History is the autobiography of a mad man – Alexander Herzen
Everyone remembers the show “The Office” right? Quirky comedy about a paper company that ran for years on NBC? Funny show, nothing too heavy happens, and certainly nothing that isn’t worked out in an episode or occasionally a season.
An incompetent boss remains in a management.
Guy eventually gets the girl.
Promotions are won, or loss but it’s fine either way.
The company teeters on the edge of going under, but doesn’t.
I watched the Office for many seasons, and enjoyed it, but it’s fantasy. Sometimes these things don’t work out for people in the corporate world, and it can be brutal.
The biggest fantasy that the show glosses over is one of the main characters of Jim.
When the show starts Jim is a college graduate and needs a job. A relateable situation for many twenty somethings. The thought is “College is over, time for the real world… but my major is useless or there are few positions in it available” Or instead of delving into a “career” maybe move back in with mom and dad and get a “job” and save for a little bit.
Either way, Jim embodies the intelligent good looking down on his luck guy when the job beings. He even says in the pilot “If I advance any higher, this would be my career. And if this were my career, I’d have to throw myself in front of a train.” So, he’s clear that this paper job is temporary until he can kick start his dream job.
Unfortunately, (or fortunately) Jim becomes one of the best salesmen at the job and is promoted several times and eventually becomes management. Never really fulfilling his passion. But it’s okay for Jim though. He gets his dream girl, get’s married, has kids and moves away off into the sunset. He has it all. For him it’s okay that he never perused what career he wanted because of his family.
Now, let’s go back to reality…Giving up on your dreams is hardly rewarded. Survival and maybe being economically stable are the only trade-offs for not following your dreams. Perusing a passion can lead you into an uncertain area, and a poor standard of living to start. For some people merely “living” works as an acceptable reason to “play it safe.” After all who wants to die?
Being 24, I see this scenario played out with many of my friends. Some have followed their passions and through thick and thin are riding it out. Some with great success and happiness, some are still grinding it.
Others have opted for the safe route. Live close or in the house that you grew up in, work close by, and wait until that elusive “Enter liberal art major here” job comes up.
A close friend of mine ran into this exact problem when he graduated. He wanted to be in law enforcement or health services but no jobs opened up and he needed to make a living. He found a job as a cashier for a food chain. It was okay…”for now” but in a whirlwind year of managers being fired and people quitting. He found himself promoted several times and became the manager of the store he was working at making decent money. But it was just a year, the money was good, there were no other job prospects, so he stuck at it. Eventually corporate people began to take notice of him and within another year he was running multiple branches. He moved out of his parents and got a nice condo in a nice community, and bought a nice new car.
3 years in he couldn’t take it anymore. He didn’t want to manage food chains. He wanted to make a difference in people’s lives and eventually found an EMT job. He could have stayed, and made more money, worked at the corporate headquarters, bought a nicer home and a better car for the next 30 years. He was good at it, and it paid the bills. But it wasn’t exciting, it wasn’t worth it.
Following your dreams isn’t easy. It’s terrifying (and as a post on Halloween how appropriate) but most people don’t. In even scarier cases people don’t have any dreams to follow.
Working a job that you hate but pays okay. Cuddling up with a Netflix binge at night, and partying your mind out on the weekends as your only “escape” isn’t a life worth living. It’s a live built for subtenancy, not fulfillment.
There is a reason men come home and drop from a heart attack at 48. It’s because they got caught up in the Jim Trap, but without the made for TV ending. Does anyone really want to grow up to be the branch regional manager of a Kohl’s? Or of an Applebees? (Hey if you do thought Kudos) If you go into a Kindergarten class and ask them what they want to be when they grow up. You get answers like “Teacher” “Doctor” “Police man” “Artist” a job that helps people or one can be passionate about. Sometime down the road we beat those ideas out of you. Painting those ideas as “lofty,” urging “caution” and saying to “think realistically” these are said by adults whose life has beat them down. Just because they worked at Staples forever doesn’t mean you have to.
Don’t put your passions on pause. If traveling is your thing are you going wait and do it when your 40 with possibly a spouse and kids and a big job? Or are you going to do it in your 20’s with minimal responsibility?
The “Jim Trap” is a subtle one. It lets you lure yourself into believing a haphazard life is temporary but before you know it, you’re wrapped up in responsibility and then out of nowhere… your show is canceled”