Claire has done a guest post for me in the past. Her blog is one I've been following for some months now. I appreciate her insight and general take on life.
There is an individual on my Facebook Friends list who was once an acquaintance in the same social circle as me, who is now little more than a Facebook Friend. Let me call him E. E. works in realm of investment banking and corporate finance. He lives in a satellite town and commutes several hours to work everyday. His job is well-paid and he likes to advertise the fact through Instagram photos of his designer tie collection (50 ties in varying shades of silvery-blue and purple); mobile shots of his expensive sporting gear and via Status updates from bubbly networking events.
Half of his status updates are about the perks of his job. The other half are dark and concerning: rages at public transportation delays, blunt sentiments about feeling worthless or stressed to tears, declarations of complete exhaustion. He's got his money, status and his material gains...but it clearly has come at a price.
This is an extreme example of the choice that most 20-somethings come up against: how important is money going to be to my life? For most of the friends in my social circle it was a free choice: they would have the qualifications, intelligence and savings to consider (a) staying in education beyond the undergraduate level to retrain or get a higher qualification (b) finding a temporary (i.e, low-paid) job to help them figure out what they really wanted to do (c) finding a permanent job with a steady income and taking their life forward from there.
My own choice was in category (b) - I took the pharmaceutical internship in Switzerland - with the overall aim of switching to (a) - applying to a PhD program and specialising as an organic chemist. As you know, I've not made the full transition back into academia: I'm still in the "temporary employment" category, albeit in a higher education institute.
I thought the delay would be more of a big deal than it is: since I'm still keeping my science skills fresh there's no immediate rush to get into a PhD program. Family and friends have been sympathetic about the delay, too: getting into graduate courses is a competitive, difficult business right now.
My parents have helped out. I've kept my expenses low. It's been months since I bought new clothes - charity-shop wear - I have no concept of shopping for pleasure.
For the most part I do not regret the choices I made.
...But I still wonder a lot about all the things I could do if I just had spare money. If I wasn't just breaking even, but actually putting more money into my bank account than I was taking out. Would I be happier with my life? Would it make my life more interesting, busy or enjoyable?
My suspicion is that it wouldn't. After all, what are the things that get me out of bed in the morning? The thought of interacting with work colleagues and friends. That special moment between me and my first coffee of the day. Successes and understandings with my science projects. Mostly the non-material things. The things I don't have to spend money to obtain (apart from the coffee, but I can get by on drinking supermarket-brand instant powder better than I imagine).
As long as I am not so poor as to be damaging my health, and as long as I'm happy with the type of work I'm doing, I think income should be a secondary concern, no matter if society thinks otherwise.