Julie wished she had a job with a big fat salary, but she wasn’t doing a single thing about it. She was 33 years old. She did have a job. But it didn’t pay enough. Well, it paid enough to pay her bills and keep the student loans at bay. She thought it paid enough to go out drinking once or twice a week, but really it paid enough to pay the minimum credit card payment. She only had one credit card—she called it the drinking card. The cumulative years with that card kept her from looking at the real balance.
Julie had gone to a liberal arts college for Economics with a minor in Gender Studies and a minor in French. Which means that her job was a nonprofit job. The nonprofit raised money for healthcare relief overseas. The nonprofit had four main stakeholders—the people receiving care, the people who administered the funds locally, self-important board members attempting to relieve the guilt of privilege, and donors. At Julie’s nonprofit, the donors were called members. Julie’s job title was Member Relations Specialist. It was administrative work with better pay than a job with the word administrative in the title. Most office jobs are.
Most days, Julie was bored. But the work was repetitive and predictable enough for her to listen to two or three podcasts during work hours. She pressed pause to write emails and go to meetings. The people she listened to on podcasts were more interesting than her and did more interesting work than she did. She lived her life vicariously through them. Pretending her own life and point of view was more fascinating than it was.
While a lot of her friends complained about not having enough work-life balance, Julie had no such problems. She had no partner, no kids. Her boss was annoying but not demanding. Julie’s evenings were filled with bad television, bad dates, and long conversations with her gossip-minded mother. She often thought about volunteering or taking cooking classes, but she never did. Her work and life were in perfect balance. And Julie was quietly unsatisfied with all of it.
One day, her favorite podcast host read an ad for the MBA program at Wharton. The ad read sizzled in her ears. The idea of an MBA made office labor sound sexy. Julie was pretty sure she’d heard the ad before, but this time it just popped. She had an uncle Ted who used to teach at Wharton. She’d never met him because years prior her father and Ted had had an unfortunate falling out over a failed startup venture. Julie texted her mother asking if she had Ted’s number. Of course her mother did. Her mother lived on the phone. She still checked in with Ted and his family several times a year.
On the phone later that night, Ted was overjoyed that his niece was interested in the program. He invited Julie to drive down to the city on Saturday and meet up on campus to visit some of his old colleagues who were still active faculty.
Saturday came, and Julie drove into the city. The night before she had gone out and partied a little too hard. She wasn’t quite sure if she was still drunk or not. She didn’t see the city bus coming as she checked the bags under her eyes in the rear view mirror.
Julie never made it to Wharton. She never had to pay back her student loans or settle the balance on her drinking card.
Sometimes looking for opportunity brings you that much closer to tragedy.
Sometimes a boring life is better than an MBA.
Sometimes you never have to pay back your debts.