You know, I know I'm not the only one in such a situation, and I know most people are worse off. That said, it's not easy to take comfort in that. The reason I mention specific salaries is because it's the easiest way to compare the direct results of career efforts. Certainly you can't easily compare job satisifaction and life satisfaction resulting from career choices (i.e. my door-to-door is "only" 12 hours per day, 5 days a week, period). But in any case, I can't find a way to be anything less than frustrated by the fact that the average salary of my classmates on starting my MBA program was $120k and I know that many of them derived a much more tangible benefit on leaving the program than I did. It bothers me so much because I feel as if I wasted my time. I've changed jobs numerous times attempting to find a better situation both financially and in terms of life satisfaction, but each time it feels like I've taken a step in the wrong direction. In fact, maybe that would go a longer way toward exemplifying my frustration than dollars.
I worked 4 1/2 years in my first real job. I was promoted rapidly at 18 months. Then I was demoted at 2 two years due to a change in ownership of the company (sort of, but the truth is too complicated to go into here) who decided to create an intermediate role between entry level and senior staff. That worked out for me financially as it created a new role for me to be promoted to and kept my salary intact, but it was an ego hit as I felt I was one of the best workers and the top contributor to the firm in terms of extra work that I did to benefit the company (for example, I created a slew of templates and programs in Excel to streamline and automate processes that are still in use today). However, there was no further room for advancement because nobody in higher up positions was leaving. New management decided a one-size-fits-all salary raise structure was appropriate regardless of job performance, so when I got the chance to move up by leaving, I did.
I ended up working in the firm with the aforementioned CEO. There were clear abuses of federal programs going on within my department that I wanted no part of, so I went back to my old job. I found immediately that I was not wanted there. I suspect it was out of jealousy, but I really don't know. In any case, I was forced out less than a year later and had to take a job two hours away because that's all I could find. I sweated it out there as best I could until I could find something closer to home, albeit at a significant pay cut. When my old boss came calling from the two hour away job with a bigger salary, I could no longer justify dipping into home equity to pay my bills and I went back.
I decided at that point to flee my industry and got a big break at an investment bank. However, I just could not reconcile the working situation with my mental state of my mind, exacerbated by my aspergers and had to leave without a job lined up to preserve my mental health. I finally got hooked up with a great job at the same pay that was less than 10 minutes from home. It was great, except for one thing...there was no work for me to do. I felt terrible sitting around day after day doing nothing for my pay and wondering why I was there, what the future held for me, etc... I tried to propose projects for myself and do what I could around the office but I was basically told to sit still and let things be. Needless to say when I got recruited for my current job I had to take it. I'm grateful for the opportunity, but I really despite my line of work and just feel so stifled by the fact that I really don't have the opportunity to make the kind of contribution to the firm or to our clients or to the world that I feel I was put here to make. I just don't know what to do and I don't know where to go from here.
Financially I can still break even, though I don't know for how much longer in the fact of general cost of living increases. There's lots of life changes I can make to decrease that, but it just hurts me on the deepest levels to think that in spite of everything I've tried to accomplish that I'm going to have to resort to making those changes, and I honestly don't mean that for myself, I mean it for my family. I know my kids will do ok in public school and I know that any benefits to be lost from the private schooling I want for them can be more than made up for at home through my efforts to educate them. But it kills me to think they may be subject to the same bullying and harrasement I went through as a child. I want to shelter them from that as any parent does, and I feel that I did all I could to get to the point where I could do so, but yet I can't.
All of this dollar-for-dollar comparison is nonsense and I know it, but it just hurts to know that our own hometown smaller-scale Ken Lay's can afford to take care of their kids in ways that I can't, and I don't see any Ken Lay repurcussions in their future. It seems like the crooked are winning and their kids will reap the rewards.
Also, on a much grander scale, it has been weighing heavily on my mind that these guys are able to steer the course of our country and my family's future by controlling our democracy with their wealth. My vote pales in comparison to their fund raising and as much as I don't want to open up that topic to debate here, I know that the future is that much less bright for those who work hard and try to do the right thing because of it.
I guess, ultimately, I'm just stuck in this frame of mind where my daily efforts seem to go negatively rewarded, and it gets harder and harder to get out of bed and do it anyway in spite of what the universe seems to be telling me. I know what I can and must do, but that does not make it any easier to do it.