Life After Undergrad 9: realities of full time – the makings of a quarter life crisis to come?

A few of my friends have made comments recently about how I must be rich. Jokingly of course, they don’t mean actually rich. What they mean is I can spend more money because I’ve been working full time for over a year now, all while living at home so avoiding the responsibilities of bills and rent and budgeting to get by. But it’s bittersweet to be honest. It reminds me that a year has gone by, and yet I still feel as though I am not in a position financially to move out well. And is moving out even what I really want to do? Sure it’s rough living in a tiny apartment with your parents at my age, but are my savings better spent travelling or taking a belated gap year? Who knows? Either way I don’t feel as though I have saved up enough for my time.

I enjoy having some spending money. But the reality is, I don’t get paid very much, actually it’s sort of the baseline for my industry/ role. While of course it’s better than nothing and it does qualify as a full time wage, you have to remember that it comes at a price of its own. I started my corporate, full time adult life when I was 21. I’m now almost 23, and I have spent the majority of my waking life during this time sitting at my office desk. So when reflecting on this, I can’t help but weigh up how much my youth is worth.

It sounds dramatic, I know. And at the end of the day, I like the sureness that comes from working that I didn’t have as a grad or student; not knowing if I would ever be able to secure a job or earn my independence. But still, many of my friends, though they work very hard (probably harder than me) and pull all nighters to get uni assignments done, have 3 day weeks, and can skip a class and nobody will follow them up on it. They can leave early if they want to meet a friend nearby, and they can compromise on their schedule. During the summer and winter, they get months off to spend their time as they wish, and they are entitled to it. I can’t help but be envious. My holidays need to be saved up and stockpiled, then I have to ask for permission to use them. And permission for even 1 week off must be asked months in advance. I don’t get days off, and if I wish to take one, it is measured and kept track of, and I need to justify it and perhaps even lie about an illness to take it. I am not allowed to work from home unless special circumstances apply (they never do), and even if I am being productive, I need to make the extra effort to also overtly look as though I am being productive. Make sure everybody sees it. I have to convince others I am worth having around. I have to convince myself that what I am doing with my time is worthwhile in the grand scheme of things, which in most cases, involves stopping myself from thinking about it too much and just doing the job, churning it out.

Such is the reality of when you are being paid for your time, I know, I know, first world problems. That is the main thing I have above most students, I am being monetarily rewarded for my work. But the freedom of being able to make your own decisions about your time is such a luxury that I am often envious of. Everyone has commitments and deadlines, but the freedom to structure your week as you wish and work toward those deadlines in a way that suits you, that makes all the difference.

So I have been asking myself, will I wake up one day and regret spending my golden years in an office? The past 12 months has gone faster than any other year I have experienced, way way way faster. The entirety of my life as a 22 year old has been traded for a years’ worth of minimum wage. Worth it? As my 23rd birthday approaches, I can’t help but think about it. There’s no definitive answer, arguably it has been worth it, due to the experience, new friends, connections and of course the golden ‘1 year’ milestone at a single job which is a must have on any professional resume. But I’m too young to be wishing I was young again. I don’t want to regress in my career, but will I regret rushing into it too?

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