It’s OK not to know what you want – Photo credit: http://blog.axe-net.fr/caption
I’ve seen so many people who seem to have it all together, only to end up finding out that in reality, they don’t. That they don’t even know what they really wanted all along, and ended up settling for personal or career choices that made them miserable…until they figured out cooking, taking care of their children, or making pearl bracelets really made them happy. My friend K. strove to take and pass the grueling CPA exam, and became a real estate agent shortly after. Another girl from Big Accounting, who had the reputation of being sharp as a razor and a “busy season” warrior (now if you know what “busy season” endless hours mean, you wouldn’t want to be one of those warriors), quit to become a chef. And although I know I was born to write, I am still painfully figuring out the how, when, and what the heck of it all…And after years of beating myself up and down the alleys of self-doubt, self-questioning, and lots of chocolate self-eating, I think it’s ok…
So it’s OK to not know what you want? To waste all this money taking private piano lessons, struggling in Tax Accounting (shudders…), landing your first awesome gig, and buying all these fancy work clothes, only to realize you’re not even sure it was what you wanted in the first place…It’s like shooting arrows in the dark, sleepwalking through your life, or getting lost five minutes from your house a few days after you moved in (it does happen)…It’s one of those things you don’t really tell your parents as they are signing your student loan checks to get you out of a jam. Or as your boss is congratulating on your promotion, just as you’re thinking you don’t even want the d… job. And definitely, the last thing you’d tell your stay-at-home frenemy (whom you secretly admire for making her own choice), as she frets over your newest pair of Louboutins.
I often wondered as I would watch the troves of working professionals exiting the commuter rail train at South Station in Boston, what really was going through their minds as they headed to yet another day at work. Many of them hated their jobs, while others had no clue why they even got dressed in the morning (which was painfully obvious considering some of the perilous fashion choices). And even many more struggled with the guilt of feeling the way they felt, because after all, bills had to get paid, kids fed, and shoes bought and worn. And maybe among all this gigantic confusion exiting the inbound train at South station, one or two enlightened, student loan laden, family breadwinner, proud Ivy League product, finally realized it is OK to just not know what they really want, or where their lives and careers was going to take them, yet to still work at it as if they had it all figured out…
They say (I know, who the heck is “they”) it’s “not the destination, it’s the journey”. I always hated this phrase, because really, I just want to get to the great destination. Plus the journey involves walking, and none of my shoes are made for walking. Yet I’ve had to admit over and over again, that without the annoying journey, the detours along the way, the big and small mistakes (more big than small), we wouldn’t be able to remotely start figuring out what the heck we even want, so…
1. Don’t quit your job to figure out what you want (unless you have a backup plan, backup money and some serious backup patience). You and I live in the real world, where there are more grey patches than definite blocks of white and black. And yes, maybe if I were a trust fund kid with beaucoup money, I’d go backpacking in the Himalayas to find myself. But I’m not a trust fund kid, and besides, did I mention I don’t really have walking shoes. And I don’t know much, but I know if you want to learn about work and making your own way and striving to be somebody, you’ve gotta start with just that…work! It ain’t gotta be fancy at first, it’s just gotta be work….
2. What you don’t want will help you figure out what you want. My daughter figured out she loves broccoli by figuring out first she’s not big on chicken (I know, it’s usually the other way around, go figure). That job you hate, the boss you could tell one or two choice words to, all those experiences you wouldn’t wish on your worst frenemy, really saved your life. That was the chicken you figured out you didn’t want, so you went for broccoli. Be thankful!
3. It really is about the journey! I really hate that phrase, probably because it’s so unpleasantly true. Like the whole “no beauty without pain” thing, except you end up learning more about pain than beauty. Your career will do a lot of things to you, but even when it leaves you blah, it still is showing you what “blah” is like. So that when you finally reach your destination, you can happily hug your slightly bruised ego, and exclaim out loud “All of that for this?”…Happiness is so overrated….
The Corporate Sis.