To those who found hope, support, and strength from my previous article, this is not meant to deter you. This is not meant to tell you that not having a strict career path is not okay. As I state way down below, I still believe what I wrote. This post is meant to let you know that this is sometimes the reality of those beliefs and that if you have days when you feel like this was all for naught, know that those days pass. Know that your story is not my story. Know that your story is more than one bad day, month, week, or year. This is my story and it is important to me that you know that sometimes life is hard for me; that sometimes, I feel like it’s not okay that I don’t have my figurative shit together the way I expected to as I near 30. Sometimes, I need to go back and reread that old post. My words are always truthful. Those words were truthful. As I wrote them, I believed them. When my mental state is sound, I believe them. The days that followed the article, the more people that reached out to me, I felt good and like I was on to something. Then, HuffPo shut down that particular blogging platform, life got a little hectic, and I found myself second-guessing every decision that I have ever made. That is the part of this process. You cannot expect to always feel okay. While it’s okay to not know what you want to do with your life; it is also okay to not feel okay about it from time to time. This is my time to time. Writing is my therapy. I invite you along on the journey I found myself on at 4:30 am on a cold, Colorado Friday morning. As always, the postscript at the end is the final stretch of that journey. I needed to start from “two years ago” to arrive at “porn.” (You’ll get it.)
Two years ago, I published an article on The Huffington Post detailing my long battle with self-doubt, career uncertainty, and the settling realization that not knowing what I wanted out of my career was okay. I preached it, shared it, re-blogged it, and lived it. With the passing months, statements of empathy and gratitude from loved ones and strangers quickly took up residence within the confines of my email inbox. “As long as my words have helped one person, I can die happy,” I would say with a painfully hollow smile; the recipients of that forced declarative blissfully unaware of the goings on in my dizzying and tiresome head. If only that were enough. If only I could sit here and tell you today that everything is still “okay.”
Since that day, I have started a blog. I have deleted a blog. I have decided to be a physical therapist. I have decided against being a physical therapist. I have enrolled in a writing certification. I have dropped out of said certification. I have started another blog. You are reading that blog. I hate this blog. I refuse to start another blog. You’re stuck with this blog. I have taken career aptitude tests. I have paid to take career aptitude tests. I have read self-help books. I have recommended self-help books. I have considered being a therapist. I have gone to a therapist. Therapists. I have started studying for a personal trainer certification. I have no idea what I am going to do with a personal trainer certification. I have received hundreds of rejection letters. I have cried over those rejection letters. I have become numb to those rejection letters. I am hopelessly, fully, completely, oh-so-excruciatingly lost.
I am many things and I have done many things, but I feel as if I am nothing. These are not words with hidden meanings. This is not a cry for help; a wool blanket covering a bed of depression. No. This is something that is, for me, much worse — it is a realization that I have failed. I have failed at the one thing that I wanted nothing more in life than to excel at. I wasted a decade of my life pursuing an idea that things would simply work out for the best. I told myself time and time again that I would figure it out when I would figure it out. “There is no point in rushing the process.” “There is no point in working yourself up.” “You can’t plan your whole future in one night, in one Google search.” I would repeat these phrases to myself year after year…after year. As I find myself barreling towards thirty, unable to slow time, I am often met with great dread, not excitement, for the years ahead. I look forward to the time with my husband. I look forward to memories with friends and family. However, I am so scared of what lies ahead for me; for my career. What if there is nothing there?
I am stuck. I have been stuck. I don’t know how to become unstuck. I don’t want to be a fraud. I don’t want to paint a picture of success. I don’t want people to think that I am okay with where I am at in my life. I’m not. I have many things to be proud of, but my career path is not one of them. I work. I work well. I am good at what I do, but I want more. I just have no idea of what “more” entails. I try to silence the voices that scream at me to obtain a PhD, or a DPT, or an MS, or an MA. I try to remind myself that the only reason why a graduate degree entices me is because of the merits that accompany it; the prestige and the knowledge obtained; the idea that I would know more than most; that I would be smarter, better, and more accomplished. Trust me, I know those are shit reasons, but they’re honest ones. I daydream about the proud looks in my parents’ eyes, in my husband’s eyes, as I stroll across that stage and receive my diploma. Finally. I can finally let them be proud of me. I can finally understand why they are proud of me. They now have a concrete reason to be. “My daughter the doctor!” “My wife the scholar!” It sounds pretty great, doesn’t it? Well, just because something sounds great, that does not mean that the sound of greatness is reason enough to pursue it.
