Know Yourself

Looking for work, I peruse LinkedIn to learn about the careers of my contacts. I have friends on the site from my college years, as well as the Netherlands, Boston, and Texas. Where are they now? I thought I would be wracked with envy. Alain de Botton counsels never go to reunions as you will often feel extreme self-disappointment.

I’m not disappointed. I’m more surprised how pedestrian (and successful) the course of most of my friends’ lives. The college English-major friend left the humanities, studied law, and now is legal counsel for Wells Fargo bank. He likely earns an impressive amount of money, but I don’t want to navigate mergers and acquisitions for a corporation with extensive nefarious legal troubles. Other chemistry friends work for global chemistry conglomerates either in New Jersey, Germany, or the Netherlands. Some others are still struggling, self-employed.

I may have finally grown up to realize that other paths are not my own. What makes most objectively happy may not suit me. I’ve traded well-worn success for something peculiar, winding, uncertain, and varied. I may not earn as much, but I may have better hours. I may not manage a team, but I may contribute to projects that intellectually interest me. I guess my objective was never to cash out as soon as I could so as never to work again. Nonetheless, I don’t mean to sound dismissively of my friends’ success. Some may need capital to support families or hobbies. Others may not care as much for what particular they do daily. We all struggle, blather, and push on to do the best we can.