“Oh, you work for the government? You got you a good job. You better stay with it until you retire. Just think about that pension you’ll get upon your 136th birthday. That makes it all worth it.” These types of statements are so common in my environment and it’s unfortunate. Yes, I do have a government gig and yes, there are certainly benefits to the gig like a pension I might have to work until 75 to see, reasonably priced medical benefits I like to think of as an embarrassment of pap smear riches, and most major holidays off to recuperate from the suffering that accompanies a government gig. I’d be dishonest if I didn’t say all these are attributes of government work. However, despite these alleged perks of my work, what I recently admitted aloud and what many government workers seem incapable of uttering is the fact I’ve been working from a place of fear for the past 12 years.

Sure, I need my regular pap smears and teeth cleanings. And yes, I need time off to enjoy life or to get to the pap smear appointment. However, what I also need is consistent mental and creative stimulation, professional challenges that enable me to exercise and expand my skill set, and work that feels purposeful to me in some way. Instead of pursuing those things, I settled for an old lady pension I may never see. When I think about it, I understand I made these professional choices because I was conditioned to be afraid for my future. It worries me to think I won’t be able to see a doctor when needed, I’m fearful I’ll grow old and not have enough retirement money, I’m concerned I’ll be laid off/relocated/downsized because of funding cuts, I have fears of being fired by some sexist/racist/greedy boss just trying to mess with my life. Now that I know I’ve been operating this way, I am contemplating the changes needed to avoid further professional regret while still finding a way to keep those pap smear co-pays rolling in.

I do know what I’m talking about is easier said than done. Amazing career choices aren’t raining from the sky for folks my age and there is usually a tradeoff between rewarding work, decent pay, and a pension. I do know the mere thought of walking away from “good government work” sends some folks into a panic, but I don’t want to live like that anymore. I know pensions, benefits, and nest eggs are important and I wouldn’t foolishly venture off into some other field without preparing my present and my future in a way that makes sense. However, despite having this “good job”, my presence here is ultimately based in my waning desire to branch out, take certain professional risks, and expand academically and I must fight that. I must fight for myself, my peace of mind, my personal and professional growth, and anyone who might look to me for life inspiration. Many times, I’ve thought about how I stick to this life because of fear but now, I know I can’t afford to stay with it because for the first time in my life, I’d like to work from a place of joy. ©


Malikka Rogers