If you hire adults, they show up.

stignaceI was listening to NPR and some kid had apparently sent a question about choosing a non-marketable major. Well. I dunno. I had one of those and, in some ways, I should be the last person to talk about this. I am certainly not some kind of big, successful tycoon but I am not just a drudge either. I like a job where I have enough freedom to learn how to be in the middle of it all but not necessarily have the responsibilities of a manager. I’m getting there with my current job. Slowly. But it takes a while. In my life, there have been times that I have wondered what the heck I was doing. And a very dark period (of months, thank god) a few years ago when I couldn’t even figure out what to do with myself to fill up a day. Who was I? Where was I? Clean the basement? I wish…

It’s okay if you are driven to be a doctor or an engineer or a lawyer. And yes, those people do usually make lots of money. What if you aren’t interested in any of those things? What if you are interested in music or acting or art? Okay. So what if you choose to focus on one of those kinds of majors during your college years. What if you don’t really know what you want to do with your life? What happens when you are a senior and Shell Oil isn’t offering you $100K to come work for them immediately in some backwater where the summer temperatures average 110 degrees a day? Is that bad?

Here’s the truth. First, if you *have* focused on a narrow but marketable skill-set in college, yes, you may get a wonderful job right after graduation. That’s great. But what do you want to be doing 20 years later? The Engineer was a talented automotive engineer and jazz musician. He chose the engineering path. Years later, when he was fighting the illness that eventually claimed his life, I believe he wished he’d spent more time playing the trombone.

In the long run, unless you have one singular passion that you are totally, utterly focused on and don’t have any other interests, it almost doesn’t matter what your major is. So what. In life, whatever job you have, the best thing to do is show up. On time, if it matters in your situation. Try to find ways to be busy, find a niche, dig in to how things work, and don’t play politics if you can possibly avoid it. And life is like a river. There are good times and bad and a problem that might seem insurmountable at the moment may be solvable after a good night’s sleep. Or a few weeks/months of research. Time goes on and with each problem, a new opportunity can arise if you are willing to grab it.

10 Responses to “If you hire adults, they show up.”

  1. Dog Mom Says:

    The Engineer was a talented automotive engineer and jazz musician. He chose the engineering path. Years later, when he was fighting the illness that eventually claimed his life, I believe he wished he’d spent more time playing the trombone.
    Actually, he REALLY enjoyed being an Engineer; hated that he was *stuck* with having to stay with the corporation because of his illness (that whole “health insurance/pre-existing condition” clause that would have made him uninsurable if he were to leave The Automotive Company). He was able to play his trombone with other folks who – like him – were talented musicians (jazz & otherwise) and supporting their “musical habits” by working in non-musical employment. He enjoyed being able to buy trombones (between himself and The Girlz, totalled 9 ‘bones in all); had his Miata “toy car”; and indulged himself with a parade of vee-hickles and guns and cameras and computers (all of which he not only used, but took apart & put back together)…. all because he had an intense curiosity in all things. Couldn’t’ve done that if he wasn’t working as The Engineer…. as frustrating as it was, he knew it enabled him to experience a LOT in the all-too-short time he had. The only regret we had was that we were not able to do the travelling that he was always talking about wanting to do.

    I agree, sometimes I think he could’ve done OK as a pro musician, but then, doing it for a living CAN take the fun out of it….

  2. l4827 Says:

    Yeah, and a Martini in the other hand.

  3. kayak woman Says:

    Yes. What Dog Mom said about the Engineer.

  4. Marquis Says:

    The cost of school is a lot higher then when we went there, as I’m sure you all know. Higher education is suppose to prepare you for life. I don’t advocate the technical school course. I do believe that in the marketplace of life, four years should give you a competative advantage.

  5. Margaret Says:

    Love this post!! Education is supposed to prepare you for life, not totally train you for a career. If it were, one wouldn’t have to take any credits in anything other than one’s major area. I had a passion for languages and it’s served me well;my friends had more “marketable” skills after college but hated their jobs and were always stressed out.

  6. isa Says:

    speaking as a theatre major (liberal arts school) not-so-many years out…

    i think my generation was led to believe that a college education guaranteed a job that pays a more-than-living wage. i do fine, well even, working for a non-profit just the other side of the bay from san francisco, but i’m also not someone who thinks i need to buy $200 jeans every three months (and yes i know people like that, even live with one). there are a lot of things i’d like to do that i can’t, becuase i can’t afford it – i like to pay my rent and bills on time. the reasons i don’t pursue what i studied (stage management), is that i know there are i have responsibilities like student loans each month. less of those and i might be stage managing now, it’s one of the few steady sources of employment in theatre. say what you will about it, when i signed those papers as a 17-year-old i did *not* have the same concept of “money” that i do as a 24-year old. i don’t really see how i could have. as a teenager i never could have had the responsibilities to give me the perspective i have now.

    as far as i can tell a college-level degree guarantees you about what a high school diploma did thirty years ago (maybe a bit more). i know the flip side — being in the bay area (silicon valley) some of my good friends are highly financially successful young people who left school before finishing. i don’t think any of them regret not having finished and i’m not sure that a degree would have given them an edge that they haven’t “caught up on” by their mid-twenties.

    excuse my incoherency, it’s something i’m thinking and changing my thoughts about on a daily basis.

  7. Pooh Says:

    One of the many reasons I support universal health care is what Dogmomster pointed out. People get/stay with jobs they may not like as much as their dream job, and one reasons is to get/keep health benefits. Perhaps if that was not an issue, people could live more productive, creative lives.
    I’ve told my kids, “Do what you love, and learn to live on what you make.”

  8. Dog Mom Says:

    What Pooh said! Yep, “universal health care” would have definitely made a difference for The Engineer (I speculate, of course, not being inside his head) in that it would have opened some career path doors that for all practical purposes slammed shut with his diagnosis in August 1990.

  9. kayak woman Says:

    I am not against universal health care. Heck, I’m an Obama supporter. But I do wonder what the unintended consequences would end up being…

  10. Dog Mom Says:

    agreed (KW), too. “Universal Health Care”, “National Health Care”…. whatever it’s called, has good & bad points. The “good” would be the elimination of this “pre-existing condition” clause that eliminates coverage for x, y, and z whenever you change insurers. The scary part is that Big Brother would know just That Much More about each of us… and hackers would have a field day.

    *begin rant* I know that Back In The Day, “National Health Care” (like Canada’s or the UK’s) was something my Dad was AGAINST; it resulted in poor care for the citizens in general. Nowadays, with companies going under, with people no longer joining a company and staying there for entire careers, etc., the group insurances through companies just isn’t doing it. Heck, I’m losing the “Delphi Retirees/Survivors” Benefits that Jim had thought would be there “forever” at the time he left for his Eternal Beach Walk; that coverage that all Delphi Salaried folks thought was promised to be there for them for the rest of their lives! I’m lucky to have coverage thru my current employer, but what about all those long-retired salaried folks & survivors who cannot afford the grotesque premiums Delphi’s going to charge per month and cannot go back into the work force? It’s insane. *end rant*