The people around me seem to have a very clear-cut idea as to what they want to do for their livelihood and how to achieve it. I’m turning 27 this year, and I’ve never had an understanding of what career path I wanted to follow. I know what I like to do and what my interests are, but do they really translate into a way of earning a living?
You Can Be…Anything?
I never really took the time to sit down and sort out what I am good at. I like sewing, sure, but am I great at it? I like painting, but am I good at it? Being “good” at something is entirely subjective and given that that is the case (and I am ruthless with myself) I don’t particularly consider myself that great at doing anything. Where as my husband would tell you I’m good at managing our household, editing video, and writing. It’s all just opinions though, or is it?
When I was small I was told I could be anything I wanted to be, which led me to dream and cultivate my imagination and creativity. I wanted to join the circus (about age 3), then an elephant trainer (age 4), then a veterinarian (age 5), then I wanted to be Lara Croft/an archaeologist/humanitarian (age 7), then I wanted to be a musician (age 13), then a doctor (age 14), then I had no idea (age 14), then an imaging technician (age 19), then a writer…
The truth is, a lot of those dreams just were not possible for me: I am highly accident prone, I don’t trust animals, zombies and monsters don’t exist, I’m an average musician and I’m terrible with math and science.
Instead of dreaming about different careers that just weren’t realistic for me as an individual, seeking out the skills I had natural ability for and cultivating them would have been a much more constructive use of my time. I strongly believe that building confidence in myself by perfecting a skill would have set me on a clearer path.
Then the question arises: is a clear path really an advantage? We’ll get to that another time.
At the beginning of my Junior year of university I went to my advisor, in tears, hysterical over my life choices. “I’m interested in medicine and I feel like I should have pursued a career that would guaranteed pay the bills instead of something I like to do, but I just can’t make it work. I don’t have the time, or money, to drop out and start over! I don’t even know if I’d be good at it! I like writing, but I feel so lost! I want to help people!” After I calmed down he leaned forward, and met me in the eyes. “Just follow your passion, Allyson. The money will follow.”
Obviously I stayed in school then, but I added a second major: Philosophy. I actively pursued things that made me happy that year, taking classes I wouldn’t have taken if I hadn’t gone to my advisor for life advice. I felt hopeful and graduated with such a sense of pride in myself. Because I’d pursued my interests, I felt like I was unstoppable and that the world was my oyster. The reality was much more bleak.
Two months after graduation, I didn’t have a job. I’d pursued my passions and tried my best; it just wasn’t happening. After receiving rejection letter after rejection letter, I’d given up on pursuing writing jobs that required relocation and began applying for jobs in my local area.
At my interviews I was asked things like “How old are you? Are you in a serious relationship?” I heard things like “You’re the only girl applying for this job,” or “we don’t usually hire women for this position.” I was told at one interview “you’re about that age for kids.” Depression ensued, as I found myself interviewing with narrow-minded and bigoted men in an area of the USA where they could get away with such points of views. I didn’t want to work for people with views like that and knew there was no way I’d be happy trying to forge ahead in a career that was destined to fail due to the sexist opinions of the hiring managers.
I took a job at Bonton, became bitter and cynical, totally losing who I was. Since then, I’ve learned to ignore the things I like to do in order to give my attention to the things I have to do. This, I have learned, is what being an adult is truly about.
Choosing Happiness, Not Cash
In the midst of all of that, I tried my hardest to re-discover who I was; I was tired of living a shell of a life, working a job I despised to pay the bills for schooling I felt I didn’t actually need in the first place.
I started reading again and writing, two activities I’d enjoyed in childhood and college-life, which felt amazing. I started a blog and wrote about shopping for a home in rural Pennsylvania. People cared about me and my story, which was incredible. I became addicted to blogging and decided that I’d never give writing up again. Blog writing became too important to me for anything else to get in the way, which is really how this blog was born.
If you’ve been following us, or done any amount of exploring on here, you’ll notice we have a few ways we monetize our work. Just because that’s the case, we aren’t rolling in the dough. Last year, with your support, we made just enough to cover the cost of running the blog (which is amazing, and thank you!). This is currently volunteer work for Trevor and myself, that requires a lot of time and love to create.
What I am trying to say is: we do this without earning an income and upkeep a 3-day posting schedule because we love to do it. We aren’t writing for money. We’re writing out of passion in the hopes of creating a helpful online community, comprised of real life stories and experiences, that’s free for everyone, in order to help others to learn and realize they aren’t alone in their struggles.
