The one constant in my life since I finished graduate school has been boredom. Go to work, stare at a computer, write or file paperwork, do what I'm told, and generally make no real difference in the world. It's not what I envisioned. I wanted to be a teacher, to share with the world my love of beautiful literature, to show students how to write successfully. I wanted to make a difference.
Every few weeks I cycle through the same thought process, which at this point has become a ritual. What am I doing? Why am I doing this? This isn't what I dreamed of. This isn't what I went to school for. But I can't do what I went to school for. And at least I'm paying the bills. Think of all the good things I have: a wonderful boyfriend, good friends, enough spare money to occasionally visit interesting places. I just need to be creative! I'll find my niche eventually, if I'm persistent enough, right?
I've assigned myself things to learn, from improving my skills with software engineering and mechanics to memorizing African geography. I've read more books on my to-read list than I ever did in grad school. I've tried to start a business. I've volunteered and written grants in the hopes that I'll get a job writing something that's either interesting or actually helps people. I've considered other options: moving overseas for awhile to teach. Joining the Peace Corps. And while leaving the states might temporarily solve my problem, I'll need to leave my family and friends, and I'll eventually need to come home to face the same problem at a later date. I've considered going back to school to earn my Ph.D. in the hopes that I'll be an impressive enough academic to beat out the hundreds of other talented people competing with me for the same 50 jobs, but I just don't think I will be, and I'm not sure that I want to try.
In short, I've learned that helping people, learning, and perpetuating beauty are not really viable career options. But I've never cared about anything else. I've never wanted to make a lot of money. I never envisioned myself sitting here at this desk. I know mine is not a unique story. Probably at least half of my friends and acquaintances will tell you a similar one. There seem to be a dearth of jobs that speak to people's need to be needed, and an abundance of jobs filing paperwork.
I'm still thinking. I haven't given up, at least not for good. There are days when I feel like it's not worth it and I don't know how I'll survive spending my life doing things I think are pointless, but I'll keep trying. Maybe I can make it as an academic in a field with better funding, or maybe I'll eventually succeed in obtaining a job I feel passionate about. But what if I don't?
If there's one thing I've learned, it's that happiness is a choice. I guess I'll just have to do a better job choosing it. The question is just, how?