I’m late posting again… but a lot happened this week! I got a job offer and, against the advice of several people who commented on my last post, I accepted quickly. I’ve read that a rushed hiring process can raise red flags about the company, and only time will tell if I just made a mistake… but I’ve been out of work for almost a year and I’m excited to finally start working again!
Okay, technically I’m mostly excited to finally start making money again… but also to have a job. I honestly don’t know what to do with myself when I’m not working. I also feel guilty about spending money when I’m not making any, so that further limits the potential fun of any time off.
The bottom line is, I’m relieved that I’m finished looking for a job for now. Maybe I could have found something better, but who knows how long I would have had to wait! Now, instead of agonizing over my future during every waking moment, I can focus on enjoying life and making the most of my free time. In my mind, it comes down to wants vs. needs: I want to find a job that I am passionate about, but I need the security of a job—any job!—to stay sane.
When I’m in job-limbo, I’m tense, irritable, and uncreative. My relationship with my husband suffers, and my creative projects go neglected. Of course, being stuck in a bad job can have similar consequences… so I might just be out of the frying pan and into the fire… but still, the sense of security that comes with having a job (even a bad one) is important to me. (Or, maybe, my self-esteem is too fragile to handle unemployment for long…)
I promised a happy post, but here I am over-analyzing things again! What I meant to talk about is how people generally (not just me) prioritize the demands in their lives and find meaning. What I meant to talk about was Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, a diagram designed to show the order in which most people try to get their needs met.
At the bottom of the pyramid are the most basic needs: food, water, shelter, etc., and at the top are impulses that are closer to wants than needs, such as creative expression. According to Maslow’s theory, it is increasingly difficult to meet needs higher on the pyramid if the needs below are not met. Likewise, people tend to focus on meeting their basic needs before moving on to those higher on the pyramid. (More information here)
Maslow’s theory has been on my mind recently because of the amount of anxiety I experienced over my job search. “Security of employment” falls into the safety category, second from the bottom of the pyramid. That describes the way I feel about having a job, but there’s more to the picture. My life doesn’t depend on me having a job—even though it wouldn’t be ideal financially, my husband could support me if it became necessary. What I really want is a higher joint income so we can buy a house where we can settle down and start a family, and the means to live comfortably. On top of that, I want my husband to know that I’m willing to work hard and contribute financially so the burden doesn’t fall entirely on him. And in some ways, what I want from my job is the validation from society that I’ve done enough to be entitled to pursuing my creative interests in my free time. Where does that fit on the pyramid? Does that count as an “esteem need” because I care about how others perceive me? Is my desire to start a family a “love/belongingness need?” Or is the whole thing just qualify as “self actualization” since it’s all a part of the life I dream of living? Have I gone past the realm of needs entirely, moved straight into wants? (And does that make me spoiled??)
So much of our lives is spent pursuing one thing we want after another, usually without fully understanding the impulses that drive us. I suspect that many of us WordPressers are driven by self-actualization and our need for a creative outlet. Are we built differently, or are we just lucky enough to be in situations where we can focus on our wants more than our needs? I suspect it’s a combination of both: we all have our basic needs met, but might flip the top part of the pyramid and put creative expression ahead of gaining social acceptance or the respect of others. But then, maybe not—I could picture myself secluding myself in a tiny shack to focus only on writing an music at the expense of all else, but I would never actually do that because it would dramatically change so many close relationships in my life (social needs) and people might think I was crazy (esteem needs).
Whether needs are subjective our universal, I think the line between needs and wants is a blurry one. There are certain things that we can live without—if you define life in the most basic terms. Then, there are the things that drive us, and without which life would be meaningless. These desires are as strong as needs, and I think they are different for each person. If you have a dream, is pursuing that dream a want or a need? For me, I could never live without the pursuit!
Let me know your thoughts in the comments! Is there a clear difference between wants and needs? Where would you place your goals on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs?