We’ve all been there.
In addition to wondering what the hell to do with our lives, we’re also faced with another looming pressure: How much weight do we put on the opinions and insights of others, as well as of wider society?
In other words, in whatever context, do you do what “they” want — or what you want?
I came across this question recently from Jen (Jen is not her real name, copyedited slightly):
I’ve wanted to be a full time sex worker for quite a long time. Even when I was young, I realized that my body could be used to get things from men. I’ve really always imagined I’d be in sex work. It’s something I’m good at and that I enjoy. I never imagined myself having a regular 9-to-5 job like I have now — that’s just not me. I’ve never felt like a “normal” person, and I don’t want to be. I want to openly be the kinky [person] I’ve always been!
I’ve suffered from severe depression and other mental illnesses for quite a few years, and it makes it hard to maintain a normal job. With sex work, I would be able to do things on my time and if I’m not feeling up to it that day I don’t have to. Plus I have major social anxiety which makes it so hard to spend all day in an office surrounded by people. Talking to someone over cam would be much better. I feel like no one would accept it though. My family would disown me I think, but I truly believe that doing work that I enjoy and working around my schedule would help with my depression so much.
I’m stuck! I don’t know what to do. Do I choose the happiness of my family and friends or for myself? Are my mental illnesses blocking my ability to see this situation clearly?
This is a huge question, one with many angles to weigh in on. Peers and “professionals” may also have different insights. For instance, Brad Walters is a coach/consultant who helps people clarify career paths. He wrote:
There is often a great deal of pressure, be it from our families, colleagues, education system or our culture, to choose one perfect career path. To find a job that does it all: engages our talents, makes us plenty of money and reflects well on our family. We are led to believe that if we fall short of this perfection we are depriving ourselves of happiness and not living up to our true potential…
Walters seems to be getting at exactly what Jen is struggling with – the internal and external pressure we all experience to be on the “correct” career path, with “correct” being a very subjective consideration. Is the approval of loved ones and wider society the biggest part of “correct”? Is self-satisfaction? Is mental health? Is overall quality of life? Or is it something else entirely?
All of these factors and more weigh in on one’s decision to pursue a career path, and the significance of each factor varies from person to person. And I’d be doing you an injustice if I didn’t point out another obvious (and obviously fucked up) fact: sex work changes all of this.
Walters may tell someone to pick the career that makes them happy – Happiness is the most important thing!– except if we are talking about a sex work occupation, he may think differently. People may say “Follow your dreams” and “Use your skills” — but if that means sex work, they may say something different. People may even say “Make that money!” – but if that means being naked on the internet, they may change their minds.
Responses to Jen’s query reflect this variability.
One person said, “Sweetie, it’s your life to live as you see fit. If you can make it as a full time sex worker, then go for it.”
While another person said: “I’ve gone through the same dilemma in my head. Telling my family is out of the question. It is simply unfreakinacceptable. So I have another business I run that is legit so that I can have something to talk about with my family and not have to lie. The whole [sex work] part of my life is a big fat omission. So my advice to you is to do both — have a job or business that you work so that your family and people in civilian life are happy and keep your sex work work under the radar so that you have your extra source of money and pleasure.”
In truth, there is no “correct” answer that any one person can give you about what career path to choose. The best suggestion I can gather though is to think about all the factors, figure out which one are more or less important to you and be honest with yourself in the process. That may mean facing some hard and harsh realities, but just like those career quizzes they gave you during P.E. class back in the day — it’s not meant to be easy.
Cool quote below, but it’s not just all about “he.”
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