I'm going to set the scene for you. It's a generic family gathering of sufficient scale for all the gang to be gathered together around the table, already stuffed with food and spoiling for a bit of gossip. Failing that, they're more than willing to create their own drama.
Enter me, the trainee teacher
It's like lambs to a slaughter – the eyes of the hunting dogs light up (by which I mean the elderly aunts brace themselves for righteous indignation where they have no business being righteously indignant).
Although you've explained it thousands of times before, there's something that your extended family members just simply don't seem to grasp. The willingness to work for the public and national interest even if it doesn't necessarily come with the biggest paycheck. Something about generational morals and capitalistic venture, I'm sure.
You take a deep breath as the first comments flow across the table, accompanied by a brandished fork and rapidly emptying wine glass.
'Think about the huge number of hours you will do!'
'What about all the horrible parents and misbehaving children'
'It'll turn you off children for good'
'What was that I read last week about teachers getting no pension?'
'Isn't it a bit of a cop-out to just spend your life teaching primary school children? Do you not want something more fulfilling'
I could go on but they stopped to have a break and refill their wine glasses. I'd better get my commentary in before they stock up again.
Life isn't a game that can be won or lost on the basis of some arbitrary social markers. More than that, you can't 'succeed' in life by living your life on someone else's terms. Or indeed, by living someone else's life. Simply doing what you think you ought to be doing won't always bring you satisfaction, in fact, it will rarely coincide with things that you yourself actually prioritise.
Because of this, you will soon realise that the things around you that are offering the illusion of 'self-care' and 'self-improvement' are causing you undue stress. This is because the pressure that you put on yourself to achieve them isn't proportional or tempered by your emotional investment. As such, you are pushing yourself to do things that simply aren't worth your time, or are worthwhile endeavours in principle, just not necessarily for you, personally.
Recognise something here?
It can be hard to step back and recognise the aspects of life that we have acclimatised to aren't always things that we deserve to experience. We are often faced with the startling discovery that there is more to life than we know in our current experiences. There are pancake houses that we didn't know existed. Friends that live around the corner who we never realised lived so close. Even going to the park in the afternoon on a dog walking day and seeing so many Chihuahuas that you thought you might die of cuteness.
Firstly, who are they, mercantile Boomers long since retired in luxury, to comment on my economic situation?
It's nothing to do with them
They fail to register that the times that they know to be true have changed. Rapidly. Gone are the days where we can just get paid to go to university to get a degree and then immediately obtain a six-figure graduate job scheme that sets us for a 35-year career. Not half. The point being, when you make the decision to pursue a vocational career and degree, getting experience as you go and a secure job at the end of it, how is that not a great situation?
Sure, some degrees with more theoretical premises may need higher academic qualifications but it's not a matter of life experience. The art students won't have a job in their field and will likely succumb to a soul-sucking job in corporate HR if they're lucky, while the science and engineering students will get paid …. Eventually. After another 4 years of debt-collecting studies.
Don't even get me started on Med students
Yes, everyone contributes to society in some way, but for teachers, we have the best balance of it feeling worthwhile, achievable, and something that you can retain a passion for. Or at least we haven't had our soul drilled out of us by the time we graduate, like some industries that I could mention. (all of them)
At least I'm contributing to society.