For The Love of Money or Happiness?

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”


What do you want to be when you grow up? This is a universal and commonly asked question that each of us encounter at some stage of our early lives. As a child, this customary question presents us with endless possibilities and our imaginations run free with ideas of what or who we could become. The possibility of becoming a super spy, astronaut or even a princess seems so simple and close within our reach then suddenly, those possibilities fade away as we walk further on our journey of life and we discover that the tooth fairy and Easter bunny were just figments of our free imaginations. Reality sets in and takes over the space where all those endless possibilities once lived. The question of what we want to be when we grow up now holds great power over us, and answering this question requires a sense of responsibility as the choice we make ultimately  determines the mark we will leave on the world as well as the path we will walk in our adult lives.

“…my choice was simple given the unique and rare opportunity I had before me.”

Each of us reach a point in our lives where we must choose a career path. Given the time we live in, we are often presented with the challenge of making a choice based on how well the career pays with consideration of the pressures of a money driven society. We could also base our decision on the potential fulfilment a certain career path could provide us with. We all would like to stay true to ourselves and do something that brings us happiness.

My career path was in essence, set in stone long before I discovered life’s realities. At the age of nine, my family relocated from my home town of Durban to a small town in Cape Town that was both known for its naval base, as well as was the reason my family relocated. I was placed in what is referred to as a maritime school, which was one of three in South Africa and the only of its kind in the city of Cape Town. This subject area deals with the study of sea life, life at sea as well as our booming and thriving shipping industry. Subsequently, when the time came to choose a career path, my choice was simple given the unique and rare opportunity I had before me. When we relocated back to Durban in the last two years of my schooling, I was placed in Durban’s sole school for maritime studies in order to continue my journey along the maritime career path. Shortly after I matriculated in 2012, I received my first job at a well known shipping company. I soon realised that my dream of becoming a ship’s agent in the industry would not be my reality. I had underestimated the danger factor of many jobs in the industry and so they were consequently reserved for males. Nevertheless, I continued on my quest to find my way in the industry. I had looked forward to being a part of a thriving industry that would also be financially rewarding. I was later awarded a learnership with another well known shipping company and not long after this was made a permanent employee.

“Happiness…a state of being happy, something that is your own and that differs from person to person.”

The shipping industry is one that drives our global economic development. Durban in particular is known as Africa’s most active general port, which makes this industry an extremely demanding one that never sleeps. I took a liking to the work that I did on a daily basis. I worked overtime most weekdays, weekends and my time was dedicated solely to my line of work as a result of its demands. I was truly unhappy. I had lost out on so much time to socialise and spend with family and friends. I had no time to myself. I was unable to enjoy and appreciate the world beyond the office. My career had essentially become my life. It was at this time that I was faced with a dilemma. I had to make a choice between having a career that would be financially rewarding or one that gave me fulfilment, happiness and my life back. But, how? What would people say and how could I just abandon a goal I had been working toward for most of my life? This was the career everyone had commended me on and I was afraid of how I may be perceived if I chose to leave my job. Then it hit!


Happiness… a state of being happy, something that is your own and that differs from person to person. I made a choice to be happy. My own definition of what happiness meant to me and chose to pursue a career that would bring me happiness each day I woke up to go to work because at the end of every day, that’s where most of our time is spent. I was determined to make that time count. I wanted to pursue a career that allowed me to make use of my strengths as well as gave me a platform to inspire young minds and make a difference in lives in my own Ashleigh way. Children’s minds have always fascinated me and in this difficult time we live in, it is essential that they have good role models and teachers to help them grow into individuals that contribute to society in a meaningful way. This is how I decided on pursuing a teaching career. I am currently in my third year of my teaching degree. I teach every alternate week at a school each year and have never looked back on what was a very scary decision I had to make. Although I was initially very conscious about people’s opinions on the drastic change I choose to endure, I found my happiness and look forward to what I can contribute to the young minds and lives of society.

We each experience the generational battle between following our dreams, or giving into the pressure to pursue a career that is highly regarded in order to be deemed a success. For the love of money or happiness, that is the question. Whatever that choice may be, my advice is to make sure that choice is your own. I hope it is something you enjoy waking up to each day. Remember that everyone’s happiness is their own, stay true to yourself.

-Ashleigh Abrahams

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