I have often been asked the question, “If you could make a million dollars a year at a job you hate, or hardly enough to scrape by at a job you love, which would you choose?” Some people think that you can really understand a person’s character by their answer. I believe that you get more of a glimpse at their chosen lifestyle as well as prior life challenges. For someone who has dealt with severe poverty and understands how much money does make a difference in leading a happy life, chosing money may be their priority. Really, it is all about your priorities.
I grew up very ‘middle class’–a term we American’s have skewed to mean so much. The American Dream within our grasp, no one too far above or below our social standing and nowhere we can’t go. As I have learned, this isn’t true for so many of our fellow Americans. We (along with the rest of the world) deal with poverty and all that comes with it. Even my ‘middle class’ lifestyle was made possible by very working class parents who worked hard and saved and spent their money wisely. I was taught I could do anything I put my mind to–I just had to work everyday to attain it.
So where does this lead me in my answer to the question between the two jobs? I always choose the job I love and the paycheck that will just squeak me by. Does this mean I don’t dream of having both? No, I’m an optimistic American Dreamer at heart. Don’t get me wrong, I work hard and manage my paycheck and worry about bills–I’m a student paying my own way through a private college. Realistically I know that I could never work for anything but the attainment of contentment, love and happiness. I’ve worked at the bottom of the Fast Food totem pole, mowed lawn and sat at a desk, and I have come to learn that who you work with generally makes the biggest difference in loving and hating a job. I also know where my passion lies. It rarely helps me get through the day thinking about how much money I’m going to come out with. Nothing feels more rewarding than doing research, reading, editing and writing.I have found that the best thing to do (if you love or hate the job you are doing) is to work in an environment of mutual respect and accountability. This is something I work toward and something I believe I’ve currently attained. Although at the end of the day it is wonderful to feel accomplishment in your work, it is such a positive feeling to have had that work (or any work for that matter) done in a healthy, happy environment. And we are the main creators of that environment. We must search for the job that combines respect with accomplishment.
Maybe someday I’ll find a job where I get paid the big bucks to write and edit in a give and take environment where I’m making a real difference (that is my American Dream). But I’d be fine doing that same job as long as I can just scrape by. I might feel different if I ever feel the pains of poverty, and I don’t think there really is a right answer to the question I initially posed. I also believe that if given the chance to have the best of both worlds, we must help others. We are just one of many, and like all those around us who have helped along the way, we are constantly making a difference–it is our choice whether to make it a positive difference or not. We just have to strive for what we believe in, whatever that is. So when I’m a big time editor in a top publishing house, or a poorly paid, free-lance editor/writer, I hope I’m happy, making a positive impact on somebody.
For now, I’m thankful that I work with amazing people, people who just threw an ice cream sundae party for us student workers (it’s the last week of our summer work hours). Because people can make all the difference. So can brownies and ice cream.