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Stability vs. happiness

By ewlau
Thursday, January 7th, 2010 at 6:09 pm in Eugene Lau, high schools.

Eugene W. LauToday in government class, we discussed the current spending trends of classmates and worked it back to how the recession impacted the United States. It showed how a lot of people are spending less, and spending more time with loved ones, and it reminded myself of a question I always ask myself:

For future employment, would I do it for money or happiness?

I’m scared. I’m so scared of taking a job where I’m doing it to support a mortgage and utilities and not to enhance my life. I would love it to do something where I have some talent, and then do it for the sake of my own happiness, but I’m sure that’s incredibly selfish. I argue with my mom at times about my conundrum, and my family’s point is clear. Work for the money, happiness comes with stability.

I worry if it’s my teenage rebellious attitude disagreeing with her.

Then again, I’ve never really considered money to be that big of a deal. I save when possible, but it seems like the dying dollar has not been my concern. All of our families are being negatively impacted by a problem that loaning has caused. Even some of my friends haven’t even felt the recession, spending more than usual. I’m part of this crowd. This is one of the reasons why I always feel like money is a problem in friendships and et cetera.

The worst part is that I don’t know the value of a dollar. I’ve never worked a day in my life, and I’m way too carefree with my wallet. I don’t care about buying my yearbook a bit late, but my mom does, and no matter how beneficial it would for me to try I can’t get it through my head that ten dollars does indeed matter. Even when my mom tells me that money for dinner is scarce, I understand what she’s saying, but I’m still not taking it in. Maybe I’m avoiding the problem.

So I’m stuck in a conundrum. Should I get a job where I’ll be happy, and develop skills for a job where employment is risky and it depends totally on practice and talent, or do I find a job where I am guaranteed some sense of stability?

It is incredibly easy for me to say, Yes I will do what it takes to study what makes me happy, and to do whatever it takes to make sure I am satisfied with my work, but sometimes I feel like my call to happiness is too romantic to work. At times I believe I’m too naive to know what happiness actually is. Maybe bliss is a house I own, and all debts paid off.

I’m working on scholarships and whatnot, but still the matters of economic welfare haven’t hit me yet. I’m going to college, I just don’t know what to do when I get there.

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  • Cranky Teacher

    The trick is, if you spend less you have more freedom to make less money and still provide the basics for you and yours.

    Beware: When you get to college, they’re going to start throwing credit cards at you.

  • Sue

    Never believe that you can’t have both.

    I like my job. Sometimes I even love it. I get to research and solve wierd problems and help my employer’s customers. I get to develop new products and services for the customers. I get to work with some really smart and really likeable people. I’m using my natural abilities, my Air Force training and my college degree every day. I’m a computer systems engineer, and my brain is wired like a CPU.

    There’s a lot of satisfaction/happiness in finding out what one can do well, and finding someone who needs one’s skills and talents and will pay one (well) for those skills and talents.

    But balance is necessary too. I could make a much better income, my family could have a bigger house and we could have more and fancier and more expensive clothes, cars, vacations, etc. if I had been willing to climb the corporate ladder (become a manager) when that opportunity was presented 15 years ago.

    But I hated doing the manager-thing, and I wasn’t very good at it. I had to work a whole lot longer days, spending less time with my husband and family, the work was a lot harder for me. Really, I was a very mediocre manager, where I’d always been great at writing computer code, debugging, and researching data questions. So, when I got the chance to get off the management track, I did, and got back to doing what I was truly good at and enjoyed.

    Yes, our family has to be careful with money and watch our budget. But we get to be together as a family, and all of us are pretty content in our lives together. Both my sons are being encouraged to pursue what they do well and what they love. Older son is a senior at Skyline, just like you. He’s thriving in drama (what a wonderful opportunity for a kid with autism to learn about how others’ brains work – differently from his, but becoming more understandable to him) and he loves chorus, so, we’re looking for colleges with good or great drama and music programs.

    Younger son is only a 7th grader, but he’s interested in writing – especially scripts. There’s something truly magical about watching him direct his big brother in something he’s written, and watching older son transform between 5, 6, or 12 different characters – all with different voices, characteristics and mannerisms. Next step, hand these two a video camera, and see what they put up on Youtube.

    Keeping looking for ways to combine what you love doing, and what you’re really good at, and look for the training and education that will make those skills and talents valuable enough for someone to pay you to do it. If you’ve worked all day doing something that satisfies your soul, eating beans and rice for dinner won’t feel like much of a sacrifice. If you’ve hated your daily work, caviar and filet mignon every night won’t feel like enough of a reward.

    And practical budgetting is what we all learn after we’ve messed it up, and lived on peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches until the next paycheck.

  • Viejo

    A report last spring by the faculty’s Select Committee on Education tried to put it all in a nutshell: “A significant and growing minority of students is simply not propelled by what we have come to regard as conventional motivation. Rather than aiming to be successful men in an achievement-oriented society, they want to be moral men in a moral society. They want to lead lives less tied to financial return than to social awareness and responsibility.”

    _The Nonstudent Left_ Hunter S. Thompson, The Nation, 1965

    _The Great Shark Hunt_ Hunter S. Thompson, page 403, 1979

    Re: your conundrum, do both.

    Re: your appreciation of the dollar, cut the cord, become financially independent and you will quickly learn the value of the dollar, happiness, freedom, shelter, hot water, clean clothes, a bowl of cereal, et cettera.

