January 09, 2015

Do You Live to Work or Work to Live?


There are many things about moving around the country that frankly, suck. (Pack up a UHaul one Chicago winter and you'll know what I mean.)

But my past three (seven, if you include college) years of moving have allowed me to meet a lot more people than I'd ever know staying in my hometown, many of whose experiences, backgrounds, and mindsets are a lot different than what you'd normally find at Looney's Pub on Main Street in Bel Air, Maryland.

Now, since college, I've worked in a research lab and at two law firms. Basically, I've worked mostly with people who have a career as opposed to a job. (People don't normally just pick up a weekend gig as a real estate attorney to pay for extra yoga classes.)

So it's not surprising that I've met very many extremely smart, extremely driven people since college. What is surprising though is the noticeable range of opinions these people have on what makes a "good" career.

For example, I've met the people who believe your career needs to be the same as your passion. A lot of these people are the ones who are nuts about what they do. They're the ones who never leave the lab and frankly, who never shut up about their latest project. To them, your goal should be finding a career that fulfills you.

Then I've met the other end of the spectrum, the people who picked their careers almost strictly for the benefits, whether it be the stability, the prestige, or the paycheck. I've met people who've admitted that they do what they do because it pays enough to let them travel, or pays enough that they can send their kids to private schools. Their jobs aren't their passions, but they do pay for them.

And as someone who is in prime quarter-life crisis territory, I can't get enough of the debate. I'm old enough now that I should (and do) have some sort of career goals but young enough that I still have plenty of time to change them.

I've received some solid advice from both sides, but I heard what might be my favorite this weekend:

It's important to like what you do but a career doesn't need to be your passion; it should however give you what you need so that you can follow those passions without living in a refrigerator box. (Or without living on hyperbole sandwiches.) But at the same time, there's a line. Although a good paycheck and good health insurance are important, once your career gets to the point where you have no time or energy for the things or people you are passionate about... then you have a situation that no salary can justify.

I'm not sold yet on either opinion but that one seems pretty reasonable to me.

So the next time I'm in a discussion about first-world crises of twenty something grads? Well, I've got this one on my notecards handy.

But like I said: I'm not sold either way. So if you've got opinions, give 'em to me! Do you work to live or do you live to work?