They’re a rare breed, I think—people who don’t like the movie Indian Jones and the Last Crusade. Opening with the young Indiana, an all-American Boy Scout trying to save an ancient artifact from thieves, then flashing forward to the grown Indiana, still living his life in adventurous tumult. It was during this movie that I first remember, as a young teen, falling victim to an onscreen heartthrob crush. Han Solo had nothing on Indi. But as I approached college, it wasn’t so much that I wanted to date Indiana Jones. More so, I wanted to be him.
His life! The constant thrills and adventure, barely escaping death with his quick wit and agile moves. And that devious, yet debonair smile…he was Huck Finn meets George Clooney, hanging out in the Da Vinci Code. And I loved everything about him. Of course, attempting to be a “responsible adult” in college, I knew I couldn’t major in Adventure (with a minor in Debonair Smiling). I settled on Archaeology—which then turned to Humanities, as the school that accepted me didn’t offer any archaeological focus.
As any Humanities major out there knows, that degree ranks up there with Communications—one of those that doesn’t have the greatest reputation of showing future career promise (though it was definitely a step up from my seven-year-old dream of being a mermaid). But I pursued it…and I struggled to find work after I graduated. Surprise, surprise. Should’ve stuck with the mermaid dream. I wasn’t ready to give up though—Indi never did. I continued my education with a master’s degree in Humanities, and there I discovered Museum Studies. How had I missed this all my life? A degree studying all the historical aspects of culture, religion, philosophy, art, and music, as well as those fearless humans that made their mark on the world in some incredible way. The study delved into the mysteries of preserving these memories. This was my mission. I had found my passion. Pursuing that career focus was not as exciting as dodging German bullets or searching for the Holy Grail in Alexandretta alongside Indiana Jones, but it was definitely better than the paper pushing or number crunching jobs my friends all landed.
Should’ve stuck with the mermaid dream.
As it turned out, though, while all of my paper pushing and number crunching friends had job availability at their fingertips, I still struggled to find work. My friends didn’t have exciting or glamorous jobs, but they had steady paychecks. Still, I kept pushing myself. I landed three separate museum internships, was among 10 students who received a grant to attend a large museum conference, had multiple interviews at large museums, participated in a week-long archaeological survey trip, and pursued education even further with a certificate in Collections Management. And yet, I still found myself as only a volunteer at a small museum in southern California, working temp office jobs to pay the rent. Museum positions apparently were incredibly competitive. Of the few positions that opened up every year, there were at least 100 students fighting for each. You’d have thought I was pursuing an acting career or something.
I had always said I’d rather work a job I loved for little pay than work a job I hated for a large salary. I carried this mindset with me throughout my museum job search. The hard work and broke status was worth it for the work I was doing, and I wasn’t one to give up. The founder of Surfing Heritage and Culture Center, the museum I volunteered at, saw that in me. He saw how valuable I was for SHACC, and after seven months of volunteering, offered me a full-time position. I was over the moon. All my hard work was paying off….figuratively, if not literally. The pay was meager at best, as SHACC operated on donations from wealthy surfers and lovers of the surf culture. As a southern California native and surfer myself, I had the same love of the culture and all things ocean related. But after two years of bills piling up, swimming in debt, and barely making my rent, I had to admit that I was drowning. My museum love couldn’t support Orange County prices. As the third year of working for SHACC rounded, I was admitting defeat and succumbing to desperation. I couldn’t survive like this anymore.
My friends didn’t have exciting or glamorous jobs, but they had steady paychecks.
I expressed my frustrations to a church leader one Sunday, who almost immediately said he knew of an available position. A little taken aback, but willing, I agreed to him giving his friend my phone number. Within two weeks, I was preparing myself for an interview at a large corporation that owned nursing homes across the country. The position was an Executive Assistant for the department that ran the renovations for the facilities. I found myself often sighing heavily during those two weeks, shaking my head and wondering what had gone wrong. I was on the path of complete career bliss in my pursuit of museum work, and had found it. But financial instability played too large a part in life, and loomed over me like a dark cloud. It was time to turn my back on Indiana Jones—for now, anyway.
With the recommendation from my church leader, I was offered the corporate job without much question. My heart was heavy in that man’s office that day…that is, until we discussed the object of payment. With a face like he was sorry he couldn’t offer more, he told me what my starting salary would be: more than double what I was making at the museum, plus a 401K and health benefits. I had never had benefits in museum work! I’m sure my eyes gave away my shock, and I’m ashamed to admit I accepted without hesitation. Finally, I’d not only be able to start paying off my debts, but would also be able to pay my rent easily. Finally, I wouldn’t have to make excuses why I couldn’t go to dinner or see a movie with friends. Finally, I wouldn’t feel the pangs of guilt for being unable to buy a birthday gift for a family member. I was overwhelmed with gratitude, feeling like the ties around my wrists that were boring into my skin had just been cut.
I have been with the corporate job for over four years now, and have never once regretted it. The company has been good to me, and I have developed lasting friendships with my coworkers. I used to say that I’d rather work a job that I loved for little pay than work a job that I hate for a large salary. This still rings true. However, having lived through this, I know that there is compromise in that statement. I don’t want to work a job I love for no pay unless I can support myself in other ways. I don’t want to work a job I hate for a large salary because it would drain all the happiness out of my life. But working a job that I can learn to love because of the great company ethics and my amazing coworkers, and earn a steady income doing it—now that’s a dream job.
I have been with the corporate job for over four years now, and have never once regretted it.
I don’t want to give you the impression that I have given up on my museum dreams. I am now just pursuing them in different ways. I still support the museum world by volunteering when I can, and have become a member of the museums I love. Ironically, I can donate to my favorite museums now and play a little part in keeping them afloat, but only because I have an income that can allow me to do so. I have found that I keep up the museum dream as a hobby now, and love it all the more this way. Putting forth my best efforts in a job that I never would have chosen is not failure. It’s simply creating a life I can use as a stepping stone to better things, and gives me an income I can use to pursue what I really love. I can appreciate the museum world now without the stresses of how I will pay for my next meal. And Indi would approve, I’m sure. After all, he was a stereotypical, bow-tied professor to support his dreams.
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