Monday, November 22, 2010

Learning is more important than a neatly constructed career

It's very difficult to figure out what you want to do with your life. People, including me, say "I have so many interests that I can’t narrow them down", but that is a cop out. Probably the honest answer is that we're afraid to figure out what we want in our lives.

I picked writing early on in life. I wanted to be an author or some kind of journalist; to have my own column maybe. I’ve realized, however, that these are intensely competitive jobs that I don’t want to devote that much time and energy to. Which makes me think I’m just not a passionate person.

But then I think I’m just not passionate about that particular career. I could be passionate about something else. That means it’s something different than what I always thought.

I picked marketing next, specifically web marketing and social media – new cool stuff that is interesting and exciting and always changing. My dad is a salesman and I was always told I could do just what he does fabulously. An easy choice.

But then I realized marketers’ goals is to sell people stuff that they don’t necessarily need. I don’t want to be partially responsible for cluttering people’s minds and homes. And after a while, reading about the latest technology that will interrupt you on your phone got boring to me too. I don’t want to invade people’s privacy, I want to make the organizations in power more accountable to the people.

Which leads me to think right now that what I really want is to go into politics – which is another something that I always kind of wanted to do. I wanted to be the Secretary of State, that’s why I majored in international studies. There is a lot about politics that terrifies me, but, the further away I get from the stress of the wedding, the more I think it’s dumb that it terrifies me. That I could handle Politics just fine. Look at all the idiots who are doing it right now.

But it makes me scared to commit to politics or education or both because I don’t see a track that I could follow. It’s also scary because I’ve always thought about getting into politics or education, so what makes them any different than writing? What makes me think I could succeed or enjoy or be passionate about them?

The fact is you don't know until you try. It doesn’t matter if there’s a track laid out. I committed to writing and that didn’t work. I can always keep writing, and I can always come back to it. I should try web marketing just for kicks and see if that’s more fun than it looks.

What terrifies me the most is waking up 20 years from now and not know what happened to my life. Does that happen to everyone? Can we avoid it? I feel like telling myself to look for small ways to help is a cop out. That I can do better than that. Is that because I’m part of Gen Y, and we were told from birth we could be the president, so anything less feels unsatisfactory?

But you can only see a common thread through someone’s career in retrospect, unless they knew what they wanted to do from the very beginning. Which is a pretty boring way to go through life, in my opinion. It's more interesting and fulfilling to try new things, always do your best, and keep learning all along no matter what.

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