Monday, 29 April 2013


As a young man, I've reached a stage in my life where the idealism of my childhood has to have a jarring encounter with the pragmatic demands of reality. I'm considering potential careers for myself, and I'm in a position where I'm becoming forced to abandon the dreams of my youth and instead face up to the bleak drudgery of a job I don't really WANT.

Some kids grow up saying "I want to be a vet! I love helping rabbits and I've seen Bambi.", and then those children end up working hard at school to get good grades, then becoming vets. However, I encounter significantly fewer children growing up saying to their parents "Mummy, when I grow up, I want to be a chartered accountant on £27k a year with 21 days of flexible holidays and a competitive bonus structure with opportunities across the country.", and yet, inexplicably, there are literally dozens of accountants all over the world.

There are two options for the people who have chosen a career that nobody appears to WANT to do from a young age. The first is fairly mundane: They didn't have any particularly strong aspirations as a child. Their self-image didn't really include a career (At a young age, it tends to revolve around allowing yourself to stay up late and eat as many chocolate digestives as you want want when you grow up), and so when the time came to pick a career, they were working with a blank slate, so to speak. They needed an activity to fund the sort of things they did aspire to as a kid (Television and chocolate digestives), rather than that activity being a desirable pastime in and of itself. The single most depressing statement I've ever heard another person utter is "I would sit in a dark room for 8 hours a day for £40k a year". For these people, work is a means to an end.

The second category is significantly worse. These are people who did have some sort of childhood dream, but the necessities of reality impinged on it, and they had to trade that ideal for a pragmatic reality. Perhaps our hypothetical childhood vet wasn't quite academically gifted enough to break into the world of animal practice. The career they wanted was closed off to them, and they had to accept the disappointing situation and from this, conjure up a new career. It's not really what they wanted to do, but hey, maybe telemarketing isn't so bad! And they do give you a decent salary and if you keep at it, you could be a manager inside two years and have your own office by the time you're 30. These people had hopes and ambitions for their careers that lie shattered by the wayside, and now spend 8 hours a day in a compromise, a perpetual admittance of the fact they betrayed their inner child and let him down.

The best way I've found for handling decisions is to ask myself what I would do when I was 10. When you're 10, the difficulties and complexities of life don't impinge on your decision-making. What your inner 10 year old wants is what you really want. You then have to obviously temper this desire with your adult viewpoint. For example, my inner 10 year old wants me to eat a chocolate bar and stay up late, but my adult viewpoint says "If I eat a chocolate bar, I'll get fat, and if I stay up late, I'll be tired tomorrow morning". In this way, I manage to try and work out what I actually want deep down, and then try to find a way to make it work with the adult reality of my situation (For example, I'll eat the chocolate bar and go for a run tomorrow, or stay up late and wake up late tomorrow).

I find myself facing a similar dilemma now, in terms of career. It's becoming increasingly obvious that I am, despite my inner 10 year old's desires, very unlikely to become a professional footballer and part-time rock god. It's one thing to have to make concessions in reality to move closer to the idealised wishes of the 10 year old. But it's quite another to have make concessions to the idealised wishes of the 10 year old to reach a compromise with reality. Especially in this case, as it isn't so much a concession as a complete demolition of the 10 year old desires. I understand that this is simply the pragmatic decision and one that has to be taken, but it's still incredibly frustrating and disappointing to feel you can't actually live up to your internal aspirations, even for reasons outside your control (I could be an excellent shepherd, but fiscally, that would be a poor move, for example).

I'll join the hordes in their compromise careers, filing on to busy motorways at 8:20 am, on my way to a job I don't care about. And I'll have to do this until I retire. Maybe I'll grow to enjoy that job, but it'll still always be a compromise, a reminder of the fact that when my ideals and realities came to blows, I had to shout "Stop the fight! STOP THE FIGHT!" and throw in the towel on behalf of my ideals.

PS. This has been very rambly. This is because it's exam time, and thus everyone I know is busy, and I am cooped up in a small room gradually getting cabin fever, and through The Sopranos.

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