Well-meaning people often ask me, “So what are you doing now?” to which I sheepishly reply, “Oh, uh, well, I’m still trying to figure that out, really.”
Each year that passes by makes answering this question a little harder. The gap between college graduation and my unconventional work history is growing wider and potentially more embarrassing at a panic-inducing pace. I’m getting older. I have to grow up, accept responsibility, embrace a cubicle, give in to the commute, the boss and the copy machine.
Does that one “perfect job” exist, though? And why must I feel ashamed that I haven’t yet settled into a “normal” 40 hour a week office job? Is the work I’ve been doing for the last five to six years not real work or worthwhile?
“What’s so bad about gaining new experiences while trying to figure out what to do with your life?” – Angela Lundberg
Dealing with Star Jones’ diva demands for butter-drenched grits and the antics of a drunk David Lee Roth at a downtown hotel sure felt like real work to me. So did working as a legal process server for a year and a half.
I served legal papers in rusty trailer parks, banged on grimy doors in seedy apartment buildings, and even held a “stakeout” while hiding in a disgruntled neighbor’s garage.
In 2007 I gave up the hazards of high gas prices and the risk of bodily harm and ran off to France to teach English to middle school kids. Much to my parents’ dismay, this seemed more exciting to me than shuffling back to a coma-inducing office job.
However, living in France wasn’t just about wandering down cobblestone streets and munching on pastries while gazing misty-eyed at cathedrals. It was more like low pay, wet weather, a cranky old landlady who fed me slop and hid the telephone, and wild students who told me I’m ugly with big hair.
But hey, I was in France and I was avoiding the evil cubicle, the real world! I improved my French and gained the humility that comes with looking like a bumbling foreign idiot while just trying to make simple transactions at the post office or ride the bus into town.
It can be daunting and demoralizing trying to meet the expectations of others without compromising one’s own dreams and self. Ultimately you have to decide on something, but what’s so bad about gaining new experiences while trying to figure out what to do with your life?
Sometimes I wish those well-meaning people out there would back off a little. If anything, I’m proud to say I busted a deadbeat dad for not paying child support and taught my students that there’s more to America than Britney Spears and “Desperate Housewives.”
Angela Lundberg is a native of Brooklyn Center who loves to travel and has lived in France, Ireland and Germany. Back home in Minneapolis, she enjoys torturing her friends with her Hall and Oates cassette tapes and bad karaoke between new jobs and adventures.