What My Trip to Ireland Taught Me About Status Anxiety

“Better pass boldy into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age.” – James Joyce

Traveling is one of my passions; I have studied in Italy and have visited over 15 countries. My short-term life goal is to travel as much as possible, hoping to reach 30 countries by the time I turn thirty. However, my goal is not simply to check off as many places as possible but to learn as much as possible from the places I visit, and to appreciate each uniquely. After each trip to a new city/counIMG_4208try, I am going to write down my major takeaways.

I recently took a ten-day road trip through Ireland visiting Dublin, Kilkenny, Killarney, Dingle, Shannon and Galway. It was an amazing trip, and I was blown away by the landscapes, the food, the beer, and most of all, the people. I highly recommend it as a travel destination. But, starting now, the point of this blog is not to talk about hotels, attractions and restaurants. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of blogs and websites dedicated to that. For this trip to Ireland, I am going to talk about one major takeaway: the apparent lack of desire from the Irish to rush immediately into a career oriented job following, or even before, attending a university.

This point was driven home when I talked to the owner of the B&B I stayed at in Dingle. He was born in Dingle but moved to America when he was a teenager. He lived in NYC while working various jobs including that of a line cook in an upscale steakhouse. At the age of 40 he moved back to Dingle to open a small B&B deep in the countryside. He seemed incredibly happy, loved his time in America, and now loves his time in Ireland. He traveled all throughout the US and South America, never fully embracing a single career. A life such as his is foreign to many Americans, but in my opinion, it is a very admirable one.

Americans are expected to find a job immediately following college. Not just any job but a job that will help develop their future careers. This is the result of the American desire for social status, and the number one indicator of status in America is your IMG_4228career. I’m not saying that status isn’t important in Ireland, but it does seem that to the Irish, status is not entirely defined by your career. Money is a major motivator for Americans trying to fast track their careers, but I think status is an even bigger one. These ideas of taking time off to travel, pursue a hobby, and discover passions, are mostly foreign to Americans. These activities are reserved for retirement.

Very few people know what they want to do for the rest of their lives at age 22. Few people want to do the same thing their entire lives. The idea that you have to decide at such a young age is nonsensical. Don’t worry about career status. Unless you absolutely have a passion for a career don’t do something that makes you miserable. Read, write, travel, create, compose, listen, converse; do the things that make you happy. Maybe you’ll discover something you love that will lead to money, instead of making money the end goal. You will find people along the way who share your values, thus making the opinions of others irrelevant. Life is a journey, not a destination, and no one has all the answers. Careers don’t provide happiness, passion, experience, or memories. Relationships do. Do not define yourself based on someone else’s opinion of your career.

29 thoughts on “What My Trip to Ireland Taught Me About Status Anxiety

  1. Reblogged this on Between The Lines and commented:
    Excellent article. I hope you don’t mind if I tweet this as I’ve met some wonderful people from Ireland who should read this about their beautiful country. Thanks for sharing your experiences and thoughts here! 🙂

  2. This was quite lovely to read. I’m sitting here at work in Ireland, having just graduated from a visual arts course last November. My emphasis has absolutely been on finding jobs that I enjoy and can gain experience with, rather than on finding job for life at 24 that will impress my peers. It’s a stage of finding what I’m good at and where I can be challenged. There is a culture here of young people travelling and experiencing the world; and as my dad would say, “do it while you’re young and have fewer responsibilities- the time between 20 and 40 goes very quickly”. This post is an interesting insight, and I think there is a lot of truth in it. At the moment in Ireland, if someone simply says “I have a job” seems to be enough to impress most people, regardless of the social standing that job includes (possibly because a lot of this generation have had to emigrate).

    You are very right however, that people should not be expected to know exactly what they want to apply themselves to at such a young age. Gaining experience and experiences is key without money being the end goal. I’m really glad you enjoyed your trip to Ireland, I hope to get to America in the future!

    • That’s great that you enjoyed studying visual arts. What you said about finding something you’re good at as well as something is challenging is very important. The point is not to take the easy route it’s to take the right route.

  3. Good for you that you get to travel. Good luck deciding on a life path. Keep in mind that you may take several turns on that life path. Thanks for stopping by my blog.

