DionRabouin.com (sort of)

Quarter-life crisis

Posted in Essays by dionrabouin on January 10, 2009

I make no apologies for my lack of qualifications, but this really isn’t fair. I’m expected to go out into the world and somehow just become a functioning, useful member of society. I’m not qualified for that. I’m certainly not ready for it, but more appropriately and more importantly I’m not qualified for it.

Four years – technically two and a half – at Ithaca College have introduced me to the world. The world that isn’t full of dreamers and architects, and firemen and astronauts. The world is full of special ed teachers and FBI field agents. The world is full of people who are content not to dream but to acquiesce to what “works.” My roommate freshman year was a math major. I couldn’t possibly fathom anything more boring, and when I posited to him that historically vexing question “Why?” all he could answer was “I know that I’ll have a job when I graduate.”

I’ve come to accept that no one – save for perhaps a gallant few in the Park school – is interested in what they wanted to be when they were five years old. Everyone wants to be what they’ve wanted to be since they realized it was realistic and viable. I’m certainly not any better. I’m a journalism major. Why? Because writing is the only thing I’m really good at. And to be completely honest, I’m not really good at writing, so much as I’m effective. Truthfully, the only things I’m legitimately good at are lying and being charming, so given that information I should probably be a male escort. I’m also good at sex, or so I’ve been told, and really if those are the only things I’m good at and they all point to a particular career path, why not take it, right?

But why do something just because you can? And honestly, I don’t really want to be a man-whore. But I suppose it certainly beats out failing at something you’re not qualified for. When I was in high school people would always ask me, “What do you love to do?” I don’t love to do anything. I enjoy watching tv, talking to friends, drinking, watching movies, playing video games and none of those things are a career, and even if they were I’m not nearly invested enough in any particular one of them to make a career out of it. What then?

The other school of thought opines that you might as well just find a job that pays decently and makes you enough money that you can get through your day with enough of yourself left to use your time off to do the things you love. But even then, what is that? I feel like it’s these people who turn 50 or 45 or 37 and realize that they haven’t done anything with their lives, divorce their wives, cash in their 401(k)s and buy a Ferrari.

The job you do, your career, is so much a part of you that to just go through life like it’s an afterthought seems deluded at best. Nine-to-five is a long time, especially if you figure you spend 12 to eight sleeping and that we spend something like one eighth of our lives stuck in traffic or brushing our teeth or attending to any number of mundane, rudimentary tasks that really are just life’s afterthoughts. Our careers are us, no matter how much we try to downplay or assuage the fact, what we do is who we are. That’s why people always strike up conversations with other by asking, “What do you do?” or “What’s your major” or “Where do you work.”

All of these things take precedent to questions like “What are your hobbies.” Hobbies – the things that you love to do (and I do apologize for the superciliousness of italics) – are merely an afterthought. Asking someone to change their hobbies or find new ones is tantamount to asking them to try on a new shirt or buy some new shoes. Asking someone to change their career is asking someone to change their life, to fundamentally alter themselves in a way that they may not be able to take back.

So as I sit at this zenith of life, the part where I’m supposed to embark on my career path, the path that will ultimately determine who I am for the rest of my existence, I find myself categorically unprepared and unqualified.

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