I’m not one for cliches, but I bumped into one last weekend.
Because of a friend’s wedding in Waynesville, N.C., my boyfriend and I had the opportunity to do something neither of us had ever done: stay in a bed and breakfast. The Andon-Reid Inn, to be exact. It was darling.
Set up on a hill, the Andon-Reid offers a view of the mountains so awesome that it overrides the semblance of neighborhoods below. The fall colors hugged the mountainsides while fog slinked across them and hid the tops from view as we ate a homemade breakfast with two friends and an older couple from Florida. Other couples seated around us discussed their entrepreneurial pursuits and their kids’ college majors. A plate of cookies awaited us upon arrival, as well as an unfinished jigsaw puzzle in the main room and our choice of board games, billiards, shuffleboard, movies, sauna and workout equipment in the basement. We felt so comfortable and at-home that we opted to stay inside the entire rainy day we were there before it was time to go to the wedding.
As I delighted in the personal touches and adorable details of the place – right down to the little black towel with “makeup” embroidered on it beside the bathroom sink – I also turned my attention to two sisters who work at the inn, mostly cooking and cleaning. I guessed them to be about my age. I thought, “Good for them! They’re young, and they’re fortunate enough to have found a job they can stay in for years. Their bosses are sweet, caring people; they get to meet new people every day; the view from their ‘office’ is nothing short of spectacular; and their workplace is cozy and precious. What more could a millennial want?” And as a writer, I couldn’t help but envy the young women’s opportunities for brainstorming and inspiration, perhaps crafting love stories about couples snuggled up by the gas logs in their rooms or ghost stories about spirits haunting the halls of the 103-year-old building.
Before departing, I chatted with one of the sisters while she loaded the dishwasher and I waited to pay my bill. She told me that her sister had gotten her hired on when the previous owners were looking for help. The new owners had kept them both. I asked her if she was interested in going into the hospitality field.
She paused, a glass in her hand hovering over its intended spot in the dishwasher rack.
“Um, I really don’t know,” she said.
She revealed that she had completed some general education classes in college, but had quit when she couldn’t decide on a major.
“So what do you think you might like to do?” I asked.
Her response baffled me.
“I don’t know for sure, but I’ve always kind of wanted an office job. And that’s what you’re ‘supposed to do’ anyway,” she said, using air quotes. “I think I’d like that.”
That’s when the aforementioned cliche flashed in my mind like the 1960s Vegas Sands neon sign announcing Sinatra tonight: the grass is not always greener on the other side.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled to be employed with a good job among some great people, but that didn’t stop me from romanticizing the sister’s job in what I perceived to be a mountainous paradise.
Another mental glance at her job showed her changing and washing bed sheets and place mats every day, cooking elaborate breakfasts every day, scrubbing pans every day, loading that dishwasher every day. I saw her job through a vacationer’s eye before I saw her job through a worker’s eye. And through a self-sufficient adult’s eye, washing dishes and doing laundry every day could get just as tedious as some of my own work tasks.
I’m not going to claim to be an expert on happiness or the precise definition of a “successful job” or a “dream job,” but I know this: in my nearly six years of working, no job I’ve held has made me 100 percent giddy 100 percent of the time. If there’s enjoyment to be had, I’ve found it myself, sometimes consciously affirming to myself that I will find enjoyment in my job that day. In fact, no one, no matter their age, has told me their job makes them 100 percent giddy 100 percent of the time. There’s much more that goes into any job we see than we realize. Even if you decide to take after Stevo Dirnberger and Chanel Cartell, the couple that run the howfarfromhome website and Instagram page, they admit they’ve scrubbed toilets, spread manure, shoveled rocks, and toiled through other unglamorous jobs just to appear glamorous in a 2-inch square on thousands of followers’ cell phones.
With approximately 8.6 percent of my millennial counterparts unemployed, I’m sobered by the realization that I could just as easily be in that 8.6 percent. So could the sister at the Andon-Reid.
Her job isn’t perfect. My job isn’t perfect. Your job probably isn’t perfect. But really, what is perfect anyway?