The Sellout Life

We all know friends who cheerily (and perhaps smugly) proclaim that they have life all figured out: The dream job? Already got it. The ideal career? On their way. The five-to-ten year plan? All mapped out in Excel, with colored tabs.

For those of us who do not have it all figured out, it’s easy to hate these people.

basketFor some of these friends, we wholeheartedly agree that their jobs, are, indeed, perfect… for them. Such modern vocational eccentricities as basket-weaving, tornado-chasing, and non-profit work/teaching typically qualify as “dream job” worthy. Thus, for our panda-saving teacher friends who love their jobs, we salute and applaud you. For our wicker-wielding basket weavers, we wish we shared your passion. The stories of consultants-turned-pastry bakers have inspired us to keep making cupcakes while we churn out our Powerpoints. We are unequivocally happy for our friends who have followed their dreams, and (usually) forgone the riches.

But then, what of the friend who is also our colleague? What about the cheerful pitch-making investment banker? The smiling number-crunching accountant? The unrepentant coffee-fetching sales assistant? Who, in their right mind, could truly enjoy the soul-sucking work of betas and cash flows and Xerox malfunctions? Yes, there may be lifelong accountants working in windowless cubes who have found a way to squeeze joy out of balancing a balance sheet. There may be i-bankers who enjoy not sleeping, consultants who enjoy not having a home, and lawyers who enjoy not being honest. But most of us look at such friends and immediately discount them as sellouts, money mongers, ladder climbers, naifs, and/or deluded cherubs. We cannot possibly believe that they would actually like their tiring, mundane, “sellout” jobs.


Author/Artist ——————- Advertising/Marketing

Public defender —————– Corporate lawyer

Doctors without borders ———- Plastic surgeons

Microfinance ——————- Investment banking

Physics professor ————— Hedge funds

Human rights worker ———— Consultant

Fifth-grade math teacher ——— Accounting

We’re trained to think that the left is somehow better than the right, that “selling out” is a condemnation worthy of disgrace. But no, it’s not impossible to like accounting, and it’s not wrong to have ambitions to be a principal controller. It’s easy to be cynical about our jobs when we haven’t figured everything out yet, and it’s even easier to be cynical about the choices of others, especially when they take the convenient “sellout” route.

In the end, though, we should probably be fair in how we treat our cheery, smug friends; we ought to congratulate them on their convictions, and embrace the environmentalists along with the i-bankers… Either that, or we shun them both for having figured out their lives before we did. Weaving class, here I come.


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