I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. Never have. I have always been incredibly envious of people who knew from a young age – could point themselves in the right direction and then work their socks off to make it happen.
You see, I sort of fell into my career path. And, because I always give my all to whatever work I am presented with (even towards things that I don’t much care for) I became really quite good at it and, as a result, kept getting promoted. So successful was I, that I ended up in a well paid, well respected job, with excellent prospects, offers of Masters degrees, yet more promotion, and so on, and so on, and so on.
And every day I died a little more inside.
Given how good I was as these things that squashed my spirit, I knew for sure that if I could find the thing I was meant to be doing, I would be BLINKING AMAZING!! But I haven’t yet found that thing.
An old boss of mine, with whom I was doing some coaching at the time, once asked me:
“What is it you enjoy to do most when you are not at work? What activities do you do that you really do love, that you feel passionate about, that you are happy to commit time to even though they pay you nothing?”
She explained that this was a good place to start if I was thinking about a change in direction. I think there is a lot to be said for this theory. And what it is I love to do when I am not working is what I am doing today, what I am doing at this very moment. I love to write. I also love to read inspiring writing from others. I love to capture my thoughts and ideas and contemplate what they all mean in the grand scheme of things. Writing calms my nerves, it feeds my soul, and that is all very lovely. It feels good to be creatively productive; to use what I have learned through my own experiences, and through reading the works of others, and then joining the dots from a personal perspective. That feels like useful work, for me and my soul, even if for no-one else.
But the thing is, becoming a writer for a living is not so easily done. For those who love to write, it is the equivalent to a person who likes to dabble with a guitar wanting to become a rock star. You not only have to be pretty darn good (and work really, really hard) for anyone even to notice or care you are doing it, but then you also need a really good bucket of luck to fall on your head. That of course does not mean you should stop putting pen to paper, or stop strumming those tunes that make your heart smile, if nobody does happen to notice or care. But, you may well have to accept that it is going to have to be something that you continue to love and it just ain’t going to pay the gas bill.
I gave up the job that felt like a slow death. I had to. It (and I few other things going on at that time) succeeded in breaking me. I have been working since. At this and that, on and off. And that has kept the wolf from the door. Some of that work I have enjoyed more than others, but it is still largely in the same arena as the work I did before, because that is what I know how to do. It allows me a degree of independence, and has enabled me to take off on a number of incredible adventures, which have been worth every single penny spent (and those I still owe to the credit card company).
I no longer feel the need to prove how much I am worth in the world by how much I am worth in the bank. A bit of life experience has made me realise that ‘Stuff’ doesn’t really matter a damn, if I am as miserable as sin, and all the things I have bought with my money I would gladly give away to the next passing truck. Now what I would like, is enough to get by and, if I’m very lucky, to occasionally take a trip to somewhere exciting. I don’t want stuff anymore. Stuff just weighs me down. I want experiences. I want to see places, to meet people. Not to own things. I want to be inspired, not to be rich. That is living as far as I am concerned. That is success. That is all the riches I could ever want.
I purposefully don’t specify what job I was in, because I don’t think it is necessarily very relevant here. Because that was the job that wore me down. I have many ex-colleagues who love that same job, it suits them and their personalities, they are great at it and find something exciting or fulfilling about it. It just wasn’t a good fit for me. Any job that brings you a degree of satisfaction, can make you smile sometimes, be that because you love your daily routine, or your workmates, or the people you deliver a service to, that is all good and valuable stuff. This job and I just were not friends and, despite my best efforts, we were never going to be. I hope to find some work that I can at least be friendly with, sometimes, not all the time, that really isn’t realistic. We all have shit to deal with. It is just: is there enough of the other good stuff to make that motherload worthwhile?
Don’t get me wrong, I am still ambitious for my life. I have aspirations. But not in the career minded way I once did. I definitely do want to find myself a productive pursuit that I can put my energies into, and that feels like it makes a valuable contribution in the world. It doesn’t have to be a big thing, just a thing that adds a little positive to the general pot (rather than sucking the oxygen out of the air and leaving me slightly less comfortable in my own skin than I was before).
I am now at a crossroads. Having recently come back from a trip, it is time once again for me to find some work that will put some pennies in the bank. I have been looking, but I haven’t found the right thing. And yes, that is starting to feel a little bit edgy, a little stressful as the funds I had left begin to dwindle. But I am at an age where I am loath to walk backwards. It has to be forwards. Even a little forwards is fine, but I really do not want to go back to what I did before. Now is the time to change my trajectory, however I do that. The second half of my life is upon me, and I refuse to get bogged down in the same old work bullshit that once ruled my every waking moment (and many of the moments when I should have been sleeping and instead was consumed with dread).
So instead, right now, I am keeping my eyes open, saying yes to any little opportunities that arise that might offer a stepping stone, open up an avenue to something new I might not have considered, or inspire an idea that I can run with. Last week I said yes to some voluntary work with a friend who asked if I could help with a festival she is organising for the Autumn. The week before I attended an open evening at a local college for a course I know I would be interested in and might inspire a future career path. Next weekend I am attending two days of free training that I saw advertised on the internet. My thinking is, the more feelers I put out there, the more I let the Universe know I am available, open to suggestion and willing to put myself in a position of ‘Maybe?’, the right answer might eventually present itself. And, in the meantime, these little forays into maybe might help me to rule out a few things I definitely do not wish to pursue, anything that generates that same old discomfort in my gut that says ‘Not for you’ or ‘That way madness lies’ or ‘Run away quickly!’. It is all forward momentum, and sometimes that has to be enough.
Life has to have compromises for sure. I may not find my dream job right now. Or perhaps ever? I suspect only some people get that lucky. But I am not prepared to sacrifice my sanity or my spirit in the same way I once did. Life is too bloody short.
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