I guess you can call it a "quarterlife crisis," but whatever it is there is an epidemic I've witnessed and have been a part of since graduating college in 2002. So many of my peers are either reaching their 30s or quickly approaching their 30s and boy, is there a lot of confusion going on! It's that we're still stuck in this, "What do I want to be when I grow up?" phase.
I remember after a couple weeks in my first corporate job after graduating college I called my mom and asked, "How did you do this for so many years?" Something about sitting in a cube and dealing with the emerging office politics I began to notice just didn't sit right with me, and nearly 8 years later I still had the same feeling.
This sentiment has been echoed by my friends across various industries - advertising, insurance, banking and politics - it's constantly the same outcome: disenchantment with corporate life. Some advised me to "suck it up" and find pleasure outside of work, but when you're totally deflated by the time you get home from 10+ hour work days and start to show physical symptoms of the poisonous corporate environments that so many of us inhabit you know it's a problem (and I speak from personal experience!).
So what is the solution? Personally, I dedicate myself to helping guide young people navigate their career choices - especially young women. My mantra is, "Don't feel pressured to run right into corporate America!" Do something else like Teach for Amercia, Peace Corps, City Year, etc. But a bigger question remains . . .
How do so many of us end up in these soul crushing jobs?
I believe it's a mix of factors: from materialism, to fear of the unknown and obligation to pay college loans. Personally, with college loans facing me I believed it was best to get plugged into a job right away and start working. Thinking back I would have started with my passions and found a job in those fields.
What were my passions?
Acting, cooking, writing, mentoring and travel. I do remember identifying these, but thinking "I'm not going to make any money doing these things!" See, but the drive should not have been money - it should have been following my passion. Yes, perhaps I would have had to eat ramen for several years, but I would be following my wanderlust. And of course, there would have been ups and downs in those fields just like in any, but the basis is that at this point in my life I believe corporate America does not fit with who I am.
And after nearly 8 years of trying it out, I threw in the towel, and I feel so much better for it.
Now, I'm on to pursuing my passions! It's never too late.
Check out these resources to start pursuing your own wanderlust: