As a kid, we were endlessly asked by parents, teachers, friends and grandma what we wanted to be when we grew up. Back then, it was easy: a firefighter! a ballerina! In my case, a writer. As we grew older, the question still lingered, but the answer wasn’t always so simple. The one or two-word career we dreamed about wasn’t going to just poof! appear on a business card all ready for us to hand out. For some people, it’s because their dream career is unrealistic, too expensive, or too hard. But for some of us, that dream is still alive, but now, the question is more about how do we fit that into the rest of our lives? Too bad we can’t have it as easy as dogs: wake up, eat, poop, sleep, do it all over again. What a life!
We get boyfriends, girlfriends, rent payments. Our chosen field is suddenly not the best to enter into in bad economic times and changing technologies (newspaper reporter, anyone?). Suddenly, it’s not just about picking something and being it – and that age-old question of “what do you want to do?” is constantly staring us in the face, making us impatient, causing us to hem and haw over our every decision.
Four years ago, I didn’t know what exactly I would be doing, or where I would be. I just knew that I wanted to be writing, and living in a fun place (Chicago, DC, NYC, etc.). When I decided to graduate early and get a head start on life, I had only starting dating my boyfriend a week before. A boyfriend who was headed to law school, so that already meant long times ahead. Four years ago, I didn’t really have a plan, for once in my life, except to go do something I loved, and I figured the rest would come along.
Four years later, I don’t know where I’ll be next or what I’ll be doing. But the “what do I want to do?” is staring me in the face. I’m balancing my desire to continue growing in my career and to do fun, amazing things while I’m young and obligation-free, and my desire to finally be in the same place as my boyfriend of 3.5 years, who has also been my best friend since our first months at college. What do I want to do is suddenly not about a place or a title that can easily fit on a business card. It’s now about what I feel inside of me, what I see myself doing and loving, what fulfills me. And yes, it’s so much harder.
I’m not the only one in this position. I know my parents struggle with it, too. Successful in so many ways, they’re thinking about their retirement in a few years, and asking themselves the same question – what do they want to do? Other friends my age are also figuring out the balancing act of taking the next step in their careers and potentially making big changes to be with the person they love.
For me, I go back to the journal I kept in high school (thanks Dad) that helped me realize I definitely needed to be doing something in the writing department, and NOT become a CSI (a short-lived phase, thankfully). It’s time to be asking myself those questions again, because once I figure out WHAT I want to do, and WHAT makes me happy, the rest will all fall into place.