    Good luck and allow yourself to fail hard and to achieve greatness.

  • TheTruthHurts

    Unfortunately, there are as many answers to this as there are people on the planet. My take, given my handle, is to start with some simple “truths.”

    *If you’re lucky, you’ll live 50+ more years.
    *If you’re like most, you’ll have some kids along the way.
    *If you “retire” at 65, you’ll probably live another 20 years.
    *The cost of living WILL rise (although in this economy, it may fall first).

    OK, now for some opinion:

    *What you “love” now may change
    *Most folks in your generation will hold 5+ jobs and have more than one “career.”
    *During your eulogy, it will matter more what you contributed to your family, community and society than to some company.
    *Happiness can be as much an attitude as a response to particular pleasureable circumstances.

    OK, Truth, where does all this leave me?
    Good question.

    Well, first, I encourage young people to take the long view. Too often, at 18, you have only thought about independent life for 3-5 years, yet you need to live independent life for 60+ more years. Think about spouses, kids, aging parents, your retirement, kids college, etc. Don’t stress on it, just understand it’s part of life for the majority.

    Next, make a plan (that will ultimately change) based on YOU, what you want out of life and more importantly, what you want to GIVE. You may not have learned it yet, but it is actually better to give than recieve (once your basic survival needs are met). Growing up poor (as I did), that wasn’t apparent, but with age does come wisdom (most of the time).

    I believe you are gifted in something. I believe that some aspects of that gift have already been revealed to you. I believe that if you strive to use your gift for others (family, community, society), you will be rewarded with an underlying joy that will remain whether you are happy or sad at the moment. I also believe that if you construct your work life so that you have ample opportunities to use your gift, it could bring you pleasure and financial reward.

    This doesn’t mean your “career” has to focus on your gift? No, although that’s cool too. It means your career has to make room for you to use your gift. If your career squeezes out the time and energy to use your gift and doesn’t take good advantage of the gift itself, you will be stifled, unhappy and likely less productive.

    I’m fortunate that I get to use my gifts in my work and outside of work, and I get to GIVE them in service of others. You’re more productive when using your gift because of course, it’s a gift. Frankly, I should be using mine more both for profit and contribution to community and family. It is very rewarding to learn that you have something unique to offer that is useful to others. With some thought, that usefulness can be made profitable if you desire.

  • Nextset

    One of the things I remember from a consumer econ course I took was the phrase “the extra cost of being poor” – which I also remember as the extra cost of being stupid.

    Higher class people get more for their money. They spend on dental fillings rather than root canals and extractions. They spend less for insurance. They don’t spend on late fees, DUI fines, & Traffic fines. Their costs for consumer finance is far less and they pay their bills on time or don’t incurr them. They don’t lose lawsuits. Their health expenses are less and they don’t smoke.

    These differences are tied to being future oriented rather than present oriented and that difference is quite fixed early in life. Siblings may take different attitudes towards this so you see differences even within a family grouping.

    Back to the thread: You have to decide if you are going to live for today or work steadily for the future. Most of the young people I run into constantly do what makes them feel good now regardless of what that will do for their future. Their are sex differences. Too many girls give themselves to boys in casual relationships – like shacking up – and are so shocked when the boys tire of them, mistreat them and devalue them. So they think a (bastard) child will make them feel better. Then they – as a rule – try having another. Now their problems have compounded and their choices of mates are really compromised.

    As you stand in your photo, a male with a baseball cap and T shirt – imagine your female counterpart and her choices in life. There is a path to “stability” and “happiness” for her. But look at the stats of the lifestyles of the female and minority.

    What role do the public schools have in the life outcomes of their students? What’s the connection between public schools and poverty, educational attainment and marriage rates?

  • Nextset

    Very interesting article in the current Time Magazine about teenage unemployment. Some discussion there about the unemployment rates by race and unemployment issues affected by dropout status and teen parenthood. Another issue is lack of teen employment affecting lifetime earnings.

    I have been concerned for some time that the indiscipline taught by public schools acts as a bar to employment – and has cascading damages for the teens affected. This damage is sharper for the black and brown students who typically need to get to work earlier and have shorter (working or not) lifespans than Ken and Barbie.

    It’s later than they think. They’d better get to work.

    Brave New World!

  • Nextset

    Here’s the article:

    http://www.time.com/time/printout/0,8816,1952331,00.html

    The part where the girl remarks disparagingly that the Bank she was placed at for a job wanted to tell her what kind of clothes to wear was priceless. The article goes on to state that her bank employers actually went so far as to purchase new clothes for her so that she would have the correct clothes to wear to work. Then when the internship or trial period ended they gave her a full time job and she’s happy.

    All this is going to end in a Depression – employers will not have to fix people up so they can work. They will have a line of people ready, willing and able to work who know what to wear. Ross for Less has affordable clothes for work. Kids spend more on DVDs, music and entertainment than such an outfit costs.

    Our public school kids will be so clueless they’ll be left in the dust. Unless the school start teaching them. You can’t leave it up to parents.

  • Steven Weinberg

    Here is the quote Nextset is referring to:
    She says when she first got word that she would be working at Wachovia, she was reluctant to go. “They told me what I had to wear, but I didn’t have any professional clothes,” says Galloway. “But after a few days, they bought me clothes and made me feel at home.”
    It does not appear to me that the young lady was at all disparaging (Nextset’s words) about the bank because they told her what to wear, she was just worried that she did not have the proper clothes.