I often write about how age shouldn’t matter, and it shouldn’t. And feelings, dreams, and desires don’t really know any age boundaries. However, I do think it’s possible to reach an age when you start to wonder in earnest about what matters most, what dreams or wishes are still unfulfilled, and what you want to get out of the remaining years of your life.
If you’re lucky, like me, your personal life has exceeded every expectation you ever had. And you know that family (whether your “family” is biological or by choice or both) comes first, always, and what matters most is what waits for you at the end of the work day. And if you are lucky to have people who you love and who love you; a comfortable home; enough money to get by and then some; transportation; good food to eat; your health; nice enough clothes to wear; and a good job that pays a decent salary while providing benefits and security for your family, then when does wanting more or something different or something better, particularly with regard to a job, become whining and how do you know that maybe it’s just time to settle?
Can a job be just a job, or should it always be something more? Is there an age when you have to say to yourself, especially in this economy, “I’m damn lucky to have a paycheck, good working conditions, opportunities for some growth, health insurance, pleasant colleagues, and some level of security. Even though I don’t particularly like certain aspects of my job or have a personal need to reach a new level of engagement or professional growth, I’m going to have to learn to settle because I have so many other things to be grateful for.” Or should you never, ever settle for “good enough” at any age?
We all know people who worked their entire lives at jobs they didn’t enjoy. Reasons for that vary, I’m sure, from fear of change, lack of other opportunities, a deep sense of responsibility to support one’s self or one’s family as best as possible regardless of personal fulfillment…who knows really. I doubt that most people are completely satisfied with their professional lives and many can certainly envision something different or better in little ways or big, life-changing ways. We all know people, too, although I’m guessing fewer, who make a living doing exactly what they love most.
As usual, I’m better at asking questions than answering them. If my kids were asking, I’d say never settle when you’re “young” or before you have responsibilities to anyone or anything outside of yourself. Keep striving for the dream, always. Wanting something for yourself even if you already have great things is not whining. It’s the perfect time to indulge yourself and find your passion, and if you’re lucky, make a living at it.
Because when you’re older, you have to weigh more variables and find a balance that is realistic. It’s much harder, if not impossible, to indulge your own professional preferences. There’s nothing wrong with keeping your eyes open for new opportunities and embracing them if they fit into your life, but there’s also nothing wrong with settling to some degree and trying to fill any void in other ways that can be equally satisfying, if not completely fulfilling.
I guess the most important thing is to make the most out of whatever situation you find yourself in at any given moment and try to maintain a healthy perspective. Usually when you least expect it, life throws something challenging into the mix. Settling doesn’t mean giving up. It means being okay with what you have until you can either change what you have into something better or until something else comes along that gives you enough reason to stop settling.