If I Were 22.

  • Posted on: 30 May 2014
  • By: Shawn DeWolfe
When I was 22, I was into my second year at a retail job. I was trying to make full-time, get into low level management and then work up the ranks. It was a dead-end job that got me into a lot of debt and wasted a lot of my time. Had 46-year me walked into the store, I would have said my younger self:

Quit. Right now. The job was not full time. Every payday, I would get my money and then ask, “What can I sell?” what could I lose to make it to the next two weeks with my $300 (rent was $325, so the majority of income went to housing). This job took up my time from 11-3 on some weekdays, with another four hours here and there. It was enough to starve, not enough to be worth walking away from. If a job doesn’t pay enough, quit. Quit as soon as you know that you’re on a death march. Keeping a bad job is worse than no job-- mainly because it precludes you from getting that better job. "Quitters never win" isn't true. Make quitting worth the risk, and the chaos. Strategic quitting can be really smart.

Get ready to pay your dues, but make sure it’s worthwhile. In 1990, I didn’t know that the 100 year old company I was working for had 8 years left to it. If you’re trying to earn your stripes, get ready to pay your dues-- sacrifice a little, work late, etc.. But all of that has to turn into something. Try to assess if you’re sinking your time into something worthwhile.

Consider more education. At 22, university graduates are ready to rock the world. What if one were to pause on the interesting stuff, and the fun; and double down. Consider going back and getting your masters or your doctorate. Another three or four years means you come out as a fully bona fide expert at the age of 26. Our culture is shifting towards geek cred. Geeks know something well, but they may not have the core understanding and the depth. A real expert can run the table around a geek. Along the way, gaining a deeper understanding could be interesting, it could even let you travel to generate primary research.

Do something interesting. In 1990, I could have continued with computers. I picked up C++ in 1992. I could have done that earlier. In 1990, I was still programming and writing on my Apple ][. In 1990, I could have kept going with the writing. By that point, I was off of the writing horse for five years. I could have gotten back onto that horse. I could have taken up screenwriting.

Enjoy yourself. The Millennials seem to have this worked out. Back in the day, I was always will to take on an extra shift or something for money. If you don’t quit and you stay in the dead end job, revel in being a wage slave. Places go out of business with disturbing frequency. Look at the retail landscape of 1990 compared to 2000 or today. If you get a dead-end job, don’t expect it to serve as a good job reference in a year. Do enough to keep the income going and spend the rest of your time enjoying today. When it’s time to shift gears, then you will not resent spending your youth standing in a store folding sweaters.

Travel. Especially on someone else’s dime. While you are young and unencumbered, travel. I did look into working overseas, but at the time, all of the programs required that I fund my own trip. That compounded my resentment. My income was too little survive on and the interesting alternative was financially impossible. Find a job that allows some measure of travel so that your life requires dynamism and forces you to travel light.

Get involved in politics. There’s a reason that corporations are lancing through government and organized labour like a hot knife through butter: corporate types are smart, nimble and determined. Government is big, slow and dumb. They will debate minutia because process was always more important than the end result. People are disaffected by government and political participation. Those left in the room have unoriginal ideas. They’re out of touch. If you’re smart, good at forming ideas and have something new to say, you’re an oasis in a political desert. Don't spend your time waving a placard. Get to know the people on the inside. Prepare to carry out your take over. Participate, change the conversation and own the process. If you're 22, and you living in Victoria, you can get your feet wet by taking the Vote Pledge

“Young” is now considered anything under 40 years of age. At 22, you have a lot of years of youth in front of you. Don’t squander the time, make it all worthwhile.

Last updated date

Friday, September 29, 2017 - 01:50