Where Logic Meets Love

Why I Should Feel Guilty about My Job (But Don't)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

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Why I Should Feel Guilty about My Job (But Don't) | Faith Permeating Life
I'm starting to acknowledge and let go of the guilt I feel about enjoying my job so much. There are legitimate (I suppose) reasons I should not be enjoying my job:
  1. I have a lot of downtime. It is not a constantly challenging position. I am the kind of person who likes to be challenged, and when I don't have something to work on, I find projects for myself, like sorting through all the files left by the person before me or going through their database of faculty and staff and changing everybody's phone numbers to reflect the area code change that was made this spring. This does not seem like the most valuable use of my time, given what I know I'm capable of doing (see: the past five years of my life).
  2. I feel like I should be helping a lot of people. Like I should have a job that has a significant impact on a lot of people. This is one of the things that draws me to textbooks -- I want to edit textbooks because I feel that it's more valuable than editing fiction, since it can actually affect people's abilities to learn. In my job, I help, at most, three people. But mostly just one.
  3. This is not the field I want to be in. Yes, I enjoy being in the higher education environment, but my "ultimate goal" is publishing. I should be doing something that gets me closer to that goal.
  4. I have a master's degree, and I'm doing a job that requires, at most, a bachelor's degree. My master's degree doesn't get me more money or more benefits or anything, and I'm not really using anything I learned in grad school to complete the tasks given to me as part of my job.

Despite all this, I really enjoy my job. I love the people I work with, my job creates almost zero stress for me, and I look forward to going to work every day. I make enough money that Mike and I should be able to make through the next year until he finds a job, and still have some savings left over (we're spending about what we're bringing in each month, not counting his school expenses, which are essentially coming out of our wedding gift money).

Here's what I'm figuring out, in response to the "rational" complaints I should have about my job, above.
  1. I busted my ass practically all day, every day for at least a decade of my life while I was in school. I mean, probably since I was in sixth grade, I have not had a ton of free time in my life. I now have a job where I don't have to bring any work home with me. Ever. I get an hour lunch break every day, whenever I want it, and I spend that time reading while I eat. I read on the train. I am flying through books faster than I have since I was a little kid and used to bring home a huge stack of library books each week. And Mike's about to start classes and bring home homework and between classes and internship and work will be busy seven days a week, so my responsibilities at home are going to pick up a lot. Even if I can't exactly run errands during my downtime at work, I can still get done anything that needs to be done electronically, and I don't get any stress from my job, so I will be better able to handle stress that comes from home.
  2. I don't have to help a lot of people through my job. My boss is in charge of a ton of people. She makes decisions that affect lots of people. And if I can make her job easier, take some stress off her, and catch some mistakes or go the extra step to make something happen, then I've done some good. And nothing is stopping me from volunteering or donating or doing any of those types of things. Our library is closing for a few weeks, but when it opens back up again I plan to start volunteering there. And Mike and I planned out how much we want to give to charity each month (more on this another time).
  3. One of the alumni I e-mailed with when I was looking for jobs told me that she did a job just like what I have now and ended up in publishing eventually. And once I have a better handle on what my at-home schedule is going to be like, I may try again pursuing freelance opportunities. Maybe not this year. Maybe I'll wait until Mike has a full-time job, which should be no more than a year away, and then start freelancing. A one-year gap in publishing involvement is not going to kill my chances, plus I'm doing some proofreading-type work at my job now, which has to count for something.
  4. I actually came to terms with this last point while reading The Poisonwood Bible. Two of the characters, who live in the Congo, come to the United States to get college degrees and then go back to the Congo and back to having almost nothing to eat and living in a shack and all that. And I didn't understand the point of getting their degrees at first. The degrees "count" for nothing where they are. They don't help them earn any more money and they don't help them survive any better. Then I understood that they had come solely for the education -- the reason we're all supposed to want to go to school in the first place -- so they could teach their neighbors some more efficient ways of living and growing food. And I thought to myself, I essentially got my bachelor's and master's degrees for free. Particularly my master's degree, which only added a year to my schooling plus I got paid to teach. And so if in the end all I got out of it was education -- so what? That's OK. I learned about the importance of communication in every aspect of life, and that by itself has the power to improve my quality of life for as long as I live. I know it's helped my marriage. And even if my master's degree doesn't change my salary, it's not like it's a bad salary. I could have found a job where the master's degree did count for more money and still end up not making as much as I do. So what does it matter?
So I am perfectly content with my job right now, and if anyone wants to tell me that I'm wasting my intelligence or that I should be pushing for a job in publishing or whatever they think my life should be right now, well, that's their opinion. Not mine.

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