Picture the scene: you’ve just graduated – the fire of hope and prospect still gleaming from your eyes.
You’ve been fairly independent up to this point and the move to the working world doesn’t seem all that bad. I mean, what’s better than getting paid for that thing that you studied?
As soon as you walk through the doors of reality, however, you begin to understand that all is not what it seems and even though you want so desperately to believe this working life thing is not thaaat bad; when it’s coupled with imminent aging, bills and taxes you didn’t ask for, it’s not all that great hey.
Now before I continue, don’t get me wrong. I L.O.V.E making my own cashish and the freedom it affords me. It’s really not all doom and gloom. But it wasn’t until I was sucked into what a good friend calls the plantation, did I have doubts about whether or not I’m really ready for this life.
My “first year” as I’m calling it, was a time of learning. A time that helped shape how I go about my business today. Lessons (or rather crash courses) on everything we should know by the time we’re waltzing across the stage to collect that expensive piece of paper. By choice and sometimes force, my first year in the world of work really tried me in ways I thought I wouldn’t survive…but mama, I made it.
What I’m grateful for is that my first year really helped me figure out what and who I don’t want to be.
You could call me an eternal optimist and think my thoughts are always floating quite far from reality, but in all honesty, if this is the life I have, then I don’t want to waste it being moderately satisfied and that means not settling into jobs, roles or decisions just because it’s “the right thing to do.”
Believe it or not, the plantation was the ideal place for me to start my career. It formed part of one of the countries oldest news organisations and a number of alumni from my alma mater had already made their homes there. This was it. Fresh ideas, talent and energy – what could be better?
I actually remember the day I called my dad to tell him I got the job. Walking briskly to make it on time for my first day.
“Hey Dad, guess what? I got the job! I’m actually on my way into the office now.”
I said it so proudly too. And I remember my dad sharing that joy with me. It was great. Up until it wasn’t.
There was just a moment where it didn’t seem enough for me. Not that job in itself was bad, but that I couldn’t picture the career I had envisioned all throughout the interview process, anymore.
You see, the plantation had this air about it. And it wasn’t that revered old-establishment air but rather a tired and sometimes outright depressing one. So many (great) people had come and gone through its doors, but it still seemed to lack something capable of making them stay.
It also seemed that when people did stay that the life within them didn’t for very long. No pushing ideas or boundaries, no need to change things because “this is how it’s always been” or “no budget”, just nothing. It was just work. Day in and day out and I think that’s what made me rethink my position.
I know work isn’t meant to be fun. I know it’s not necessarily meant to be enjoyable. But if I’m going to spend 60-80% of my time there, then shouldn’t I be pushing more towards something that ignites my soul? Okay, It doesn’t have to set my heart on fire, but it should at least make me feel like I’m making a difference in the world. Or at least my world.
Yes, there were moments where this happened – I conceptualised something from inception to production, I interacted with some of the “big wigs” in the industry, I streamlined processes to make things more efficient; but I’d always go home and feel like, “meh,” another day.
Perhaps this is the plight of the millennial and something I need to realise isn’t unique to me. However, if I have the power to choose whether I’ll remain a number and “meh” my way through life or do something uncomfortable and say, actually this isn’t for me, then I’ll do the latter even if it makes me a job-hopping millennial typical of this generation.
Maybe “the right thing to do” would’ve been to stick it through and see how to progress up that ladder – steadily, calmy. But as a person that’s vertically challenged and has lived her life on ladders and bar stools, I knew deep down that this is one that I shouldn’t be setting my feet on.
I’m not a meh-by-day type person. I’m a marvel-at-all-of-it type person. And while I didn’t get this from the plantation, my first year helped me figure out why.