I greatly feel your pain, and I anticipate an equally long post ahead...
I've been struggling with my career direction, too. While I do have friends who are struggling financially and with their careers, I also have friends that shot to the top of the charts. To cap it off, my sister, who just failed out of grad school, got a job about a month after applying AND it pays more than mine (and I work almost twice as much as she does). Please, shoot me. I know that she was entering a field that would earn a bigger salary, but I graduated with honors from undergrad with numerous recs and she failed grad school and STILL has a better salary?
Those things sting, especially since everyone is rich enough (or stupid enough) to attend grad school without a guarantee in this economy. I'm working my way up on the lowest rung in my field. I do some political writing, but to be honest, my heart hasn't been in it for years. Politics seems so ever-changing, and I happen to think that everyone's partially right and wrong without offering my own opinion in many cases. I'm not made for this field. I'm also dismayed about the current state of journalism, but everyone keeps urging me to go seek a higher position in that field, and I don't even think that I WANT it anymore.
I'm returning to my first love, foreign languages, which I bitterly regret not focusing on in college. Meanwhile, I'm working hours and hours at my poorly paying job and trying to find time to study at night, all while having a husband in the picture (I don't regret that whatsoever; it just makes every day life a little bit harder).
My friends even pity me for my financial state and purchase everything for me when we're together, despite my protests. Yesterday I asked a friend why she insisted on paying for my lunch and stole the check from right under me, after she traveled several hours just to see me. She basically, to sum it up, told me that she pitied me working long hours and studying so hard for no money. Such a slap in the face, even in her kindness. I felt completely dejected.
My husband and I are able to make just enough, with some savings at the end of the month. I am thrilled about this and so thankful, but when I'm around other people, I feel like they're just reminding me of my inadequacies once again. My charmed sister, who now thinks that it's easy to get a job in my field, is now giving me lectures on my career. And at the end of the day, I know it's about money. It's not even my career. I know that it's about my financial situation. I feel like I have "DESERVES MORE, BUT IS TOO STUPID TO GET IT" stamped on my forehead. My professors are disappointed that my career wasn't working out the way that they expected it to.
And like I said; I'm actually climbing up quite nicely at the moment, but I feel like it'll never be enough. Even if I become a director at a small non-profit, I feel that others, with their six-figure salaries, will still continue to lecture me and pay for my lunch because I earn half of what they do.
And you know what? I am jealous of them. I do not want their lives for a second (not that they're bad, but I do value mine somewhat), but I am still jealous and self-conscious, as I think your friend truly is, Aposphet. Pray for him, and keep rising above this kind of thinking. It's really not easy and I'm glad that you don't see those of us who don't wish to join the rat race as "losers."
Wow, that was...unexpected for me to write. I am going to hit post before deleting it all, in the hopes that someone in a similar position will know that they are not alone.