Career…Security…What to Hope For?4
April 26, 2013 by lucieromarin
So now, I, who have been all advice and certitude recently, must write a post full of questions. I’ve written before about the gradual horror that grows upon one who realises that, not only is the vocation she has faithfully pursued for the best part of her youth not going to appear, she’s also in the position of having to find and establish a career and financial security fifteen (or even twenty!) years after everyone else.
Well, for every misery memoir in the world, there’s also a book by someone who has created a great life for himself or herself after many years stolen by experiences far more tragic than a bit of failed vocation discernment and too many hours spent scrubbing brass. Obviously the thing can be done. I wish that I could add to those stories, and write a post headed the Ten Ways to Get Your Life in Order if You’ve Started Late…but I can’t.
Now, before anyone reminds me that God/tragedy can strike at any time, and that one who works hard from the age of twenty can lose everything at forty, while one who starts at forty may be rewarded unexpectedly at fifty etc etc, let me say that, yes, I realise this, but the fact remains that we are supposed to make daily prudent decisions about practical realities, and that includes setting reasonable goals for financial independence. The reality of Divine Providence does not erase the reality of personal responsibility. We have a duty to trust; we also have a duty to do our best. We submit our hopes to God; we are not, however, told not to have any hopes. This post is about that responsibility and those hopes.
The question I have, for those of us who are starting out late, is this: what are those hopes supposed to be? I can see a few options here:
1) Retain the identical hopes of our twenties: I will find a happy-making job, establish financial security, make a place a home, and I will realise these dreams in the next five years instead of over a period of ten or fifteen years;
2) Retain the essential character of those hopes, but change the expectation of their fulfilment: say, okay, I’ve probably missed my chance have a stable home and job by the age of forty, but maybe I can aim for fifty or sixty;
3) Change the character of our hopes: say, okay, I’ve probably missed the chance to own my own home, but maybe I can still work towards being able to rent alone and have dependable savings for my old age;
4) Give up hoping for anything in particular: say, well, I’ve missed my chance, and I just need to learn to be grateful for not being homeless.
Am I wrong to think that there is only one correct set of aspirations? Perhaps some people discover through trial that they are meant to be attached to nothing, while others are purified by the conquering of discouragement or fear in the pursuit of security?
And I wonder if this experience is for men as it is for women? Do they have a comparable nesting instinct? If they wake up one day and realise that they may never own their own home, do they care? Or does the prospect of flatting with other guys into old age actually fill them with delight?
We know that Providence is constantly at work, but where do we see it in this situation? Does Providence mean simply not being homeless? It seems to me that any word which comprises everything from a King’s castle to a beggar’s doorway is so elastic as to be almost meaningless, and I wonder if we should not look for signs of Providence in the material goods that have been given or withheld, but in other ways. Every state of life has its rewards as well as its struggles, and God’s blessings aren’t limited to the realm of property. Can we think of any possibilities here, without resorting to pious aphorisms?
I have no answers!
I can see many issues that you have raised here, and I’m afraid I cannot answer without this supposedly pious aphorism. So I’m sorry if some of the following contains them. You asked for answers, but I suspect that you wont see my answers as answers…so for that I am sorry as well. I will say that I do not know what this “starting late” is all about. We all start this so called rat-race, the day we are born. We start absorbing and learning all the necessary skills required to stand on our own two feet. So, I don’t actually understand what you mean for those “starting late”…for me..there’s no such thing…and to achieve what? we are called to the same vocation…which brings me to the first point…
1. We are called to be Saints. Period. That is what we all hope for, work for. To seek and do the will of God in the everyday jobs that have been put before us. Sure, some have a clear vocation, it appears that some do not. Some thought they had a vocation and then it went terribly wrong. But the fact remains, we are all called to be Saints. So be one, in the state that you are in. Don’t expect special illuminations, the majority of us don’t get them..St Therese of the Child Jesus is an excellent example…and St Josemaria and of course my favourite St Francis de Sales. All say the same thing. It’s doing the little things well. So, no “starting late” nonsense for this…we all started that journey when we were baptised…so next..the “real world”…
2. In the Acts of the Apostles it tells us that the early Christians had to work for their food. So, work for your food. Work for having adequate shelter. I agree, there are some anxieties to be had about the future; for example retirement. You might say that those with children are safer than those without…but I can tell you that there are no guarantees about children looking after their parents in their old age. So we ALL need to plan for the inevitable when our employers will say: sorry bud, you’re too old. Therefore, careful planning, extra financial assessment is required. Go to people who can help you with this, but be prepared that in order to take on financial security as a goal, big sacrifices need to be made. It may mean taking on a degree that may not thrill you at first, but will bear fruit upon its completion. It may be taking on the advice of others who KNOW, and yet pride may be in the way. There are many things you can do to improve your job prospects. I have a friend who owns her own dog washing business, has more freedom that I will ever have…and earns more than a teacher after 15 years of teaching!!!! Nothing will happen overnight, and nothing will happen if YOU don’t take on he responsibility of getting things done…which brings me to the third point…
3. Motivation. I sense from all your previous posts, you cannot be motivated to do anything when surrounded by a number of people who are at times tactless and down right mean. So, if you need motivation, you will need to firstly pray for it (St John Bosco is cool in this regard), AND surround yourself by motivating people, people who seek your good and will cheer for you. Life is so much easier with a cheer squad. I have been blessed with having friends who have always been my fans..ok I don’t have a thousand followers, but perhaps only a handful of dear friends who cheer me on…and so surround yourself with the same. I will cheer for you as you have cheered me on..so MANY TIMES!!!!!!!
