Although my grad school was considered “a professional school” (i.e. I learned “a profession”) there was no assumption that – like a freshly licensed orthodontist or new corporate consultant – I would be able to pay back my school loans in a mere year or two. My first job after seminary involved working at less than minimum wage as a hospital chaplain intern. My second job – and first church position – paid me enough to qualify for food stamps.
I have had a happy work life and it continues to be quite fulfilling and interesting some 30 years later. But I was talking with an old roommate years ago as we entered Middle Age about our choices. We found ourselves in totally different places financially and emotionally:
Roommate #1 had made choices based on money: making a lot of it and finding life’s satisfaction coming, not through a fulfilling work life, but through having the capacity to buy things and experiences that would make life more fun.
Roommate #2 had made choices based on “calling” and passion and a desire to make the world better (read: occasional Christ Complex) while struggling to pay for some of the lovely extras of life.
On the cusp of 45, Roommate #1 asked Roommate #2 how to make a mid-life career switch in order to find meaning and accomplishment beyond Financial Success.
About the same time, Roommate #2 asked Roommate #1 how to make money in these last years of viable employment in order to be able to retire one day.
Please read this excellent article by Dina Strasser for further reflection. We live in a world where The Wolf of Wall Street opens on Christmas Day and nobody talks about the extraordinary irony of that.
And as we look ahead to a new year and a fresh start, how we will make decisions, counsel our children to make decisions, stand beside friends making decisions regarding how each of us will spend our lives?
My basic, very simplistic answer to all these quandaries involves God. But if you knew me, you already knew that.
Image is the Game of Life board game.