

I am trying to be thoughtful about cultivating my non-work interests and leaning into my passions there.
posted by bluedaisy at 10:12 AM on April 27, 2021 [5 favorites]

Everything phunniemee said. I used to have a job that was interesting and glamorous, in an industry that people were envious of and would ask lots of questions about. But everyone there was treated like dirt because there was no work-life balance and there were passionate people lined up out the door and willing to work dirt cheap and take the abuse.

These days, I have a boring job in a field nobody cares much about but that helps people in quantifiable ways, doing a thing probably nobody really dreams about doing, but it pays my bills and I like my colleagues and it’s stable and has benefits and I can work from home. This lets me spend the rest of my time doing things that make me happy, on my own terms, as much or as little as I want to. I don’t stress out much these days about money or office politics.

I think that’s not viewed in popular culture as “success”, particularly for creative types, but I think that’s a huge mistake. I like making music, for instance, but I think I’d be massively stressed out if I was constantly hustling for gigs for not much pay, and wondering if I should be writing and playing what makes me happy or what I think would be popular and pay well, if getting burned out would destroy both my passion and my livelihood, the list goes on. Would I enjoy making art if I had to do it for clients with demands about how it should look, constant revisions, etc or can it be a thing I have the time, energy, and money to do for myself and myself only, in my spare time?

Also, there are ups and downs, I was very unhappy for a while but my role in my organization changed a few years back and I feel so much better for it, and I have many other colleagues who have transferred between departments and roles as their interests and needs have shifted. Not all boring day jobs are unchanging monoliths.
posted by music for skeletons at 10:21 AM on April 27, 2021 [6 favorites]

My success with this is variable. For me, it is not a matter of just thinking "ok, I am settled" and then it's done. I go through periods of being settled, and other periods of anxiety and angst. But I do think that I've been pretty successful at turning the dial so that the periods of settle outnumber the periods of anxiety. Several factors went into this.

First, I got a job that objectively is pretty good. This is not to say that I like everything about it (far from it), and certainly not that I love it. Just that it's good enough that if I can force myself to look at my situation from the outside, I can see that I have it pretty good. A combination of type of work, working arrangements, people I need to work with, culture, compensation, benefits, and so on. I have complaints about all of those things but I also know that compared to most people, and to most other jobs I've had, they're not bad.

Second, and closely related, is that I think time and having had a number of jobs has given me more perspective. In my first job out of college I had no basis for comparison, so I couldn't objectively say if any aspect of the job was good or bad. Obviously I heard what other people said about their jobs, and absorbed plenty of "job information" from media, friends, and family, but that is all very filtered and didn't give me very accurate expectations. Now that I have been in the workforce for a couple of decades, I have seen enough to be able to know whether a situation is unusually bad, unusually good, or just average.

Next, I gave myself a mantra that I recite when I find myself getting stressed or annoyed. I repeat "it's just a job" to myself over and over and over again. It is just a job. It's not my health, it's not my friendships, it's not my family. I want to do good work, but not at the expense of my well being. I do not work in a field where peoples' lives are on the line. If something goes wrong, it's ok because it's just a job. If someone is mad at me, it's ok because it's just a job. If, worst case scenario, I get fired or laid off, it's just a job and I will get another. I have to constantly remind myself of this perspective. There are more important things in life than my job, so I must not stress about my job as if it's life or death. This is a constant battle, but I have gotten better about it.

Finally, I draw really sharp boundaries with my time. For me, any time that work bleeds into my personal time is a major source of stress and frustration. I know some people are ok with this (and some even feel the need to know that they aren't missing anything important at work), but I am not. I leave work between 5 and 5:30 almost every day. If I have to work late for some reason (generally a meeting with someone in another time zone), I will usually make up for it by coming in late that day or the day after. I am salaried and my schedule is up to me, so I just take it upon myself to do that. I virtually never work nights or weekends. Maybe once every year or two I will need to do it, generally because of my own bad time management. I try really hard to fit everything I need to get done within my normal working hours. And if something doesn't fit, "it's just a job." It can either not get done, get done later, or I can try to find someone else to do it. Odds of them firing me over this are low, and if they do, it's ok. "It's just a job." (This has never happened or even come close to happening, but I have to remind myself so I don't stress over it.) I also never look at my work email or Slack account outside of working hours. The only time I look at my work calendar outside of working hours is if I need to know what time my first meeting is the next day. When I'm on vacation, I remove my work accounts from my phone so I do not accidentally look at them.

