By Claire Ballor
“Enjoy college while you can, because soon you’re going to be living a stagnant life like the rest of us.”
These words shook me, leaving me unsettled and depressed. Had my co-worker known me, she would have known that this is one of the most terrifying things she could have said to me.
I intern part time for a large corporation, a job that has been one of the most educational and eye-opening experiences of my life. Educational because I have acquired an extensive set of professional skills; eye-opening because I have come to grips with one of my greatest fears: stagnation.
I have realized that it is all too easy to become comfortable with a job, a salary, expectations or a routine, without ever asking if there is anything more. It is far too easy to work a monotonous nine-to-five or even seven-to-six job and find consolation in the few remaining hours you have left to actually live your own life and pursue your own interests.
But this is no way for anyone to live. What could be more unnerving than falling into an unprogressive life, content with the mediocre? This life is often chosen because it comes with a focus on financial stability and overall comfort, both of which are undeniably tempting.
Facing a rapidly approaching graduation, I tried to come to grips with the stagnant life I thought I had ahead of me. I tried to convince myself that money and stability would be well worth daily discomfort. I felt as though the passions that I had been pursuing in an academic setting would be checked at the door and left as a distant memory as I jumped headfirst into a career.
Now, I am ashamed that I ever entertained those thoughts or ever believed I had to live that way. Stagnation is not a product of a job; it is the product of a mentality, and it took me months of soul searching to realize this. I don’t have to have my dream job to avoid a stagnant life; I simply need to have my priorities in order and live accordingly. Anyone who dedicates his life to a pursuit of money or ease shouldn’t be surprised that life has become stagnant and stale.
“My favorite thing about my job? Well … it’s comfortable and I make a lot of money.” This is the answer that I received from several professionals when I asked about their successful careers that have been ten or more years in the making. Their favorite thing wasn’t that they were pushed daily to be better, that they knew their work was making an impact on others’ lives or that they could go to sleep proud of the thing they accomplished. I refuse to let my answer ever be the same and I encourage my fellow classmates to make the same commitment now before entering the workforce.