Choosing Life Over Career
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
No matter what the wages might be for a typical job after college, commentator Dana Goldman has decided they're not enough.
Ms. DANA GOLDMAN: I used to wake up in the middle of the night from nightmares about mowing my boss's lawn. Hours later, I'd find myself picking up dead mice in the windowless cinderblock room I shared with four co-workers. I'd fall asleep soon after arriving home, hoping for no more nightmares. But eight or ten or twelve hours of rest couldn't resolve my anxiety.
So last year, I handed back my office key. I started marketing myself as someone who'd do just about anything for money, as long as it was legal, ethical, and part-time. A two-day a week gig teaching high school students gave me enough steady income to pay rent and health insurance. I loaned out my body for a clinical research story, copy edited a friend's feminist Christian novel, and wrote press releases on scientific discoveries.
At moments, I felt in over my head. Like when nurses drew blood from my arms every ten minutes for 12 hours straight. For a few months, I worried about having enough money, but I've always been frugal and now I have even more motivation to spend and save thoughtfully. So I use the library instead of going to the bookstore. I rent part of my friend's house and work a few hours a week at a local community garden in exchange for cheap, organic produce. And I'm ready to drive my nine-year-old car to its grave rather than take out a car loan.
Now, flipping through a clothes catalogue, I can't help noting that brand-name jeans just don't seem that different from the ones I get at the thrift store, paying less than I used to for a sandwich. Without a daily job to report to, I revel in the occasional two-hour weekday lunch with my mom and dad. Without a budget for eating out, I've learned to bake. And my nine-to-five friends are always grateful to gather in my kitchen.
You're so much happier now, my best friend says. And it's true. After a few months away from my former job, my anxiety disappeared, as did the need for therapists and even escapist movies.
Someday, if I want to buy a house or have a kid, I know I'll need more money. Security will be more important then. I may need to trade in my odd jobs for work that's more stable or substantial. But for now, I'm doing things I love on my own terms, and keeping my options open. Pocket change is all I need to live happily, and I don't want for anything I can't get at the grocery store.
I'm beginning to understand that happiness and money are not always connected in the way I once thought. And, for now at least, simplicity can be everything.
MONTAGNE: Commentator Dana Goldman lives and works - or not - in Atlanta.
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
And I'm Steve Inskeep.
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