Money Versus Happiness

When we’re younger, we are always told we can be whatever we want to be. You usually don’t hear young boys and girls list jobs like accountant, secretary, plumber, or retail manager. (I’m not knocking those jobs but they just aren’t as exciting as ballerina, superhero, or movie star.)

When you’re younger, you don’t envision yourself sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. Even as old as college, this usually isn’t what we envision for ourselves.

We imagine that we’re going to have exciting jobs. Our passions will turn into careers. And these careers will provide us with enough money to travel, buy a home, and eat out to dinner whenever we want.

Somewhere along the way, usually when we spend months after graduation sending out our resume to every business within 100 miles of us, we realize that our passion does not always lead to money. We’re not all going to make it as YouTube stars reviewing cookies for a living. (I’m not hip to the latest YouTubers so I’m not sure if this is actually a thing but I wouldn’t be surprised.)

While the 9-5 jobs aren’t glamorous, they have their benefits. They provide a steady paycheck and health benefits. If you’re lucky, you may even land a job that will automatically set you up with a 401K or some other retirement fund.

I spent one long weekend in the summer going on 5 interviews in New Hampshire and Vermont. I was desperate to leave my current position. I spend at least an hour in traffic each way. I like less than half the people I work with. And I am not a huge fan of the patrons who frequent my library. There are a few nice ones but most are rude.

I wanted to get out of my current job and get out of New York City.

I had a goal in mind. I wanted to be the director of a small branch somewhere up in the mountains. I’d live in a small town where everyone knew each other and I could spend my weekends hiking and going to the local farm. Basically, I wanted the complete opposite of New York. I wasn’t happy where I was so I was determined to make a change.

I started applying for jobs in New England and soon began getting call backs. I was lucky enough to squeeze several interviews in a short span of time.

My last interview of a very long weekend was at this little branch in the middle of nowhere in Vermont. It was for a library director position and if hired, I’d be the only full-time employee. The rest of the library consisted of part-timers and volunteers.

When I was in library school, this library was where I imagined working. It was a small town. (I’m talking population of less than 5,000.) I would be the sole person in charge of this little library that needed a lot of help. The Trustees were working on a plan to expand the library and bring it to the 21st century. The library needed a lot of help. The bathroom was in the basement and the only way to get there was down very steep steps. No elevator. And there was no access to the building except for several steps leading to the front entrance. No ramp.

There were a whole slew of people in the town who couldn’t use the library simply because they had no way of entering. I instantly fell in love with the little town and the adorable old ladies who interviewed me. I was ready to take on the task of rebuilding this library.

So I was elated when they called me the day after the interview to offer me the job. Here was my chance to fulfill all my librarian goals. This  was what I went to school for.

Then I was given the full offer and my heart dropped.

You can imagine a library that cannot even afford a ramp does not have much of a budget. I knew that the salary wasn’t going to be great, I just wasn’t expecting it to be so bad.

They offered me $30,000/year with no health benefits and 5 sick days to kick in once I was working for a year. I knew it wasn’t them being cheap. They were offering me everything they possibly could, but sadly, it wasn’t enough.

I knew I would have been happy there. I definitely would have enjoyed that job a lot more than the library I work for now. And I would have loved working in rural Vermont much more than Brooklyn.

But in this case, I had to choose money over happiness. Sure the cost of housing is cheaper in Vermont than Brooklyn but not much else would be less. I’d still have to eat every day and pay my student loans every month. And now I’d have to add an additional bill of health insurance since the job didn’t cover it.

I had to reluctantly turn down the offer. I still haven’t given up hope that I’ll find my dream little library. I’m just hoping to find one that’s slightly better funded.



  1. It’s refreshing to read an honest piece like this. I’m sorry the place in Vermont weren’t in a position to offer you a better package. Hopefully you’ll find something more in line with the life you want sometime soon. But even if not, I think you seem to be doing a good job of being pragmatic without losing sight of your values. Good luck! (And rest assured: I think liking a little under half of your colleagues is pretty standard)

  2. It’s a sure sign of adulthood when you’re willing to accept a job that’s not what you went to school for, or something you might actually enjoy, because you need frivolous things like food, rent, and health insurance. Money doesn’t buy happiness per se, but it can get you those aforementioned things, which do make you happy…not to mention safe. Fuck, I hate adulting.

  3. this post is so relatable to all adults or young adult like me. this is a harsh truth because not everyone could have the dream they wanted even when they have the skill and knowledge they need. adulting is sucks, but ironically necessary.

    1. Follow your dreams is a great idea. And I’m not saying that people should ever give up on their dreams. I’m just suggesting a more practical 9-5 job before those dreams become reality.

  4. I hope you get your little library someday soon. I’ve been working in retail pharmacy for 22 years now, but have wanted something else for myself. A quiet, simple life, much like you’ve described. I always pictured myself owning a small, eclectic little shop….like a little raggedy bookstore full of hidden treasures or a boutique-style chocolate shop. Because I work around pharmacists, many of which are ambitious and wealthy, I’ve been disappointingly told that my little dream is a stupid thing. impractical…not lucrative enough….unless maybe I sold my business in a few years for a large sum. It’s frustrating the way the mighty dollar makes the world go ’round…but to me, simplicity of life is the wealth I dream about.

    1. Sometimes it doesn’t need to be all about making a lot of money. Of course, we need enough to be able to eat and have somewhere to sleep. But if our dream can provide us with that then maybe it’s enough. Here’s to hoping you get that little shop one day. It sounds awesome.

      1. Scrubs gets three weeks off every six months and we use every single one of them. I can’t even imagine having NO paid vacation time. Where are the unions?!

      2. That’s the problem with small little places, no money and no unions. That’s the one thing I love about the job I currently have. Working for a union has a lot of benefits.

  5. Oh, it’s so sad your dream job didn’t work out. But don’t give up. It may still be out there–with better perks. I’ve left several unfulfilling jobs and almost always for something that paid less than the last one (not as bad as your offer, though), but in the end, it all worked out. Patience.

  6. I think it’s great that you went and you tried (and succeeded!) but you’re completely right to weigh things up as you did. To get that aspect of your life exactly as you wanted, you would have had to give up others (like three square meals a day) and sometimes things just don’t balance out.

    1. If only they would have offered me just a bit more money or benefits, I could have considered it. But sadly, what they were giving me just was not sustainable. I have student loans!

  7. I am in the same situation than you. I live in SF area and its very hard to pay rent and make a living. You can hardly save and it difficult even to go get groceries. Ive been looking also for a job in a slower town but I receive the same offers as you. Keep your head up and try, try again. I used to live in a small town and miss it. I havent had a backyard for 8 years and it may sound strange but I would like to just mow my lawn and BBQ outside again.


    1. Having a backyard is such a big thing. I relate to your desire. I just want to be able to afford a place of my own and have enough money left over to eat. I’m not asking for too much.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s