Across the globe, our cultures seem to be moving further and further toward the glorification of the drive for power and wealth. We have a lot of little sayings about the downsides of the "rat race" and "keeping up with the Joneses"--but at the end of the day, we need only look in the mirror to see a perfect example of the people we're mocking.
I've decided to pursue a life teaching English, German and whatever other languages I'll master in the future. There is little to no prospect of "moving up" since I don't plan to stay anywhere permanently, and I'll probably spend a lot of time working for far-below-average pay.
So why would someone do something so ridiculous? Here's my argument for abandoning the career ladder and instead pursuing a so-called "dead-end" career:
If You Have the Right Job, You'll Love Working
Our society likes to say that a well-adjusted person "works to live" and doesn't "live to work," but I say that's totally backwards. If the part of your day that you spend at work doesn't count as "living," then half of your life will be irrecoverably lost.
Instead, find the life you want to live and then figure out how to make a living from it. As a linguist, I'm obsessed with figuring out the systems and semantic intricacies of languages, and nothing fascinates me more than going off and studying them wherever I go. My career choice gives me the ability to do what I want to do for fun, and to get paid enough to live for it.
Getting to Be Different
There's something appealing and satisfying about leaving behind the pursuit of social status and trading it in for the pursuit of personal perfection. Beware, though, that abandoning the eternal hunt for power and wealth can make you look rather alien in an increasingly suburban world.
The End of Performance Anxiety
I am not ambitious. There--I've said it in the simplest terms. I'm considerably more interested in making my work acceptable to myself than I am in making it impressive to my superiors.
Refusing to kiss up to one's superiors is a luxury reserved only for those who've resigned themselves to the place where they are now. Luckily, I'm already there. I don't need upward mobility, because my current momentum will already carry me to or beyond where I want to be.
How can making less money give you greater financial independence? The answer lies once again in social status. Many of the most expensive things we buy (like nice cars, large houses with big, green lawns and entertainment items) are luxury items that serve as a black hole for our incomes.
There is, of course, a certain level of income needed to live while being financially independent, but that number rises and falls depending on where you live and your own perceived social status.
Micha Boettiger is a linguist, blogger and writer. Read his observations and opinions on a variety of topics at his blog, http://www.mindpeeler.com/. Brazen Life is a lifestyle and career blog for ambitious young professionals. Hosted by Brazen Careerist, we offer edgy and fun ideas for navigating the changing world of work -- this isn't your parents' career-advice blog. Be Brazen.