Are You Doing What You Thought You Would Be Doing in Life?

20 Aug

Today I had a moment where I recognized myself as the person that I always believed I could be.  I was sitting at a table with 20 other people and I was telling them how they could promote their book, all eyes were on me.

If you had told me this would be my future when I was 8 or 11, my response would’ve been, “of course.”  If you had told me this when I was 20, 21, I would’ve answered the exact same way, but if you had whispered this into the ear of my 23 year old self I would’ve given you a blank stare and a, “yea right,” laugh.

Something happened to me when I graduated college.  Maybe it was moving back home, maybe it was the realization that I had never put one thought into, “what I wanted to be when I grew up,” which now seems ludicrous, but I completely lost that inner compass that had faith in me.

This didn’t happen overnight, it was slow erosion, grain by grain my self-confidence went to the wind, shape-shifting, struggling to fit the cube that I was supposed to enjoy sitting in.  I hated this cube, I wondered, “This is what I was working toward?”

I know I’m not alone in this experience; that young adults all across the States are working 80 hours a week, are going Excel-blind, are entering data and questioning the future that they had been told to want; that they had been sold.

Many of these people burn-out at 25, myself included, and feel demoralized by their efforts.  For me, it was continuous failure.  At my first internship the woman that I admired betrayed me, and I said the wrong thing at a departmental meeting and received a horrible review.  This followed me for the next three years of my career.

I felt defined by this review.  Each day at my first, adult fulltime job I strove to be better than my beginnings, and while these efforts paid off, led to my next job in a whole new city, I basically had a breakdown in the office and then got cut in the third round of layoffs – it was 2009.

At that point I felt completely disconnected to the competent, confident professional that I had been becoming, my review was right, it seemed I, “didn’t understand diversity,” or really what life was asking me to be, and I knew even then I was not alone.

Being smart doesn’t always help you professionally.  This is a lie that you’re told in school, “that it is good to be smart,” and it is good to be smart, but not the complex, critical thinking kind of smart, but the smart that knows to darken circle A on the multiple choice exam, meaning basic common sense.

I had spent my entire life delving into the nuances of literature, not color coding spreadsheets and filing.  While simple, it was new to me and extremely tedious, especially so because I wasn’t exactly sure what I was working toward.

Recently, I read an article by a young woman who questioned why so many people in Ivies automatically went into i-banking or managerial consulting.  Mainly it was because they were told this would, “help launch their career,” and for, “the money,” but their dreams were becoming playrights, green planning and opening up restaurants.

Not investing other peoples’ money or telling them how to do their job, which personally I think is ridiculous because how many 22 year olds are really qualified to do that?  It’s just no one else wants to travel five days out of the week.

I get starting at the bottom, I get tough love and challenge, but why do we as a society spend so little time helping our children, teens and young adults find their own personal path?  Why don’t we encourage gap years and better provide different professional environments while still in school?

More importantly, why don’t we teach all three age groups to value finding their own path because that’s really the basis of most choices, “what’s important to me and how do I make that happen?” and I’m not so naïve to think money isn’t important.  It is, but what is money soaked in unhappiness and confusion?  It’s the power to fill the gap with the material, which does stimulate the economy but can also bring more debt.

And not just financial debt, but human debt: Don’t we want to be healthy?  Isn’t the whole idea of procreating hopeful; that we can create beings that can be better than ourselves and therefore better the quality of life for all?

Yes, the beings might not know what they want to do, or they might think they know and then be sorely disappointed but if we don’t restructure our world the 21, 22 and the 23 year olds of the world will continually be asked to hand over youth’s dream in exchange for a paycheck, and who else believes themselves to be invincible enough to achieve anything?

However, even in our sickened world all hope is not lost.  It is possible to buy the dysfunctional product, inhale it, spit it back up, lie down for a year and get up renewed.  Then suddenly you can be standing in front of 20 people in the encasing you always thought you would inhabit, encouraging them, and telling them what to do so that they can be heard.

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