When the words “I just don’t know what to do with my life” slip out of my mouth, recklessly and often to the wrong person, I always imagine the word fool trailing on the end of their answer. “Just do what you love, fool.” It’s as if I’m being absurdly ignorant to some sort of widespread fact/piece of common knowledge that everyone has picked up along the way – like how to ride a bike, or how to walk, or how to, you know, breathe. The same knowing eyes and hasty shift in conversation generally follow such an answer. Honestly, I should probably leave the soul-searching to myself. Because it’s not just asking about a job; it’s asking about how to spend your whole damn life. And that’s terrifying. I’m also pretty sure that it didn’t just come to someone over night or right out of the womb. (Pleasant imagery on that one. But please do picture a baby whose first words are, “Chief Executive Officer of Nest Labs! Now burp me.”) So chances are they fell into a career and so what words of advice are they expected to give to this hopeful young lass in front of them? “Hah! To be honest I just kinda made my way here through a connection here and there, a lay off or two, and one and a half mid-life crises!” To which my response would be: *faint*. And even still, with the same answer over and over, I know it’s coming, I can see it in their eyes by now – that trademark shift from the ordinary territory of small talk to the uneven ground of embarking wisdom – still, I just can’t help but blurting out the question in the hopes that someone will say… (answer still pending, probably something revolutionary).
In light of this, I am frustrated. An undergraduate student entering into third year doesn’t feel particularly chipper when they think of the job market ahead and don’t even know which market they’re looking at. The whole thing? Is it staying that general for me at this point? Maybe. So my first semi-selfish word of advice to society as whole is (yep, suddenly I’m in the position to give advice to society as a whole – oh, what authority blogging has given me): Take a chill pill on making sure that the leaders of tomorrow “know what they want to do” by the time they’re 18. They won’t. Generally speaking, this whole mantra of “knowing” what you will do with your life a$ap needs to be slowly laid to rest for the sake of every twenty-something’s anxiety levels. And I understand that 20 years old is young. Some of you would probably roll your eyes at the fact that I expect to know what I want to do with my life at this age, but really I just want to have an inkling of an idea about where I should be looking. So this isn’t necessarily about finding a job. It’s about finding this oh-so-elusive “passion”.
Sidenote: I sincerely wish we were all given a year or two after graduation to explore ourselves and the world without hearing the booming seconds of a job clock ticking on by. Sure, that sounds cheesy, but I’m serious. If I were president of the world, it would be the first platform point I’d make. No keeners skipping over your head with their diploma in hand, snatching up the jobs just because they were lucky enough to know what they wanted to do with their life. Oh, no. It would be the most natural next step in the world, and as we all slip on cloaks to signify to everyone around us where we’re at, they would say in voices tinged with nostalgia, “Ah yes. They’re in the exploring stage.” Some would explore every nook and cranny of their hometowns, intent on seeking out every secret that has languished inside the walls they’ve passed, and others would travel far across the world, leaving a trail of their wanderlust behind them. (Sadly, no one would vote for me if this was my only platform point. And the president of the world position is currently non-existent. Look it up. ;))
BUT! I came across some brilliant words of advice (10 Job-Hunting Tips) from the hubby of one of the gals behind A Beautiful Mess for all of us who won’t be wearing exploring cloaks anytime soon. For those of us who know what we love, and have failed on nearly every occasion to try to box that into a career, consider this: Simply do what you’re good at. Not what you like. Because if you are like me, and your “passion” is either a) unknown or b) not going to work out in the long run, then do what you’re good at, and save what you like for a hobby. I know a handful of people who are taking this advice. A friend of mine has, for example, always known that he wants to travel. Not in the way of business-travel, but rather seeing and exploring this beautiful world without it being tied to a career. So he has accepted a career-life of dentistry. Now this is bound to provide him with ample funds so that he can travel to his heart’s content. And I consider this a very wise choice.
But, a couple questions.