  4. Pingback: What my trip to Ireland taught me about status anxiety | absoluterhema
  5. This was a wonderful read, and something I try to explain to certain people in my life who just don’t get that I’d rather invest my time (and money) in travel and experiencing what life has to offer than working on climbing some kind of career ladder. It has only recently come to my attention that it’s related to status. Having a house and a 60k a year paycheck looks way better than still living with your parents and needing to find a summer job, right? It makes me sad that some people discredit having ambitions to see the world by whatever means necessary (which for me is substitute teaching and waitressing, and yes, still living at home two years after I graduated college) over career ambition. I’m far too young in my life to settle for a career when I’ve got such a bad case of wanderlust. Maybe it’s just the Irish in me 😉

    • American culture is so career-centric it almost seems second nature. People don’t realize that the reason they “feel like” they should focus immediately on a career is largely rooted in fears of being perceived negatively by others. Humans are social beings so the opinions of others do matter. The key is finding the people you respect and concern yourself with their opinions. Then doing what you feel is right for you because of how you feel not what other people might think.

  6. This is called wisdom, something not afforded most teens and 20-somethings because too many people with a lot of influence have already effected our beliefs by then.

  7. If I had my way I would force everybody to travel after graduating from high school instead of going directly into college… or at least after college before entering the job world. I wasn’t able to do that but looking back I know it would have kept me from making the mistakes I made! Good post.

    • I’m happy to see that traveling is becoming the norm for 20 somethings around the world. The resources for travelers have greatly improved, even in the last five years, making travel available to many who previously would not have had the ability.

  8. Wonderful article 🙂 have you ever read “American Kinship” by David Shneider? I read it for an anthropology class and have read it multiple times since. You may find it interesting – it describes the kinship/family system in the United States and explains the “why” to a lot of the things that we do and the cultural assumptions that we have. The way the American kinship system works heavily influences the careers we perceive to be “prestigious,” and possibly the fact that we want careers asap after college. Your post makes you sound like an anthropologist!

    • I’m very glad you enjoyed the post. I haven’t read it by I will absolutely add it to the list. Sounds like something I would be very interested in. I have been told by a few people that I should have/should pursue anthropology but there are certain aspects of the field that deter me.

  9. Would love to visit Ireland someday and meet some of my relatives there…and as a teen, visiting Europe, I remember that vibe everywhere and anyone I met…there is no rush to the day, low stress, and kind of “it is what it is” mentality…

    • This mentality is absolutely relevant in the rest of Europe. I focused on Ireland but it can be said for just about any country.

  10. Coming from Ireland I would say that the man you talked came from the generation in Ireland who could not afford to go to college. Most of Ireland’s older generation left school at a young age… It was just the done thing …

    • That’s probably true. And although he’s not the only person I spoke to it’s nice to know that somewhere in the world people are able to cope with an inability to go to college and still live a happy and fulfilling life.

  11. I loved reading this post. First of all, it’s very well written. Secondly, it’s an excellent reminder for us not to get caught up in status anxiety, whether or not we have a high profile career or went to the best college. Putting too much emphasis on materialism can lead to depression. Here’s an article in my health blog on Status Anxieyt: http://healthcontinuum.org/2015/04/18/status-anxiety/

    Best wishes and happy travels!

    • I’m really glad you enjoyed the post. I read Alain de Botton’s Status Anxiety a few years a go and loved it. I really enjoyed your post; it has some great tips for how to reduce status anxiety in every day life.

  12. Excellent article. I think one of the reasons why Americans are so career oriented, especially on the California coast where I live, is because the cost of living keeps going up and up. The need to make money just to get by takes hold early and makes people very singular in their focus. Instead of traveling, seeing the world, and learning abut life, we have to hit the ground running lest we lose our precious social status.
    And now I want to visit Ireland more than ever!

    • Not only is the cost of living so high, but the measure of success in an ultra capitalist society is material wealth. You’re expected to drive the nicest car, have the nicest phone, clothes, etc. The only way to ensure an ability acquire all of these things is to pursue a job that is not necessarily enjoyable but pays well.

  13. I had a passion to become a nurse since I was little. I accomplished that goal and nursed for 44 years before retiring on disability. Staying in nursing, I varied the jobs in between–occupational RN, hospitals, prison RN, nursing home, and home health. I never got my degree, but I had a fantastic time. I had planned to travel, but never got to do as much as I wanted. Since retiring I switched to a writing career. That was also something I did most of my life, but never tried to publish anything. My first novel came out in 2011–”Dana’s Dilemma.”

  14. Great post, first time I’ve visited (got here via reblog by absoluterhema).
    I’m from the USA but now live in Chile and I agree that one of the best parts of travelling is meeting the people, soaking in the culture, and seeing the world thru a different lens. I’ve worked in a number of jobs and would agree that it’s tough to know what you want to do your entire life at that age of 22…. I’m 31 and still figuring it out 😉 Great work, keep it up, and feel free to say hi anytime over at Quick Me Ups. Say hi if you’re headed down to S.America!

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