Obviously a lot of this is specific to what your personal sources of stress are, but these things have made my work life much more tolerable, and I have gone from being someone who is basically constantly looking for new jobs because I think my current one sucks to not having seriously looked for over five years.
posted by primethyme at 10:22 AM on April 27, 2021 [8 favorites]

See this answer. I tried to get out for years, applied to things similar to my job ("stretch" jobs didn't even get a response, ditto my old unreliable field) and was never once good enough for anyone to even get to a second interview, and almost all of them seemed to be a little worse than what I had anyway. I did career counseling, I did hippie shit counseling, blah blah blah. Nobody wants me. Nothing worked. And then, pandemic. Frankly, it seems like a waste of my time to try to leave any more. I have no hope, I don't have anything else I want to do or care about that I can do for money (that would let me do it), this is as good as it gets. So to some degree once you realize that there's no way out, it helps with the settling. Getting past the idea that you CAN leave helps you accept and settle. It helps to stop the inner rebellion, though I admit I still have a fair amount of it every single day when I am sick of the same stupid shit happening that will never be fixed multiple times a day, every single day. (I wish my job was consistently boring, but it very frequently has drama these days--work changed over the years, but not for the better, hence why I have problems.) It's a good day when I finish at 5 and I don't have anything to say about my day, because if I had anything to say it's because something crazy erupted again.

Since working in a field I care about means that I'm expendable (also, pandemic), I agree with "I can only enjoy my real life because my job is perfectly adequate." I don't want to always be a scrambling freelancer running my own business into the ground. I can leave it at 5 and nobody makes me work overtime. Almost all of my coworkers are super nice people and my current team is very nice in particular. I have a very cushy pandemic situation for the time being.

Life is what you do after 5 p.m. 8-5 is the price I pay to live.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:29 AM on April 27, 2021 [3 favorites]

I have almost 25 years at my place of employment. My jobs have changed somewhat over the years, I've switched departments and teams a few times, but it's all been a natural progression in IT.

When I was in eighth grade playing with my TRS-80 I dreamed of one day having a job where I got to use a computer all day. That was literally my only career-related dream. I have achieved my dream.

My job brings me almost no personal satisfaction. I would quit tomorrow if I could have healthcare and a roof over my head. Dreams are just that, dreams.

There have been periods over the years (decades!) where I have been at a low point and almost walked. These episodes were more due to management than the work itself. I am now very lucky to work for a manager and director who are absolutely wonderful. It goes a long way towards my mental health.

Like phunniemee said, I am not my job. In fact there is almost nothing in the world I hate more than talking about my job. It is boring and talking about it is boring. But unless you're an astronaut, your job is probably also boring to talk about. I never care about people's jobs.

Lucky for me, other than my every six week on-call rotation, my job usually ends at 5:00. After that my time is my own. My job pays enough that I live in a place I enjoy that is filled with things (and people) that I enjoy. I have hobbies that are much, much more interesting and satisfying than my job. I love my life outside of work.

But the work is necessary to live. I would have almost nothing else if I didn't do this boring job every day.

I do my job well, I am well liked there, I don't rebel beyond not putting up with too much bullshit, and I also set boundaries so that my work doesn't follow me wherever I go.

I know there's that old saying "do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life."

I believe that is complete bullshit for most people. If I did what I loved I would make about 1/10th what I make now, I would work three times as much, I would have no healthcare, I would have a high probability of on-the-job injuries, and I would certainly grow to hate it in about six weeks.

It's possible this sounds sad, I don't know. We live in a society where we basically have to work to live so if 1/3rd of my day has to be spent doing unsatisfying work so that the other 2/3rds of my day can be fun and mostly stress-free (at least in terms of job-related stress), that's a pretty good trade off. Unless you're a billionaire's child, life is full of trade-offs.

Work to live, not the other way around.
posted by bondcliff at 10:39 AM on April 27, 2021 [14 favorites]

