I graduated college as a double major in elementary education and psychology. I had a dream that I would be changing the lives of children every day, and simply nothing would be more rewarding than knowing I was making an incredible difference in children’s lives. When I graduated college, I had 6 years of early childcare under my belt. I applied for my first full-time infant teaching position in downtown Honolulu, and was offered the job. I was beyond ecstatic—how lucky was I to be rewarded with my dream job right after college? Not to mention, this childcare center was arguably the best in the area, with a Montessori focus and small child-to-teacher ratios. What a wonderful place to work.
Soon after I began the position, however, is when my “dream job over money” idea started to fade. I was originally told I would be making a certain wage (low, very low, but manageable and expected of early childcare positions), but instead, I started at a pay that was 20% less than I was promised. With no paid holidays, and no paid vacation time. I was also originally told that I would be working 40 hours each week, but whenever the ratios were low, I would be asked to work less hours that day. It turned out that in reality, I was paid about 4 hours less each paycheck, at a pay rate that was 20% lower than my expectations.
It was about 2 months into my new position when I started to realize a shift in my thinking. Yes, I felt great working with infants every day, and did feel rewarded in that. However, I felt that my work was not being valued by my employer, or my profession as a whole. Honolulu, HI is not a cheap place to live. My studio apartment is 369 sq ft and $1200 per month without including utilities. My student loan payments are $297 per month. Basically, what I am getting at is, no matter how greatly I budgeted and made financially smart decisions, living with my low paying, low appreciating job just wasn’t making me happy. I had to constantly worry about every dollar that I was making, and hope that I would at least have enough money to buy enough groceries each month. I had to worry about getting shortened hours if a child was sick or went on vacation for a week. I had to worry about not being able to afford bills when a holiday (unpaid) disrupted my income.
Now, working in childcare settings were more manageable for me during college. Low pay and low appreciation? That’s okay, I know I am making a difference in the lives of innocent children. I am shaping the minds of our future. But, as a post-graduate adult trying to become successful in life (and ultimately retire early and fully enjoy my life unchained), I knew I needed to change something. Money can’t buy happiness, but in order to support myself, I require a baseline amount to meet my basic human needs. I had to change my mindset and really start to think futuristically.
Okay-so I have my dream job, but do I have my dream life? Am I on the right track to achieving my dream life? No. I’m on the right track toward 15 years of minimum student loan payments and a lifetime of stress surrounded by financial insecurity. My dream job was not yielding me my dream life. And my dream life is much more important to me. This led me to seek a new career path, one that I would have never imagined myself working in in a million years. One that I feel appreciated and well-compensated for. I will write more about my new job soon, but I would like to end on the note that sometimes (not always), a dream job will not allow you to achieve your life dreams. I want to be financially independent at a very young age (within 15 years). I want to have a family that I can spend lots of time with. I want to volunteer my time regularly in my freedom of early retirement. In order to strive toward my dream life, I have to value my dream life over my dream job. Am I losing my vision of doing something productive and meaningful with my help with a service to others? Not at all. I plan on spending much of my free time in my retirement volunteering in a variety of ways, to help many people and many organizations. My dream job won’t allow me to do that, so instead; I’ve decided to put my efforts into establishing my dream life, which still focuses on helping others. Perhaps you will be lucky enough to not have to choose between your dream job and your dream life, but I am sure that there are many people out there in this world who would find themselves in a similar situation. Just remember to keep your ultimate dream in mind. Keep your eyes on your prize, and strive hard to move forward in that direction. Your dream life is what you really want. Don’t stop yourself from achieving what you really want out of life.