Myron Medcalf
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More than a decade ago, I was a twenty-something sports writer with the Star Tribune. During one road trip for a Gophers men's basketball game. I had just checked into a hotel in Madison, Wis., when I received a phone call.

"Mr. Medcalf? We need you downstairs," the person at the front desk said.

I was told then that my corporate card had not gone through, a puzzling revelation until I called headquarters in Minneapolis and learned that a bankruptcy proceeding had temporarily disrupted our financial operations. Mass layoffs followed.

At that moment, I realized this craft I love offered no guarantees in the future.

That reality is a theme among Gen Zers and young millennials who seem to approach work with the proper perspective. My parent's generation had quality jobs that offered 30 or 40 years of employment and retirement benefits to support them as they aged. My generation learned from them and worked to capture the same stability that has proven to be elusive, shifting attitudes toward our professions and the sacrifices we're willing to make.

Per a 2023 Georgetown study conducted in partnership with Bank of America, younger employees are seeking a corporate structure that offers their desired work-life balance.

"Young adults prioritize flexibility and work-life balance in all aspects of employment," the study says. "A flexible work schedule is a particularly significant factor both in considering a move to another employer (49%) and in remaining with the current employer (38%). When considering benefits, young adults planning to change jobs in the next year cite paid time off (65%) and a flexible work schedule (58%) among the top four benefits influencing their choice of an employer."

Kudos to the young folks who aim to make work the best supporting actor in their lives and not the main star. They also seem to recognize the fluidity of their professions in this climate.

The past decade in this business has been sobering, as jobs have evaporated, never to return in many cases. More recently, however, I've watched friends wake up one morning with a career and leave the office a few hours later without one.

I've sent more "Are you good?" texts in recent months to people in my orbit than I ever anticipated I would, as news of layoffs in journalism and other industries persists. But the reality of the real-time changes in my industry — and a multitude of others — has also encouraged my ongoing divorce proceeding with work. I am still passionate about the work, but I am no longer in love with it.

While earlier in my life, I assumed I might have the opportunity to be a reporter until I decide to move onto something else, at this rate, I am not convinced I will have that choice. I might one day have to find a different job or try something new outside my skill-set to pay my bills.

But I also refuse to stitch my life into the margins, space created by whatever is left after I've poured all of my energy into my profession. Working harder, I've learned, does not ensure promotion or happiness or security. I now demand room for my life, those I love and the things that matter most to me.

Age has taught me the work does not always love you back. And if that's true, it's imprudent to turn any profession into an identity. If, one day, I get the same difficult news so many friends and colleagues have received in recent months, I want to know — despite the real concerns attached to those scenarios and the disruptive nature of job loss and sudden career changes — that I had strived to separate myself from my profession.

I should be honest here, though. I am writing this from a hotel room in Detroit at 1 a.m. My grind has never ceased. I work often, and sometimes my office is a Doubletree Hotel 500 miles from home. I'm committed to my professional ambitions and opportunities. That won't change. But my relationship to the work itself is evolving. I need it for the income and the direct impact it has on my life — and also the camaraderie and some of those feelings of validation and excitement attached to it.

But I remind myself often that I am not this.

Before I hit the road the other day, I played "Just Dance" with my daughters and I had a moment where I just nodded my head and felt grateful for the chance to connect with them over a Nintendo Switch game.

Then, an email arrived. A work assignment beckoned. But I didn't immediately respond.

Instead, we danced to another song and kept living our lives.