“It occurred to me that there were two sets of virtues, the résumé virtues and the eulogy virtues. The résumé virtues are the skills you bring to the marketplace. The eulogy virtues are the ones that are talked about at your funeral — whether you were kind, brave, honest or faithful.”
Earlier this week I chatted with an old friend about my dissertation. I mentioned that I’m having trouble isolating variables, staying interested, and writing the countless pages required of me. But her advice and guidance helped keep me on track, motivated, and psyched.
At some point during the conversation she asked me about my plan. More specifically, what was my plan with Frugaling. I pondered that question and frankly didn’t understand what she meant at first. “My plan?” I inquired. She responded, “Yeah, your plan. You’ve been working on Frugaling for a long time now. Do you ever think it’ll influence or turn into a career?”
I couldn’t help but laugh aloud. Frugaling has never felt like a primary goal or endpoint. Rather, working on this site has been a break from the normal routine — an opportunity to write freely and talk about personal finance in a forum that didn’t exist for me.
Interestingly, I’ve always lived this way: pursuing one avenue while holding countless activities in the background. In high school, I gambled and watched the stock market in every off block or break. I played at lunch with friends and raced home to sign online for hours of entertainment. Poker and stocks superseded high school. As a consequence, my grades suffered and relationships were strained. Nobody liked the person I had become, including me. The lessons of high school paled in comparison to the power of isolation, overwhelming greed, and selfishness. I learned early on that I never wanted to go back to that place.
Despite the lessons, it was the start of a long pattern of side work/play. In college, I was a resident assistant, op-ed columnist for the school newspaper, research assistant, instructor, and served on various committees for suicide prevention and community service. By the end of my tenure I raised over $30,000 for suicide prevention. Here, I learned the importance of selflessness, friendship, and love. None of which were learned in the classroom.
I’ve been in graduate school for… Well, I’m working on my fifth year now because I spent a year at my alma mater in another Ph.D. program. Then, I transferred to my current one for counseling psychology. But in my one year, I became more immersed in the world of suicide prevention via board memberships and invited talks.
My passion for mental health and community engagement grew, but it stood in conflict with academic demands. When I left the program and moved to another, the professors called me it out and basically said, “You’re a great person to have in the classroom, but you’re distracted and your grades have suffered. There are times in life where you must cut back on certain activities to excel in others.”
That was the first time in my life where I wholeheartedly disagreed with feedback about how I conducted myself. My “distractions” were epic side projects, which got me through graduate school, gave me diverse experiences, and exposed me to entire world of learning that occurs out there — in the world.
See, I can’t help but think that these mentalities are something of an “old guard.” In generations of yore, people would become educated, train for a particular career, and then work until they either dropped dead or retired. They did that one thing — over and over again. If all went well, you retired with a hefty pension and retirement package. You could drift off into blissful security, knowing you’d worked hard and earned the riches to live comfortably.
This mentality of education, training, and career has shifted though. People change jobs more than ever — laterally, vertically, and entirely. Now, a job is a temporary weigh station versus a home away from home. Employers tend to treat employees as expendable moneymakers — easily replaced with another head. And the incentives for staying with one company have largely evaporated. Even when pensions are offered, they’re sometimes cut or stopped altogether.
Frankly, I have an utter insecurity for pigeonholing myself to one esoteric career path and never looking back, sideways, or ahead. It’s utterly frightening to imagine doing one thing for the rest of my life, and I’m not sure that any one employer will empower me to do so.
I’ve been in school for about 21 years. The majority has been spent “distracted” and preoccupied with other loves, passions, and motivations. And I can’t help but think about Neil deGrasse Tyson’s belief that discoveries don’t occur in classrooms — they happen in minds, labs, and connections outside. Heck, Einstein didn’t have his eureka moments in a classroom. But largely, most seem caught up in the rat race of education and prestige.
As I reflect on the future of Frugaling, it’s easy to see how it fits into my life. It will likely never be my number one “career,” but there’ll always be a place for this wonderful distraction in my life. These adventures in time and effort have never failed me. In breaking away from the shackles of needing A’s in all my courses or feeling guilty for not working harder, I’m comforted by the fact that work comes in many forms.
Today we live in a world of great change and diversity, to assume or predict what’s necessary for tomorrow would be foolish. Instead, I embrace the unknown by mixing up my life and embracing my wacky, weird, and awesome interests.
How do you approach your career in the 21st century?
What careers are you training for?
Do you ever work outside work or “distract” yourself? How so or why not?