In my twenties, all of my peers and I were working towards the “grown-up job.” You know the one: salary with benefits.
Tired of waitressing, lifeguarding, nannying, and anything else that made adults not take us seriously, we thought a steady adult-like job would mean we “made it.”
We were so, so wrong. Or perhaps, those jobs were just wrong for me.
Iwas ecstatic to take the salary position of running an office for a non-profit. The work was meaningful, and my title demanded people take me seriously. I officially made it to a different tax bracket, and my benefits were nothing to complain about.
Besides, even if they were nothing to write home about, I wouldn’t have had the time to complain anyway. I didn’t have time to do anything.
One could assume I had poor time management skills, but multiple conferences of how to run an office (including time management modules) would beg to differ.
No matter how well you manage your time, there are still only 24 hours in a day.
If I was that busy only while on the clock I could have coped with this life, but I was always at work. Even when I wasn’t.
Yes, of course, salary means you often work more than the normal 40 hours a week. Although, I stopped counting my hours because it just made me mad. if I worked 65 hours a week, I didn’t want to know about it.
The real problem was the few hours left in the week that I wasn’t working; I was still working. I couldn’t leave that shit at home.
That much responsibility meant that I was always worried about something. People would call at midnight and then at 5:00 A.M. because they had a problem. On Christmas vacation, they would call when I was across the country spending time with family. Something would always go awry, and I was always the only one that could fix it.
I remember driving to work, wishing so badly that I would get stopped at one more red light, just to be able to put off facing the day for one more minute.
I was tired. Tired of babysitting an office full of supposedly grown adults, tired of not having any time to do anything that I wanted to do, and tired of being tired.
My free time was spent recovering and I never had the energy to enjoy life outside of work.
One would have thought my adventurous free spirit could not have been crushed; until I worked a salary job that is.
On my rare days off where I wasn’t being relentlessly summoned to come save someone, I still couldn’t let it go. I would have so much anxiety just THINKING about going back to work the next day, that my time off would be ruined.
The simple fact that I was on salary was not the only contributing factor to why I was miserable at that job. It was a mix of a lot of things — no work life balance probably being the most unforgiving. And being a salaried employee sure made all the difference in that balance, or lack thereof.
That life wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be, and I’m glad I escaped before my soul was totally sucked dry.
Career driven people seem to have had a hard time accepting this.
My supervisor at my new job keeps hinting at moving into a different department at work; what most of the employees there would probably consider a step up. However, that position is the furthest thing from what I want to be doing, and if I couldn’t work in the position I’m in now, I think I would honestly quit.
I told her I’m happy where I’m at and that my current position is perfect for me right now because I can leave work at work. She cocked her head to the side like a confused puppy and said: “But don’t you have any ambition to move up?”
Well Marilyn, I honestly don’t think that position is a step up, despite what the paychecks say.
She looked mortified when I told her I’m really enjoying having little responsibility. As if I was a straight up bum refusing the chance for a better life or something.
She’s not the only one job shaming around here though.
A customer came in the other day looking for some new equipment to go scuba diving with.
After a few minutes of him going out of his way to convince the professionals he knows more than us, he resorted to “I used to work in a Scuba shop too, then I got a real job.”
To this I responded, “Oh, is my job not real?”
“Well, I managed a scuba shop.”
“So let me get this straight… You just wanted to let me know that what you considered to be an illegitimate excuse of a job was still above what I do for a living.”
He started to stutter… “Weh-weh-well I’m just sa-saying…”
“With all due respect, Fuck you.”
Okay, that last part didn’t happen because I was too busy laughing in his face and walking away.
I bet he had some miserable salary job too.
Now I know better. Not being the top girl on the totem pole is totally ok with me. I don’t need a fancy title to prove that what I’m doing is important. And if you were to do the math of how much I was actually making because of how many hours I worked, I’m sure it wouldn’t seem so exciting anymore.
Time is the most valuable currency, and the one that I’m investing in.
This may not be a popular opinion, but the definition of my dream job now excludes a salary.
When looking to the future, a fair work life balance with a fair wage is what I see.