Sometime opportunities present themselves that put a big monkey wrench in the works! You decide to pursue one dream but then “adult” life comes calling—which is the right path to choose? One reader asked me this question:
I recently made the decision to leave my current employment. The original decision was to leave in late October, do some traveling and go back to school in the winter. But before making the decision to go back to school, I applied for public servant positions which pay 10K more than I currently make and would allow me to have a stable income to start my “adult life.” Now after three months they are calling me to do interviews! I am completely conflicted and have no idea what I should do – pursue the high paying career or go back to being a student and work in something that I adore?
Should I pursue my dreams or a steady paycheck?
Here’s the thing about dreams: they usually need funding. Traveling the world, going to school, starting a business, buying a house, dressing your dog in exclusively brand name gear – all of these wonderful things require dropping some change. How you choose to earn that money is up to you. I have a friend that house sits and tutors (in addition to her full time job) to finance her summer mountaineering expeditions. I know people who have taken jobs because of the tuition waivers that come with working at a university. And don’t we all know an artist/writer/actor who’s waiting tables on the side? I would never, ever advocate pushing your dreams aside in favor of an unappealing, soul-crushing ‘stable grown-up career’ just to make a few bucks. But who’s saying you have to commit to this job for the rest of your life? Or even for more than a year?
Why not take the job for a year, keep living with the ‘rents and sack that big, grown-up salary away for future dream-funding? You’ll be able to travel for longer, fund your education or save it for a down payment on house later in your life. I’m not sure what you’re planning on studying in school, but perhaps it’s not the most money-making of majors? If you’re not going to be pulling in six figures in your future job as a social worker/teacher/nurse, you could use the money that you make at this public servant position to put down on a house/car/set of braces, as you might not have heaps of disposible income once you start working your dream job.
I think the trick here is not to get sucked into this job, if you do, in fact, take it. Remember that you took this job to finance other things and as a means to an end, not to start climbing up the ladder of public servantry. Many of us have experienced the phenomina that is the expandable budget – no matter how much money we make, we somehow seem to save the same amount. $2,000 a month and you save $400. $4,000 a month and somehow you’re still only saving $400. What?!
So look at the way you spend your money now (which I imagine is a significantly smaller paycheck) and continue to spend like you’re earning that amount, even when you move up into the next tax bracket. Post pictures around your room of that places that you’ll travel with this money, read books about your chosen career, smugly check your bank account balance and think about how many classes/flights/Indian saris that money will buy you.
If you’re concerned that you won’t be strong enough to walk away from the money and the stability that this job offers once your one-year anniversary comes round, there are steps you can take.
- Mark that date on your calendar
- Enlist an accountability buddy
- Order non-refundable tickets to your destination.
Don’t get drawn into drama at work and keep up with friends that remind you of the greater goal you’re working towards. Really, this all adds up to just a bit of delayed gratification. But aren’t most good things worth waiting for?
What advice would you guys give our would-be traveler and student?