On finding “fulfilling” work

To people who just meet me, I may be a reviled, evil actor in the financial crisis who gives them an opening for tired wordplay.

To some people who’ve known me for years, I am something akin to an aspiring anteater-tamer by day, comic book reader by night.

These friends are primarily in artistic fields and I have a boring numbers job they don’t understand that they assume earns me 6 figures and which salary must inform how I vote as why else would a 30-something female minority not vote Democrat down the line?  These friends rarely ask about my job, perhaps out of lack of interest and/or tacit disapproval of my role in preserving the regressive status quo.

To someone who, for a number of years, I thought knew me best, I am just a cog under orders.

He once asked me if my company was evil (I replied that to my knowledge we were not clubbing baby seals but I would keep him apprised, and no, I can’t explain why I continued to date him). I think he saw me as someone who could be broken out of my stupor if I just found my true creative calling. To that end, he tried to foist his own interests upon me: wanting to teach me guitar, assigning me various arts and crafts projects like working with clay and making collages.

There is practically a “Why I left finance” meme of people publicly ditching their jobs to pursue a more “fulfilling” career.  In recent years, it has become more and more difficult for people to believe that I actually like my job.  But I’m not twenty-two any more — I don’t just have a job to afford my lifestyle, which used to comprise Park Slope rent, eating out and bar tabs open until 4am.  At that time, ten years ago, I was a receptionist at an awful insurance underwriting firm.  Five years ago, I was an admin at a failing hedge fund.  Two years ago, I was working as a research assistant when the president of the company offered me the opportunity to shift my career in a rare diagonal move.

To a few people, I am someone whose accomplishments merit acknowledgment and praise.

Another friend recently told me that I needed an artistic goal, such as writing a novel or painting.  At least he, unlike my ex, respected me enough to reverse his position once I disabused him of the notion that I am a drone in the market for a dream — day, pipe or otherwise.


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