What on earth are you supposed to do if you haven’t the faintest clue what you’re even good at? I’m moderately well-equipped in what feels like a lot of areas, but that doesn’t do much for me (or it doesn’t feel that way). It’s like I need to start training right this second to reach that lofty goal of gathering 10,000 hours under my belt in some skill – HTML coding? Painting? Rapping? (Likely.) Of course, I don’t even know which skill would be the best selling asset for a career (other than rapping), because, quite simply, I can’t decide what career that will eventually be.
If you’re following along with my struggles here, then we’re on the same page. Glorious. Good to place to be, eh? (Just kidding, let’s grab some ice cream and turn on Orange Is the New Black.) Well friend, let’s turn to zenhabits.net. The wisest of all my friends (who don’t know they’re friends with me – relationships are a one way street, ignore what others say) and who has always been able to dish out some advice that is much needed. It started with this: how to find your passion. Now if I truly, truly, truly can’t find my passion, I will adamantly head down the route where I hone my skills to absolute supremacy in some area… but for once in my life, I want to be able to resonate with people when they say to follow your passion. I just need to find it. The “just” makes it seem as though this is a ten minute inner quest of exploration, but just with a quick scroll it’s easy to see that this is a much more demanding, but much more rewarding, journey.
I’ll break it down.
He asks the following of you.
- What are you good at?
- What excites you?
- What do you read about?
- What have you secretly dreamed of?
- Learn, ask, take notes.
- Experiment, try.
- Narrow things down.
- Banish your fears.
- Find the time.
- How to make a living doing it.
So the first four questions are easy-peasy in comparison to the latter ones. I’m currently on the five’er. After pondering the first four questions for 30 minutes each (which goes by pleasantly quickly when sprawled on the beach), I’ve chosen the one thing that I’ve never let stray too far from the possibilities of what my future might bring: architecture. But already I feel rewarded with this “inner-quest” because that occupation, future passion, interest, whatever you want to call it, has been validated. The first four questions left me with at least a couple answers that laid the foundation for a position in architecture. And that brought, more than anything, relief. Honest relief. It’s difficult to understand what draws you to certain jobs. Vanity? Fame? Laziness? Simple persuasion? But when I see that there’s a web of skills and interests all weaving themselves into the profession I’ve often considered intriguing, that’s unbelievably satisfying.
Some personal thoughts on the guide.
Try to tie together certain ideas to see which career path they fit into, even if you were never expecting it. For example, I had down that I enjoyed giving presentations, was moderately good at drawing and sketching, and liked working with kids. So, of course, the possibility of teaching tiptoed by and for the first time in a while, I didn’t reject it altogether because I saw that it encompassed quite a few of my skills and enjoyments.
Write down anything you can think of (even if it’s silly). Decipher what it means later. Now don’t force meaning onto it, but at least be open to a message that’s in between the lines. For example, I wrote down, “good at walking quietly.” It’s a true part of me, yes. Now since I’m really good at walking quietly, I could be an FBI agent. Who woulda thunk? (Don’t worry. Such logic did not take place. Just thought I’d show you the extent of how silly you can get with this list to lighten the whole soul-searching mood up.)
Most of all, do not rush this. Some of the best points, most surprising points, were hurriedly written down in the last few minutes. Certainly don’t think of it as a testing situation (can you just imagine if there was a testing period where we had to find out what our passions were – let the sobbing begin), but more so a chance to explore every dusty corner of your brain, where the fog has settled over some truly golden experiences, no matter how small, that could hint at something that changed you and excited you.
Take a “me day” to do this. Go to the beach, your favourite café, stretch it out over a couple days and just start with being aware. I know I don’t go about my days thinking about how to find my passion. God, that would be exhausting. But most days something gets your heart pumping. Write it down. Soak it up.
Also, drop me a line on where your own thoughts are at with this shtuff! I’d love to know how other people are navigating through this. Really, I find it fascinating to see how people cope with the odds and ends of this question, because has it ever really been answered? Stated with confidence, unabashedly, this is how you find your passion?
Finally, thanks for taking a read, if you’ve made it this far. I genuinely hope you don’t go banging your head against the wall at the futility of your reading this. Instead, I hope you felt some pangs of resonance and most of all, I hope you have a lovely, lovely, lovely day.
All my best,