I suspect you're going to hear a lot of stories about good bosses. At the very least, that's what you're going to hear in this comment. I never wanted to work in either IT or insurance. Insurance always seemed incredibly boring and corporate, and I'm very much on the non-STEM side of the two cultures. But I got a job in the insurance industry almost as an accident - I had moved back in with my mom for reasons, and I took a call center job as a first step toward moving back out. But it turned out I liked it. Insurance made sense to me, and I got to talk to small business owners (i.e., agents) around the country. So after I moved out, I started looking for other insurance-industry jobs, mostly in agencies, but the one I eventually found was at an insurance software company. The job was just OK, but again, I got to talk to agents all over the place, and my co-workers were incredible. Still, I wasn't planning on a "career" in insurance software until after I left that job, and I realized I missed it. The job I had after that one was also in software, so by that point I had seven years of being a software guy, and, well, it just happened. So I started consciously looking for other insurance software jobs, and found where I'm at now, in the IT department of an insurance company. It's cool, it's all the best things I've liked about previous jobs, but the reason I like it so much has nothing to do with the actual job. It's my boss, who is nearly unbelievable. He was also a humanities major, so we spend a lot of time talking about reading. He's also super empathetic, almost to a fault, and incredibly reassuring anytime I get nervous about something. He's only ever been mad at me once, and that was because I sent an email after 5pm. Enforced work-life balance!

The job itself is... OK. I still am not thrilled about IT/software. I suspect that the Marc Andreesen software-is-eating-the-world thing is probably a net negative for society. But also, the software I deal with isn't like that. It's like, simple SQL queries to see how many policies we have, or a file upload UI, or simple stuff like that. We don't do any weird tracking or dark patterns with regard to "engagement" or anything like that. The big plus for software stuff is that it pays well, and with small kids in daycare, I need a job that pays well. If I won the lottery, I'd probably never touch a computer again, but I'm not holding my breath.

As of last week, I'm permanently remote, even after the pandemic ends, so that's another big plus. Already good work-life balance minus commute equals happiness. I have tons of time to do whatever I want on nights and weekends, I never stress about work, and I get paid pretty well. Everything you could want.

I actually think this is a better situation than "following your passion", because when you do that, you can lose your passion. After college I was really into ice hockey, played all the time, so I got a job at a hockey equipment retailer. Hockey was literally my life, and... I burned out. I've only played a couple of times since I quit that job over fifteen years ago. I can barely motivate myself to take my kids skating. Over the years, I've done a few "extracurriculars" - I write, I've done some crafty stuff, etc. - and I couldn't imagine doing those things for a living. You know how demoralizing it can feel when you've got a bad boss? Now imagine that bad boss ruining something you love. This way, when it comes to my hobbies at least, I'm my own boss. I write what I want to write, when I want to write it, and share it with whom I want to share it. So I started off planning to talk about how great my boss at work is, and it turns out I've got great bosses both at work and after.
posted by kevinbelt at 10:51 AM on April 27, 2021 [5 favorites]

Adequate pay and benefits are really great, ask anybody who doesn't have them. I got harassed out of one of my favorite jobs, it was horrible, and if your job is okay, that's pretty great, because not-okay is at least as common as okay.

You have tasks assigned to you. Get good at them, do them well, do them efficiently. Look around for tasks/ responsibilities that are not identified and that you might enjoy. At one IT job, I cleaned out a massive mess of stored stuff, and that meant that what was trash got pitched, what was useful was available to use, and what was weird got stored in a much smaller space. At every IT job, I take on documentation. I make sure that everything has a common name, and I collect whatever is known, like who supports that software, who has ownership of that process, that weird system uses these tools and permissions. If there are things that can be done better, do them better, leading a. from within, and b. by example. Learn, by reading, taking courses, getting knowledgeable colleagues to teach you. Maybe start doing training on the things you've become the expert at. To whatever extent you can, grow yourself, and grow your job. It can lead to promotions, or not, but it's more interesting and fulfilling.
posted by theora55 at 10:55 AM on April 27, 2021

I went through a period of real job disatisfaction and considered changing careers... until I realized that my disatisfaction was driven by feeling like my job wasn't "impressive" enough.

Once I decoupled my work from my identity, I realized that my job does exactly what I need it to: it provides money and health insurance in a relatively low-stress way.

I get bored easily but satisfy my need for novelty through the rest of my life: activism, hobbies, art, relationships.

Perhaps you, too, are struggling less with the experience of your job and more with the idea that you "should" be doing something that seems more impressive to others?
posted by mcduff at 11:41 AM on April 27, 2021 [3 favorites]

I fell into the law profession as a result of not knowing what to do with my undergraduate degree. An advisor suggested it while reviewing my credits in preparation for graduation. I didn't have any better ideas, so I applied to law school and got in. It was kind of a horrifying situation all around. I never had any desire or passion for the law, and I blindly jumped into this career trajectory that many would consider grueling, even for those who genuinely feel called to it.

