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The 2010 Crash of Elizabeth

Submitted by Elizabeth Harris on March 1, 2010 – 6:04 pmComments

Why would a person, employed in New York City quit her job in fashion on a whim when everyone around her is experiencing the worst financial downturn since the stock market crash of ‘29?  That was exactly what I was wondering on the cab ride home from my former office, clutching my electric kettle and silently muttering to myself about constantly sabotaging my own life.  After I finished college, everyone kept asking me what exactly I was going to do with my English degree.  I could see the look on their face when my answer was not, “I want to be a teacher”.  I would wax on about my ideas, my passions, and slowly see their face evolve into a question mark.  I was even instructed by my Uncle to absolutely, positively never say, “I don’t know”, even when talking to strangers.  But the truth is, I got my degree in English literature because I love to read, and like to talk about books with people who share the same interest and have actually read some of the same books as I have.  College is this wonderful part of life when you have the time to pursue anything that interests you.  But then comes real life. 

When I accepted the offer to work in fashion, my mind reeled with creative possibilities.  In this job I would be working with artistic people, learning about photography, and exploring the vast array of designers beyond the big-hitters.  I truly enjoyed my position for seven months until I got a call from my sister who was planning a big trip to Europe in the winter.  I knew it bugged me (why not me?!?).  It was only about two weeks before I had subconsciously quit my first job and three weeks before I actually did.  Everyone around me was saying, “good for you!” or “wow- what a gutsy move!” but I knew that what they were really thinking was, “when is this girl going to make a decision?”  To understand their sentiment you have to know a little more about me.  I wasn’t always an English major- I started school at Berklee College of Music to pursue vocal performance, then changed schools and selected biological sciences, then molecular and cellular biology, then physiology and neurobiology and then….English.  I don’t think anyone took me seriously by that point.

I quit my job because I simply cannot turn down opportunities to learn more about myself and perhaps find the pot of gold that has been promised to me in a “rewarding career”.   I constantly swing back and forth between the idea that I must find a creative position that will make working for the next 40 years less daunting and the idea that perhaps any work will do.  Perhaps I should simply strive to make my life interesting outside my job and not worry so much about the positive slope on the graph of my salary. 

As I write this I am on a train from Prague to Budapest.  It sounds very glamorous- and to someone sitting behind a desk right now, it is.  But it doesn’t narrow down any choices for me when I go home- in fact it has opened up more avenues that need exploring.  When do you simply stop and chose a path arbitrarily?  I’m reading a great book right now by Malcolm Gladwell named Blink, which says that subconsciously we make decisions about certain situations in an instant, but that our brain doesn’t let us know our choice until a great deal later.  Our brains can perceive a pattern or a solution to a problem many times faster than it actually allows us to be aware of.  So it is at this point that I say “Brain- if you know what I am supposed to do next please speak up- this is not the time to be aloof.”

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  • TalksToMuch
    Welcome to the world of blogging. Great read. You asked, "When do you simply stop and chose a path arbitrarily?" You dont, well you can. I prefer to live life as a Billiard Ball, lives on a billiard table. I bounce around, I careen from one discover to the next, how I ended up "here" is beyond me. Cab driver, door to door books salesmen, entrepreneur.. and the journey continues
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