In what I can best sum as a series of scattered thoughts that float carelessly around in my brain in the middle of a hot summer night, I’ve been thinking about careerhood and my generation. Some times, during those rare weekly moments when all the family is sitting in one place at one time and actual conversations transpire over coffee, my sister or I will complain about our jobs. It’s normal. Everyone does it. Because, really, if no one else is doing it then I need to start seeking out some professional help.
Such complaints always inspire a fatherly scolding. These scoldings, or what my sister and I commonly refer to as the “Abu-Naseem lecture series”, contain a collage of essential and underlying truths that can be summed up as follows
1) We’re young, i.e. we don’t understand the meaning of suffering.
2) We’re privileged, i.e. we don’t understand the meaning of suffering.
3) We’re naive/inexperienced, i.e. we don’t understand the meaning of suffering.
Now. I admit. My father, whom I love more than life itself, has suffered a great deal in his life, and arguably more so than the average person should ever have to. I value the tremendous sacrifices he’s had to make more than he’ll probably ever know.
However, when it comes to careerhood, my father’s common reaction to our complaints is another essential and underlying truth: in his day, people worked even the worst of jobs for years and years (and we don’t understand the meaning of suffering).
This is pretty much true (both parts).
If you’ve noticed, a lot of the generations that have preceded our own (if I dare to address my generation in this post) tended to hold on to jobs for years and years. My father had several jobs of which I think lasted an average that is well above a decade.
And yet, I cannot see myself doing any one thing for more than a decade, if that.
I don’t know why that is.
Are we a generation that has the equivalent of ADD when it comes to careers? Can we not stand still? Or this just me?
I know there are doctors, engineers, lawyers and other hardcore professions that will remain in those jobs until the day they die, and that’s one of the reasons I never aspired to become either of those (besides the fact that I’ve always been surgical instruments). However, are these simply exceptions?
Most people I know in their 20’s are in a constant state of flux. Jobs seem to last them an average of four years, and then they move on.
Are there better opportunities out there, making it almost illogical to stay in one place forever?
I’m not sure. Because a lot of the time I notice that people of my generation are “unhappy”. It’s not necessarily a matter of money or better opportunities elsewhere, it’s a general and constant gauging of happiness.
But, perhaps I should avoid any generalizations with this particular subject. Because maybe everyone has their own equation with their own variables, producing their own results. But, this much I do know. Whatever the variables may be, whatever the equation, the predominant result seems to manifest itself in a constant movement. From one job to another. From one career to another. From one field to another. From one dream to another.
And as someone who has his own inclinations towards the social sciences, my mind can’t help but allow me to wonder into realms of questions as to the impact of this movement. Is it good for the economy? Can we formulate long-term policies that rely on a workforce that is constantly moving and shifting gears? Can it make this generation more open-minded, more well-rounded, more experienced in the various facets of life? Can it fuel innovation? An ideas economy?
While there are a hundred questions to be asked, and a million answers, not to mention the infinite number of variables that I mentioned before, that may include reasons such as better education, better opportunities, tougher financial times, greater mobility, greater potential for risk-taking, or even the emergence of a spoiled generation that just doesn’t know the meaning of suffering, I’m inclined to conclude when essential and underlying truth: we are restless and we are constantly moving.