People kept telling me, "Oh don't worry, there are so many things you can do with a law degree!" Except there aren't, at least not with the spectre of student loans to pay back. So somehow I made it through law school, got a job at a law firm, and decidedly hated life and hated me for doing this to myself. I disliked everything about working at a law firm. The terrible hours, billing my time in 6-minute increments, billing targets, being on call at all hours for client emergencies, rude and unreasonable clients, the personalities of other lawyers, the office politics, schmoozing for new clients, not being able to take a single day off without being on top of my emails, I hated everything.

After a few years of survival mode, I landed an in-house role with a big name company. It was great fun to work there and the benefits were fantastic. I also grew to be very close friends with my coworkers. But it was still incredibly hard work. I was basically running a solo practice with one single large corporation as my client. And as the company grew, I tried to make the case to my superiors that I needed more resources. My requests were denied and I felt taken for granted. I got headhunted to an even bigger name company. They promised me all the resources that I wasn't being given in my current role, so I took their offer. Things were groovy until a new leader was brought into our org, and then things took an abrupt nosedive. More than half the team either quit voluntarily or was pushed out, including me.

Shortly after my departure, the pandemic hit. Suddenly most of my leads for new jobs dried up. I knew I could apply to a law firm and find something quickly, but I was adamant about never going back to that life. I spent a year applying to everything I could find, including government jobs, and kept striking out. I finally sucked it up and reached out to an old colleague to ask if her firm was hiring. I was desperate and all out of options. Long story short, I should've reached out sooner. My experience with this law firm has been completely opposite of my past experience. My colleagues are nice. They're funny, helpful, supportive and encouraging, and there are no egos. I have work-life balance. My colleagues cover for me if I take time off. Our clients are large corporations so we bill them in flat fees all under one big invoice... my time sheet has only three or four lines on it. Our leaders actually hire more staff as we get busier, instead of expecting us to just magically do more and more work.

I've learned that the work itself (which is boring no matter how you slice it) doesn't really matter to me. Clients are rude everywhere. But in the right environment, and with the right cultural fit, I AM passionate about my job. I no longer procrastinate or feel the dread of starting new tasks. I find myself volunteering to take on projects and research. I look forward to team meetings and seminars. I delight in getting good results for our clients, and take pride in those results. I never thought I could be one of those lucky people who actually likes their job, I believed I was doomed as soon as I set out to become a lawyer. Yet... I'm okay! I'm more than okay. I'm happy and feel fortunate to have my job.
posted by keep it under cover at 12:08 PM on April 27, 2021 [11 favorites]

Hello yes this is also me!

I did 12 years at mine. It was interesting enough that I didn't hate it, and boring/easy enough that I could phone it in when I needed to.

It paid my bills, and the fact that it wasn't My Huge Passion meant that I had a really good life outside it - went on a mini tour with my band, moved to a different part of the country and went fully remote (long before lockdown), had a kid. Because it didn't heavily matter to me if I lost the job, I did all these things knowing they might impact my performance and didn't worry much about it.

Then, last year, I finally figured out what I want to do next. So I signed up to training for that and quit, and it felt great, and right.

Some people find their vocation young, I didn't, and this job kept me well in the meantime. I have no regrets!
posted by greenish at 12:32 PM on April 27, 2021 [4 favorites]

I've settled - many other co-workers have moved on for higher salaries in new cities and different companies, but mine job is fine, my hours are fine, and I have changed positions and roles quite a few times.

Like others have said, assuming my salary and benefits are fine, I'm not my job and don't care to maximize those variables. I can figure other stuff to do with my time.
posted by The_Vegetables at 12:58 PM on April 27, 2021

i always expected i'd have a Career. for a long time i had jobs that were Career Track. and i was miserable because i wasn't progressing fast enough, wasn't making enough money, wasn't impressive as expected, etc.

it took the recession and years of unemployment, and then a health crisis, to get me to the point where IDGAF about having a Career i am glad to just have a paycheck and health benefits.

and if i could do that WITHOUT having a job, i would. i hate american capitalism and i hate its expectations and i hate the idea that if i work real hard for 50+ years i likely won't be able to retire and have "a few good years" at the end.

so fuck all of that. i do my shit, i'm meh to fine about it most days, i stress about it sometimes after hours, but i just don't CARE about it anymore. it gives me a paycheck and health care benefits. a job is fine, no Career wanted or desired anymore.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 1:34 PM on April 27, 2021 [4 favorites]

Yep, this is me! The transition from being someone who left a job after 2 years to someone who has stayed at one place for far longer has required a shift in mindset. Initially, I was staying to be vested. By that time, I discovered some perks to sticking in one place so long:

