An Open Letter To People Who Wonder When I Will Get A “Real Job”

Dear Well-Wishers and Advice-Givers,

Some of you may be wondering what I’m up to now that it’s been over a year since I graduated from my fancy liberal arts college with my fancy BA in rhetoric with a minor in art history. The time has come, you may believe, for me to put those expensive skills to use (haha, my friends) and find myself a nice job with some of those new fangled things, what are they called again? A salary? “Benefits”?

It’s fine, you may think, for us young, early 20s, recent grads to frolic in post-grad freedom for a bit, make a bit of money waiting tables while waiting for that 9-5 job to finally call us back (only with the prescribed amount of follow up calls and networking, of course). Because the ultimate goal, obviously, is to achieve that holy grail that is “the real job.” The grown-up job. The one that includes dental.

Well, in my 15 months of post grad frolicking, I have to say, all the biking, adventuring, and Tuesday-midday-yoga-because-I-don’t–have-to-be-anywhere-until-5 has resulted in a pretty well toned butt. Do you really expect me to waste that sitting in an office chair all day? I don’t think so. My point here goes beyond my super-fit ass (although that too). Think of it as a metaphor. My point is that in this 15-month “frolic,” I’ve learned and achieved way more than how to manage an account (what does that even mean?) or whatever else you people do in your offices all day.

In the last year, I’ve been to six countries I’d never been to before. I learned how to say thank you in six new languages, and how to ride motorbike. I’ve learned how to grow a vegetable garden that I can actually live off of and how to harvest the seeds for next year. I can fix a flat bike tire. I can do my own taxes.

I can wait tables. That’s a skill that will be lucrative for the rest of my life, anywhere I decide to go. I’ve served sweet old men who’ve told me their tales of having their skulls blown open in the Vietnam War. I’ve also served creepy old men that comment on how I look or insult my serving skills. I’ve learned how to tell them to fuck off without getting fired. That right there is worth more than at least a semester’s worth of fancy tuition money.

I volunteer my time for the things I care about. I’ve bonded with cat shelter cats and museum gallery staff. I’ve worked for minimum wage and I’ve worked for tips. I’ve been an art teacher at an after-school program, thrown into a room with 60 children and a limited number of markers. I’ve learned how to create engaging projects using nothing but egg cartons and string. I’ve taught 10 year-olds the basics of throwing on the pottery wheel. I’ve let kids make giant messes of clay and simulated volcanoes and received gifts of drawings and beads and other trinkets.

I’ve interned places and I’ve been hired at places and I’ve been not hired at places. I was even fired once from a job for which I was very poorly suited (good riddance, retail). I can put together an awesome professional resume, and more importantly, I can decided that it’s okay not to apply for a job I’m qualified for simply because I don’t want to do that job. I’ve met people who think it’s important to have a career, and I’ve met and chosen to listen to the people who are in favor of exploring non-traditional career paths and this thing called “social innovation.” It’s cool, you should look it up.

I’ve decided to leave my jobs and go to the other side of the world. I’ve come home and done it all over again. I’ll do this again sometime soon. I’ve befriended Brits, Aussies, Germans, Dutch, Canadians, Thais, Chileans, and more. I’ve had my heart broken and glitter-glued back together by people and places and things. I’ve learned to save and spend money (maybe more the latter than the former), but most importantly I’ve learned that money is replaceable while people and places and time and the glitteriest glitter-glue are not.

So what is this “real job” you speak of? Does it include volunteering for the well being of cats or floating in the Aegean Sea or being one of three English speakers at a Thai new years festival? No? But wait, it includes biannual trips to the dentist and thrilling two weeks of vacation time? Thanks, but that can wait. I’m sure one day I’ll have job like that (although if I have anything to say about it will at a non-profit, so maybe there will be dental and maybe not).

My point is, dear Well-Wishers and Advice Givers, is that I refuse to measure my success with a salary. While you may live in a world that focuses on career advancement (which is just fine if you’re into that), I do not. I live in a world where I measure my success in glitter-glue and stories and friends and how many countries I can scratch off my scratch-off map of the world. My real job is, to quote Dear Sugar, is to “tackle the motherfucking shit out of love.” So I’m doing that every place I can. And while I sincerely appreciate those of who are already proud of me, really more than I can express, my point is that I don’t need anyone to be proud of me because I’m proud of how I spend my time and the person I am frolicking my way to becoming.

So thank you for reading, and thank you for refraining from asking me about a “real” job. As you can see, I have one, and it is being a creative, clever, adventurous, generous, open, and loving person. It’s full time, and comes with more benefits than I can list on a job posting. I hope that you, too, are lucky enough to have a real job like mine. TC mark

featured image – Lotus Carroll

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