Wednesday, March 01, 2006
The feature story that I'm currently working on about so-called "temporary jobs" hits close to home. So many of my generation (the so-called "Generation Y," or children of the baby boomers) are those with college degrees and jobs that don't seem to fit. We work in restaurants, or retail; we work in coffee shops or bike shops. We are nannies, we clean houses, we bake bread. But when does a "temporary job" cross the line into something real?
Some say it's contingent on money; "temporary jobs" aren't allowing us to save for a down payment on a house (and in coastal California's never-bursting real-estate market, good luck to those in the office who might be able to swing it), but they are giving us satisfaction.
People in their twenties and thirties have seen their parents chase "the dream" (a white picket fence, a shiny SUV, and a split-level house all one's own) and either fail at achieving it, or remain dissatisfied despite achievement of "the dream." Priorities are shifting for kids these days, and it's okay to be a college graduate working as a waitress.
"So many people are looking for spiritual satisfaction through their job," says a co-worker of mine. "For me, my job is a way to make a comfortable living while enjoying myself in the company of a dynamic group of people. I get real satisfaction at the end of a busy Saturday night when we've fed 200 people and everyone's happy. I feel like I've really accomplished something."
I feel the same way, but sometimes it's frustrating to feel like I need to justify my choice in professions when someone asks me what I "really" do, or why a smart girl like me is "still waiting tables." I can't possibly imagine myself slogging away under fluorescent lights with the same people, day in and day out, for eight-hours-a-day-forty-days-a-week. The job I've chosen for myself is challenging, rewarding, exciting, fast-paced, and glamorous. Yet you never see servers talking to elementary school classes on career day (probably because they're hung over and sleeping).
Still, when parental-type figures ask me in all seriousness why I want to "waste my life flipping burgers," not understanding that what I really do is regularly pull in almost $300 a night serving filet mignon, it makes me wish that our culture placed value on the things that matter more to me: quality of life and enjoying every moment of it, as opposed to desperately chasing a dream that may or may not even be attainable.