-A real mastery in what I do
-Institutional knowledge. That history can help inform my decisions
-Long relationships with co-workers
-A wider array of projects to keep my interest, rather than most of my mental resources going towards learning the job
-Comfort in challenging management and asking difficult questions (your mileage may vary)
-A sense that I no longer need to find all of my fulfillment in work. I can do what I do very well, without it consuming my life or requiring a lot of energy on my part. That gives me more time after work to do what I love
posted by sugarbomb at 4:18 PM on April 27, 2021 [3 favorites]

This is similar to my situation. I'm early 30s and will have been at my current company 10 years this summer (albeit in four different roles, each a step up), which is basically 90% of my total employment history. I was a "gifted" kid, went to a prestigious university, everyone assumed I was destined for great things etc., so it's been interesting to realise as I get older how much of what I'm interested in professionally is actually my own raw ambition (I have less of this than I assumed I did when my life was geared around appearing prestigious and pleasing others) and how much is being driven by my sense of other people's expectations for me (an impulse I'm trying to give less and less weight to the older I get).

Another complicating factor for me is the fact that I accidentally smashed my career goals for my 20s. About 10 years ago, I was hoping by this age that I'd be managing people (done), I'd be a member of a departmental management team (done) and that I'd be making a salary that is in reality about £25k less than I'm actually making now (smashed that one out of the park). My only goal until I graduated was to get my degree, my only goals after I began my career have now been achieved, and between my distaste for capitalism in general growing stronger every year and just generally how burnt out and unmotivated I feel about life overall right now, I just don't have any meaningful sense of the next horizon to push for.

My current company is generally good in terms of working conditions, culture, expectations etc., and it's a very benign industry (neither particularly sexy nor at all evil) which I don't mind staying in. I get to do work that largely plays to my strengths and largely remains interesting and enjoyable (not all of it, obviously, but enough to keep me here). There are still some problems, most notably a founder-CEO who's still in role, still half in startup mode 20 years in, and has gone very stale compared to what the company needs right now. But that's the devil I know - the devil I don't could be much worse in terms of culture or working conditions, and I'm just not tempted to jump ship in order to find out (especially during a pandemic, which my company has generally been reasonable about). I have a pretty high degree of influence and organisational capital at my current job right now, and again the thought of moving and having to build that up again elsewhere doesn't appeal. I also have a deep sense that the grass is almost certainly not greener over there and might actually be all burnt up and pissed on, about life in general - I would much rather stick with the devil I know than roll the dice and lose.

Part of the problem for me is that I'm very motivated by internal service, supporting the needs of people I already know, which my current job suits well. I'm not at all motivated by the idea of providing the same service for a bunch of strangers (even though I know they wouldn't be strangers after I'd been there a while), and job ads for my role/field always sound boring as hell even if it's basically exactly what I do in my current job, because I don't yet know those people or care about serving their needs. I care even less about making life great for customers or end users than I do about providing services for internal folks I already know, which also narrows down my choice of other options quite significantly.

With all of the above in mind, I'm intending to stay where I am unless something amazing falls into my lap by chance. The money is good, the bargain is good, I know how to navigate the bits that aren't good, sometimes the things that aren't good blow my mind with rage & frustration but I can basically always talk myself down and get back to work the next day.

It's not that I don't have ambition, I just don't have a ton of career-specific ambition beyond being able to ensure my household is financially comfortable and that my work/life balance is as heavily weighted towards life rather than work as I can. I want to publish more fiction, and have been slowly plugging away at that on the side, but I also don't want to monetise my passion or have to turn that into a full-time hustle - right now it's easier and less stressful (less work, frankly) to let my industry job pay for me to survive while I slowly sow seeds on the creative side to see what might sprout there in the longer term. I'm also potentially interested in offering the stuff I do best as freelance services at some point, but again I don't have a lot of hustle in me and I hate the idea of the admin side of being self-employed, so that's not a short-term goal I'm working towards either.

I see other people changing jobs regularly, moving up, and I sometimes wonder what they see in that that I don't, or what intrinsic or extrinsic motivations they have that I don't. In my earliest admin roles I felt very under-utilised in terms of my skillset & what I could bring, but that's no longer the case in my current role. I suspect I could work my way up to director/VP/CEO level if I wanted to (I have a bunch of useful hard & soft skills that I think would make me good at those jobs), but I'm increasingly less convinced that I want to trade work/life balance for glory in the eyes of other people. I'm sure there are a ton of people who would line up to tell me that I need to be much more aggressively pursuing either my career, or my freelance aspirations, or my fiction goals, but those approaches don't feel right for me right now.

