Posted by fxckfeelings on June 15, 2015Share This Post
It’s strange that, as children, we’re pushed to declare what we want to be when we grow up, and then get disappointed with ourselves when we can’t achieve that goal, even though most kids want to grow up to be king or a dinosaur. If you get to adulthood without an idea of what you want to be, plausible or no, you may feel doomed if uncertainty and indecisiveness make such decisions difficult or illness makes your chosen path impossible. In reality, what matters most is not choosing a career or doing well at it, but being a decent and independent person as you find your way in life. Then, whether a career appears or, like the dinosaurs themselves, comes to a premature end, you will grow to be a strong person who can be proud of your choices.
I’m in my mid-20s and struggling from some choice-paralysis in regards to my career. I went to college on the other side of the country a few years ago and obtained an arts degree (I know, I know – bad move), and am doing administrative work. I find it deeply unsatisfying but it pays quite well, considering. I also know that if I wanted, I could build a solid career here in something practical, I would just have to decide which career. On top of that, my family is here, and I’ve taken up meaningful volunteer work. I have some friends with their masters that are starting up serious careers, and then some that are doing things like buying houses and getting pregnant, which makes me feel like maybe I should just find a boyfriend and start settling too. On the other hand, I deeply want change, a bigger city and different industry options. I got into a program at a college in a bigger city on the other side of the country, and it’s probably as useless as my current degree, but I would love to go back to school and be more qualified in something. Also, this city I would be moving to has more varied industries. But leaving my job and going back to school on the other side of the country means I would have to take out more student loans which just seems stupid. I know there is no right answer and that everyone goes through this in a way—if I go, I can always come back—but the part of me that wants to be pragmatic knows that with my current debt, moving would actually set me back a lot. My goal is to reconcile my desire for a cool arts job in a bustling city with my growing desire to be practical and either make a decision to find something that works for me here, or move, explore other options, and not look back.
Like marriage, a career is about the long game and shouldn’t be judged by its immediate rewards, be they to your mood, wallet, self-esteem, etc. Besides, while marriage is hard work, a career is just hard work; the only way to get the same kind of bliss from a new job as you would as a newly wed is to start working in porn.
Once you take that into account, it’s becomes easier to simplify your career choices, particularly when it comes to work, going to school, or change in general. Right now, in your mid-twenties, you have a great opportunity to explore career options, new cities, even sexualities if you’re so inclined, all without having to worry too much about pay or security.
Later on, as you either gain responsibilities or lose the endless energy required to juggle several jobs and even more roommates, you’ll need more money and stability. Right now, however, you can make do with less if it gives you a chance to broaden your experience and make smarter decisions about your future. If your current job is well paying but dead end, stay there until you’ve saved up enough to travel, create, or take entry-level jobs that expose you to possible professions and new types of business.
You can also go back to school, but only do so if you know what you want an advanced degree for and how that that degree will benefit your career in that field, or if you want to enter the world of academia. Don’t go because you enjoy school or expect it to give you direction and focus, because you’d essentially be enrolling yourself in a very expensive summer camp with only slightly better food.
Ignore what your friends are doing unless it’s something you’re interested in and you need contacts and suggestions. You’re not the kind of person who knows what she wants when she goes to college and fits easily into any job or city; if your friends are such people, that’s great, but as Amy Poehler says, that just makes your motto, “good for her! Not for me.” Comparing yourself to your friends will just get you down and drive you to a shrink (or a drink, or a terrible haircut).
Get a coach or shrink who doesn’t let you talk too much about your doubts and feelings, but instead pushes you to create solid priorities and plans. It sounds like you have talent and curiosity and are willing to take risks, so put yourself on the career path, even if you have to date a lot of crappy jobs along the way.
“I can’t stop thinking about all the things I’m not doing with my life, but I’m not lacking in energy or talent and I’m willing to take risks. For the next few years I’ll give myself every chance to explore my talents and see what the world has to offer. Then, no matter whether something clicks or not, I’ll know I’ve followed my own priorities.”
I just learned I have a kind of muscular dystrophy that may put me in a wheelchair in my forties, and now I constantly feel like my future has disappeared. I like my job and have a great family, but if I won’t be able to enjoy them in a decade or so, I feel like all my plans don’t matter any more and I’m just going to be a disappointment to them. I can’t imagine getting promoted in my company because that requires traveling and moving from city to city, and that’s something that will just get harder and harder. At some point, I may not be able to work at all. I love playing sports with the kids, and I’ll lose that too. My goal is to figure out what my goals are, now that all my old ones feel lost.
From the time you begin school, you’re encouraged to improve your skills and status while competing with peers. So when an illness threatens to disqualify you from competition and take away the pleasures you’ve taken for granted, it may well feel like life is over, or at the very least, you’re disqualified and sent to the sidelines for the duration.
In reality, your most important goals are not defined by competition or money, and better yet, you’ve already achieved them. Finding a good partner, being a good partner, and getting your family off to a good start are the goals that count the most, and there’s nothing about your illness that should make you change them or feel less proud of your accomplishments.
Yes, your kids may miss your being able to run around and play sports. They may now have to worry more and face greater responsibility at a younger age. Your wife may be more stressed. Everyone may be less happy. But that shouldn’t render your goals or your remaining time with your family worthless.
There’s always shit or potential catastrophe around the corner, whether you have a solid diagnosis or not. Despite that, from the beginning, you put together a good team and made the most of your good times. Now it’s time to teach the kids how to handle hard times, which is an important lesson in any context.
In order to stay true to your goals, make the most of your strength while not trying too hard to be normal, learning from others who are physically handicapped. Don’t hang on to old competitions and measures of achievement; remember what matters and don’t change your priorities, just your respect for the extra effort required to achieve them.
“I feel like my life is over, but it’s actually off to a good beginning. I may be facing disability, but I will try to be as independent as possible, make a living, and have a good relationship with my wife and kids. That’s what I was always after and it won’t change.”
More advice from Dr. Lastname