26 and Careerless?

When I was a pre-teen, I considered 26 “that age”–I imagined myself married with two kids, living in the suburbs and pursuing a fulfilling career. Well, in three months I turn 27, and have to confess that my current life resembles not even one iota of my childhood expectations.

I remember vividly watching Friends as a child every Thursday at 8pm on NBC. After the show ended in 2004, I was gifted the special edition DVD collection, and–ever since then–I’ve repeatedly watched the entire series over and over and over and over again. (If you can’t recite almost every line to every episode, we can’t be friends; no pun intended!) This past year, during my millionth time re-watching the series, I realized something that had never struck me before–when the pilot aired, the characters were between 26 and 27 years old.

What.

It seemed like just yesterday I was back in elementary school, watching Monica and the gang stress about bills, work, health, relationships and a plethora of other issues adults have to deal with. I don’t remember when it happened, but I’m now there. 

Before I left New York in February, family and friends were curious about what I would be doing in Italy. I told them nonchalantly that I had no plans, but that I’d probably continue to freelance as an English tutor, just as I had done two years ago here. I figured that since there is such a heavy demand for English learning in Milano, I’d have no issue finding part-time work. Unfortunately, the private tutoring gig isn’t as steady as I had hoped, so I’m now actively searching for English teaching positions.

At first, I was hesitant about it. I mean, I had decided back in 2015 that I would move to Milan the following year to pursue a year-long Master’s program that would insert me head-first into the sphere of international relations. While there are abundant opportunities and international organizations based in Europe, Milano isn’t exactly the best place to pursue such careers. This city is home to many, smaller non-profit organizations and charities, but jobs are scarce. For a while I was genuinely discouraged and almost angry that I wasted a year of my money, energy and time to pursue a degree in a field whose surface I had just begun to scratch.

Soon, however, I began to wonder. How many people actually land jobs in the field they are specialized or certified in? How many of those employees actually create careers out of said jobs? Well, according to a 2013 CareerBuilder study, roughly half of college-educated employees in the U.S. admitted that their first, post-graduate jobs had nothing to do with what they studied. Additionally, 31% of “seasoned workers” admitted to never having succeeded in pursuing a career related to their college major. That’s 1/3 of college-educated, thirty-something-plus people in the workforce who deviated from “the path”, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

At times, I myself have felt sort of scattered regarding my academic and professional background. In the past eight years, I’ve worked in a number of fields, within various capacities, in two different cities on two separate continents; so, I don’t really have a career. I’ve had jobs, but never a career. However, I believe it has all made me a more capable, well-rounded individual. Amassing such a wide range of skills and knowledge over the years has offered me invaluable experience and insight into many industries and concepts.

So, after visiting all the expat-in-Italy websites and searching hundreds of job listings, I ultimately concluded that teaching English to children is my best prospect for employment here. With my Italian citizenship, work experience and credentials, I have more opportunities than most to find a job teaching English…

…and I’m okay with it. It’s, of course, neither my life mission nor long-term career goal to teach English. However, I’ve always enjoyed working with children, feel as though it is something I will excel in and–let’s face it–really wouldn’t mind the extra cash. Can you believe that since I arrived in Italy, I’ve declined a number of teaching roles because it “just wasn’t what I wanted to do”, and–the more I think about it–I increasingly realize how stupid it sounds.

How many times throughout one day do we do things that we really just don’t want to? From getting up in the morning (unless you’re a morning person, then go away!) and taking public transportation, to even going to the post office or making a dreadful phone call, everyday life compels us to do annoying, mundane, repetitive, sad, scary and confusing things. Scattered between all of those annoying, mundane, repetitive, sad, scary and confusing things–though–are moments of incredible bliss. Pleasure. Laughter. Relief. Gratitude. Optimism.

At the end of the day, if I find myself severely unhappy in whatever teaching role I find (or role that finds me..), it’s obvious that I will search elsewhere; but, overall, I think it’s critical for me to explore this job path a bit more. I’ve always been the inquisitive type, so teaching will not only give me the opportunity to be creative, but also to learn more about myself and my students.

So, just as our skills and accomplishments fluctuate overtime, here’s to to filling our days and lives with the same diversity and complexity as our CV’s!

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