I'm laying all of this out here because I think it's a topic people don't talk about enough - the assumption tends to be either that you're driven, ambitious and want to job-hop a lot in order to progress, or that you value something else (usually family) enough to put your career on the back burner. Neither of those are true for me, and I don't see a lot of other people in my situation (youngish, well-educated, AFAB-but-not-a-woman-and-not-going-to-procreate) deliberately choosing slower or lower-prestige trajectories, not because their kids demand it or they don't have the aptitude to pursue those things, but because they're just not huge personal motivators for the person in question. Hearing from other people who are willing to tread away from the life escalator that western society proscribes for many of us has always made me feel a lot better about my own choices that deviate from that path; I'm sharing this here in the hope of normalising it a little more as one of many valid approaches to work and life.

Also, I just don't care enough about our current implementation of capitalism to put it at the centre of my life choices. Nothing about making a rich person richer motivates me, and that's the end game of 90+% of jobs in my field, however indirectly.

None of this is to say that I never worry I'm making the wrong choices or not being proactive or aggressive enough about my career. I worry about those things more than I would like, I'm just not about to let that anxiety take the wheel and make my decisions for me.
posted by terretu at 6:26 AM on April 28, 2021 [5 favorites]

I settled down about it somewhat because my current job is unionized, non-evil, pays reasonably well, has benefits and sick time, and perhaps most importantly, has no impact or demands upon my time outside of my work hours. 35 hours/week and not a minute more, with 4 weeks of paid vacation, all of which which is increasingly rare these days. I even managed to somehow work myself up to a position within the organization that, on good days, I actually enjoy. It is by no means perfect, but given my past working experiences (almost uniformly shitty) and my resulting attitudes towards jobs, it's pretty much a best-case scenario for me and sometimes I marvel at my good fortune, especially given my terrible career planning skills. I also realized at some point that the "dream job" I used to pine for in my 20s and 30s does not exist.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:23 AM on April 28, 2021 [1 favorite]

I'm a financial analyst. I fell into this job after a stint as a tech entrepreneur, a business consultant, and former fashion designer.

My friend asked me to come in to solve a specific financial tracking issue his company was facing. I realized I enjoyed the analysis aspect and had always excelled at that aspect of business consulting. Friend was pleased but no surprised, so they paid for me to take some classes at Harvard business school, and now I work directly with the CFO doing most of our forecasting and budgeting, in a fully remote position with a Bay Area salary.

Did I expect this? No. Is this my dream job? No. Am I paid well and can live wherever I want? Yes. And that's...kind of my dream, so it works out.
posted by ananci at 7:27 AM on April 28, 2021 [1 favorite]

Similar situation, I think. I have come to what I call "the pocket" of my work life. It is a balance between work and life, stress and peace, striving and non-striving. I've taken into account the value of my job as compared to the value in my life that it allows. Not always a fun conversation. Could I earn way more? Yes. Would I spend way less time with my family? Yes. Would I be stressed out and raise my blood pressure? Yes. Could I provide more financial security for my family and am not doing so? Yes. Would I appreciate having more money? Yes. Would I unravel my health and my family's steady lifestyle? Yes. Could I use more money? Yes.

Some of these answers feel great. Some feel like shit. Overall, I am at peace, right now, in the pocket. I've enjoyed being an active father. The opportunities to be physically present and actually do the work of parenting won't happen twice.

Sufficient. It feels sufficient. I'm in the US and there is nothing that says "now that's good enough!" There is never enough effort to scale your life toward a consumer fantasy that lies just a little ahead...down the road....just a bit further. It has been a struggle to true my self-worth with my compensation. However, I fill my bowl full of experiences. I learn what is of interest to me. I try to deeply understand my children and what concerns them. I take time to listen.

That asset, time, is beyond value. You never regain it. How much would Bezos pay to have a year off of his odometer? He can't buy it though. That is reality.

Sorry if I am ranty but I truly wish society would look at what is important: people. Instead we look at maintaining an economic order. Burning fuel on things that don't consider people directly.

Semantically, I'd look at the word re-calibrating rather than settling. Using the word settling empowers the construct of the system. You are finding true north not settling on where the compass lands.
posted by zerobyproxy at 10:50 AM on April 28, 2021 [6 favorites]

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