I feel like I am grasping at straws simply trying to come up with something that will make myself and my family secure; something that will ensure that we will not have to work until we die; something that will provide us with “shit hits the fan” money, “shit, let’s buy a house” money, “shit, let’s retire” money. Money, money, money. All I think about is money. This is an ironic twist because my career aspirations have never been about money. Perhaps they should have been. Perhaps I should have gotten a degree in literally anything other than creative writing. I often wonder where I would be today had I stuck with biology; how different my life would be; how different I would be. I can’t say that I would change it because there is no point in that. I can’t go back and I’ve made some pretty good memories on the path I chose; fantastic memories, life-changing, earth-shattering, mind-blowing, passing-out-under-cars, California-dreaming, Colorado-and-back-again kinds of memories that I would not trade for a degree in science.
I stand by the things I wrote two years ago. I do believe that you don’t have to have a career in something that you are passionate about. I do believe that life cannot be completely “figured out” as it is constantly changing. However, I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t wish sometimes that I had something to be passionate about. I would be lying if I said that I don’t wake up some days feeling like I have failed myself and my family. It would be a lie to lead you to believe that I am okay with where I am at or where I am going. I have no answers. I have no clear and defined purpose. I am filled with terror, longing, worry, and unhealthy amounts of cortisone. I still have no idea what the fuck I am doing with my life, and, despite not feeling okay, that’s just going to have to okay.
(You know how much I love a good P.S.)
This internal Armageddon is so real for so many. It is such a deep, personal, painful, and lonely place. It is a dark place; a frightening place. In layman’s terms, it’s bleak as hell. If you have found yourself in this place, know that you are not alone. Know that complacency and apathy do not go hand-in-hand with unease and uncertainty. When you are truly lost career-wise because you want to do something great for the world around you, but you simply do not know how to apply that greatness, you’re on the right track. You are not being complacent. I know that it is my sole mission in life to make people feel good about themselves and about who they are right now; not who they are going to be or who they once were. I don’t know how I am going to do that just yet. Maybe there is not yet a path available; maybe I need to create one. Instead of trying to figure it all out in one night, week, month, or year, just start by asking yourself what you want your imprint on the world to be. Then, be realistic. It’s a shitty thing, being realistic, and it usually involves thinking about time and money (or a lack thereof). Be realistic about your timeline. You do not have to have a five-year plan. The sheer amount of things that have happened in the past five years of my life prove that five-year plans are a waste of time. Set some goals, but know that life happens and you will get knocked on your ass frequently. It may take longer than five years to reach them. You may have to accept that you will have to continue to work jobs that aren’t in your wheelhouse until you collect enough knowledge/certifications/money/whatever it is you need to make the final transition. Finally, you don’t have to do any of this if you don’t want to. Sometimes I wonder if it’s worth stressing over at all. Maybe I am simply not career-oriented. Maybe I am family-oriented. Maybe doing what I can to make sure that we are happy and healthy and financially secure is the only goal I need to have right now. There is more to life than what we do for a living, but man is it hard to remember that sometimes. This right here — writing — this is what fuels my soul; writing in the dark, at 4:30 am, with a cat at my feet. This is pure bliss. If you have something in your life that fuels your soul, do it. Do it daily. Do it every single time you start to worry about your career. Do it every single time you doubt yourself. This shit sucks and it sucks even more when a bad day hits and we are immersed in it; the very least we can do is be kind to ourselves and engage in a hobby we enjoy as we are covered in said shit.
And hey, if all else fails, there’s always porn.
To my incredible loved ones, I know that you are so insanely proud of the woman that I have become and that you will be proud of me regardless of the career path that I choose to follow. My feelings of career ineptitude have nothing to do with you. They do not extend to the other areas of my life; frankly, the more important areas. I am blessed in so many ways and I am not ignorant to that very amazing fact. I am not spiraling. I am not worth the worry; not because I am not worthy of worry, but because this is simply the ebb of the tide. Hope comes and goes, but it always returns. An anxiety disorder just makes the feelings slightly more pronounced. The waters always rise again and I find myself back on the board once more, ready to surf another wave full of cliches.