Hi Carolyn: My girlfriend graduated from college virtually skill-less a few years back, expecting to become “big-time career woman” because she had a B.A. from an American university. Reality set in, and now she is mi-hizz-erable! She is stuck in a job where she’s doing the same thing as 19-year-olds. She has no clue whatsoever what she would like to do with her life, though I think I figure into the equation. We just bought a house in a beautiful town, we are in love with each other, we have a great time, but it’s impossible for her to come home at night and say she had what even resembles a tolerable day. Pile on the fact that, though I don’t make that much money, my job offers me fulfillment down to my very soul and afternoons off to boot. She asks how my day was, and I say, “Great! I did lots of cool and different things at work, then I got off early and paddled my kayak and went shopping and laid around for a while. Look how tan I’m getting!! How was your day?” and she starts to cry. Not fun. – Happy Living With Sad in Colorado
Some people do graduate from American universities with no skills and go on to become big-time career women. Just a little something to make her cry harder.
But only if you put it that way. Between hoity degrees and (most) big-time careers lie a lot of years of boring, frustrating, lower-rung, jab-myself-with-a-stapler-to-remind -myself-I’m-alive kind of jobs. They’re as necessary as they are soul-sucking; they’re what weed out the people who just want big-time careers but aren’t willing to put in the work. In most cases, at least, the people who appear to waltz right into their big-time careers in fact simply served their lower-rung time concurrently with school.
You have fulfilling work, true – but, remember, you’re happy not to get paid much.
Obviously people feel better about their stapler years when they know it’s only one or two levels on a purposeful climb, and your girlfriend lacks even that reassurance. Hers is still a climb, though, and it still has purpose: to find out what her purpose is.
A goal that vast and vaporized would move anybody to tears, so this is where you can help her. First, by wearing sunscreen. She doesn’t need your face in her face; plus, you’ll live longer and dewier.
Second, you can help tame her vast goal with some structure. If it isn’t leading to a career, her unbearable job should help her see what she should be doing. If that isn’t happening, then it should help her start ruling things out. If that isn’t happening, then it should help her make good connections. And if even that isn’t happening, then she should be making and saving big bucks for when she does figure out what she wants.
And if none of the above, then it’s time to look for a new unbearable job, one that buoys her attitude by meeting even one of those minimum standards. Just don’t tell me it’s her wages that pay for the house.