It’s Okay If Your Career Doesn’t Define You

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career indecision and identity

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Sometimes I think careers were something invented by the powers above to keep us distracted during this lifetime. Or, they were a device created by society to keep us all busy, well behaved, and productive. Our entire lives seem to be designed to move us towards and through a career, from the moment we are born. It already starts even as toddlers now: it’s true! You’ve got parents bribing “special” preschools to take their kids so they can get into the best elementary school and the best high school and then the best college. You’re born and everyone worries “Ok how does everything we do starting right now affect this person’s career potential? Her earning potential? How do we make the brightest, most ambitious child and then, adult?” You’re catapulted into this lifestyle of chasing and climbing and aspiring. Is it good? Well, the answer to that isn’t so simple.

I believe we know by now that, when hospice nurses ask patients what they wish they’d done more of, they hear very few answers like “earned more money” or “become more famous” and a lot more answers like “spent time with loved ones” and “traveled” and “laughed.” With old age comes clarity and the elderly don’t seem that concerned with what sort of stamp they left on whatever industry they worked in.

That being said, if you’re lucky enough to have a career you love—one that means something to you—you can feel that loving and laughing and caring for others are all one and the same with working. But what if industry just…went away? If we lived in some utopian society where nobody worked or, a scarier thought, a post apocalyptic one, where would that leave those who clung so tightly to their careers for their identities? If you are someone who doesn’t feel immense career drive but still feel like you know who you are and what you’re contributing to society, maybe you don’t need to panic. Here’s why it’s okay if your career doesn’t define you.

career indecision and identity

Source: RichVintage / Getty

Pay your bills and you’re no burden

In terms of money, let’s say you have a job you like just fine. It doesn’t depress or anger you. And it pays you enough so that you can pay your bills—the essentials. If you do that, that’s something to be proud of. It means you don’t need to burden your family by asking for money. That’s an accomplishment, no matter how you made the money—whether through bartending or dog walking or stock trading.

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