So, although your post was about hopes and responsibility..I guess it comes down to:
have hopes..reasonable ones (being a Saint, having adequate food, shelter and financial security), and then take on the responsibility of achieving them, that may mean a lot of hard work, humility and perseverance…no one is going to do it for you…but you will have people cheering you on.
And forget this nonsense of starting late…I would be worried about people starting late to become a Saint…than whether they have a house or not. You don’t hear St Augustine say: “late have I sorted out my mortgage and financial security”…and just one more thing, NO ONE is financially secure…take the stock crash of 2009, a colleague of mine lost well over $100,000 at the age of 65…that’s a lot for a pensioner..who wont be able to find work…see? no one is immune. NO ONE is financially secure. There is no such thing in this world as security…
These are my answers to your problems…which I don’t feel are serious problems…just temporary diversions in this life…that require some re-orienteering of oneself.
Your third point is very good – the encouragement of a good friend is priceless! I’m not sure that the universal call to sanctity is as relevant to the question of what constitutes an appropriate goal for someone at a given time of life, and I’d hesitate before describing someone else’s problem as ‘nonsense’ or not serious…still, I remain impressed by your dog-washing friend!
What strikes me about the questions is that they’re all about what the end ought to be, rather than what the means might be. Which is not unreasonable, but isn’t this exactly the mindset you’re seeking to challenge? If the end was marriage, and the means was waiting for it to happen (sorry if that’s unfair, it’s just a bit how it sounds); and now the end is now some kind of security and the means is an (unspecified) job/career that will deliver sufficient funds – isn’t that just the same kind of thinking but with a very slightly altered End? What would happen if the means stopped being the means to an end and became the interesting thing? After all, in an ideal world, an interesting career would be the focus of a lot of one’s attention and enthusiasm, while also supplying an income and in many cases, leading to connections that might result in marriage, if that’s what you’re after. In the general context of burn-out and road kill, I’d suggest a complete re-orientation of focus. Personally I’d remove myself, at least in the short term, from the whole parish-involvement setting, which sounds extremely destructive, but I can see that’s not how you want to go about it.
There’s a certain strand of romanticism directed, I think, especially at women, that encourages us to aspire to, and be defined by, Ends, rather than by processes and, indeed, by Life itself. It’s particularly extreme in religious cultures, but stalks secular culture too. This neatly removes us from competing with men, who are expected to succeed at processes/life rather than at ends and still like to keep the odds stacked up against women by maintaining that women’s business is to succeed at Ends and if we’re going to insist on being allowed to succeed at Means, not to make it easy for us. Naturally the things that are promoted as Ends for women, such as marriage and children, are assumed to be among the natural privileges of being male and the hard work is someone else’s job.
Maybe the thing to do is to think of the things that seem like Ends as Means and processes. Find something interesting (and sufficiently lucrative) to do, and put your energy and love into that for the time being and see what happens. I think that as *aspirations* 3) and 4) sound grim as anything. I’d go for a mixture of 1) and 2) but without the deadlines.
Funny how no one can really resist being asked for advice, isn’t it?
Thanks! Yes, you’re right about the importance of the work being interesting in itself. I think the problem is just that when you first confront the possibility of being homeless-when-old your first thought is ‘how can I avoid being homeless-when-old?’ and anything else seems like a luxury. But I’d certainly never advise someone to settle for never enjoying their work.