Do What I Love or Move On? Ask Audrey Tackles the Crisis of Underpayment in Asheville


Do What I Love or Move On? Ask Audrey Tackles the Crisis of Underpayment in Asheville

  • Audrey Amir

    Audrey Amir is a psychotherapist living in Asheville, NC specializing in trauma work. She is currently a practicing EMDR and Wilderness Therapist, and is passionate about using creative and...

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This column does not offer formal mental health treatment, nor should it be substituted for seeking out proper medical or mental health attention. It does not seek to diagnose or treat any conditions. It is to be used as non-clinical advice.

Dear Audrey,

I am struggling with my life in Asheville right now, particularly when it comes to my job. I love my job and it's very fulfilling. It's exactly what I want to be doing, but it does not pay me enough to make ends meet, much less to be saving for a future. Thoughts of purchasing a home or even paying off debt are suffocating. I love this town and I want badly to stay, but I've started to think that I might have to leave my community here, which I've worked very hard to build, in order to have the stability I also fiercely want. I worry that by continuing to eke out a living at my current place of employment, I am also undervaluing myself and not taking a stand for what I want. Is there a way to make it work here, or do I need to face the facts and move on?


Already Pining for the Mountains


Dear Pining,

This is a story I hear again and again. The economic realities of the present times are tough on many people, particularly those coming out of college and graduate programs with a tremendous amount of debt. It is sad to feel you have to choose between valuing yourself and doing a job you love in a location you love. I'm not sure that you have to make that choice, however. I think it is quite possible to value yourself regardless of what you ultimately decide to do about your career.

I would begin by asking yourself the following questions:


Do I love what I'm doing enough to stay in this job if nothing changes?

If the answer is yes, what are you willing to do to change your lifestyle to live on the current income you have?

If the answer is no, you have nothing to lose by making a list of your needs and expectations and approaching management with them. You have already determined that you are willing to leave, so you have only pleasant surprises to be gained by stating your needs outright. I caution you to do this in the spirit of collaboration and mutual satisfaction, however, not in a spirit of frustration and reactivity.

In the event management is unable to meet your needs, be clear about what you would accept in order to stay and what you would compromise on.

Ultimately, what is most important here is not if you end up staying in this position or not, as much as the freedom you will feel if you can separate the company's behavior from your sense of worth and value. Personalizing their inability to pay you what you desire will only do you a disservice and put you in an energetic place that will not serve you well as you move forward and search for new opportunities.

The behavior of the company actually has sadly little to do with you as a person. Many companies short-sightedly only think about the financial bottom line, never even considering what you “should” be paid. Try to remember that. Once those beliefs about how this situation reflects on your value, and the correlating feelings, have been diffused, you will also be able to make decisions from a more grounded place. Perhaps there are ways to make money in this town that you have been closed to while inside the gloomy cloud of feeling undervalued. Spend some time reflecting on your strengths and connections and how to capitalize on them.

Don't make any sudden moves or give up on this town just yet. I have a feeling there's a path forward if you refocus your eyes a bit.

With so much love,