Realizing Adult Potential
In a sense I’ve followed my college advisor’s advice, to follow my passions, and “the money” is technically following (as mentioned before, we earned just enough to cover the cost of maintaining NM). I know there are thousands of people that solely work online, are very good at it and are very happy. It just wasn’t anything I’d ever considered as a career path. As a kid, internet work didn’t exist.
NautilusMODE is turning TWO this year, which is exciting, as this blog has caused a lot of personal growth for Trevor and myself. It’s something I love very dearly and intend to do for the rest of my life, which hopefully illustrates how passionate I am about it. Which has me thinking: if I can dive into creating content online and find happiness, what else can I do? What else do I love? What else can I bring to life?
Again, none of this would have been possible without the internet and blogging. Which brings me to the realization of this blog post: maybe we shouldn’t really aspire to any career as a child, or a teen, or a young adult. Maybe we should just cultivate our interests and see what sticks, then assess what jobs/careers fit those interests.
It’s taken me a long time to realize this and I wonder wether, or not, other people sit down to think about it. I wonder if the situation for most people is similar to my first job-hunting experience as an adult: crushed dreams and spirit breaking, then falling into line wherever there’s a space. I honestly hope that’s not the case, but with all of the terrible things that happen in the world…I can’t help but wonder if it is.
So, What DO You Want to Be When You Grow Up?
If you somehow managed to stumble upon this post in the search for some life advice because you’re being told you should know what career path to pursue, here it is: it’s okay if you don’t, there’s nothing wrong with you.
What are you going to do with your life? How are you going to make money? Will you be successful? These just aren’t constructive questions to ask yourself when trying to figure out what you want to be when you grow up.
What am I good at? What do I like to do? What are my hobbies? Focus on answering these questions.
Be sure to invest in your happiness, which is what I’m starting to do now. Instead of partying every weekend, or spending every second of your free time playing Pokemon, spend that time learning who you are; learning the things that make you happy. I don’t mean instantly happy, like a game or food. I mean, the things that make your soul happy–it’s a deep happiness (not euphoric, but mellow) that resonates inside you all day. When you find activities you NEVER get tired of, or frustrated with, that is what you are meant to do with your life. Those activities are what you should pursue.
Keep in mind, other people might not find those activities enjoyable. That’s totally fine! Some people are 100% invested in gardening, an activity I despise, which is perfect. The world needs gardeners for people like me that love plants, but can’t keep them. The important thing to remember is, not to allow others to put you down for the things you love. The opposite is true as well. Don’t put others down for the things they love that may seem silly, or bothersome, to you.
I’ve been doing a little redecorating at home, and I recently printed out some quotes from Buddha. The one that resonates most with me is “The thing is, you think you have time.” You don’t have time to waste watching TV all the time, or pursuing meaningless fun activities. Sometimes those things are nice, but they suck time away from yourself and your passions. Investing that time into learning what you want to do with your life is the best way to spend it.
If you’d like to do some more reading on this subject, or reading that will help you understand the importance of learning who you are, I’ve compiled a list of articles/books that I find inspiring and motivational.
For Everyone and Anyone
Forbes has an excellent and well written article on the subject called “A Surefire Plan To Figure Out What You Really Want.” Forbes has an obnoxious about of ads that may obstruct your user experience…so keep that in mind.
Time, another ad-ridden user experience (UGH!) has an arctic called ““How Can I Figure Out What I Really Want to Do With My Life?”. This is another article that is realistic and well-written that, I believe, has something for everyone to take away.
“The Four Agreements” is a book I strongly believe everyone should read, regardless of their personal beliefs and background. Click here to check it out on Amazon.com.
Lifehacker has an article “Four Ways to Figure Out What You Really Want to Do with Your Life” that is geared more towards adults, but I find the advice to be more relevant and beneficial to those still in High School.
“How to Find Your Passion in 5 Creativity Exercises” on Entrepreneur is a great place to start, if you find you need a little help. Where you see the word “business” replace it with all the buzz-words adults are throwing at you: money, college, work, career, cash, earning a living…things like that. You’ve gotta do you before you can find a career that fits you!
MarkManson.net has a saltier self-help post, “7 Strange Questions that Help You Find Your Life Purpose” delivers in giving you 7 strange questions that, I think, we should all be asking ourselves. Maybe just reworded with a little more finesse.
“Try This If You’re Struggling To Find Your Passion” is a great post on tinybuddha.com, because of how thoughtful and personal it is. I highly suggest you head over there to check it out!