That’s a pretty bold claim, isn’t it? I mean, show of hands – how many of you know what you want to be when you grow up? Second question – how many of you ARE what you want to be when you grow up?
Obviously, this is a blog so I can’t see how many of you held up your hands (also, I guess I should’ve warned you not to actually do that unless you’re alone – you’re gonna scare somebody) but I’m guessing there weren’t a whole lot of you. And I get it. I really do. It took me until the age of 45 for me to figure it out and guess what? This blog is it!
So how did I figure it out after all that time?
First of all, it wasn’t easy. If you’re like me, you started getting the questions your last few years of high school. “What are you going to do after you graduate?” And rather than being honest and admitting how much that question scared the hell out of me and that I had no idea at all what I wanted to do, I usually gave some lukewarm answer about college and maybe tossed in some acceptable day job to shut people up. The summer after junior year, I hit crisis point. My parents were laying it on pretty thick and I felt a lot of pressure to pick something, anything, just so they would get off my back. And that pressure lead me to make a huge mistake – I signed up to join the Army.
Now, I’m not implying that joining the military is a mistake, but for me, it would’ve been disastrous. If you haven’t caught on by now, I’m a bit prissy, I’m not at all comfortable with guns, I cry when someone gets in my face and I am not overly fond of manual labor. Luckily, about six months later, during my first few weeks of senior year, after having handled an M-16 for the first (and only) time, I figured out that it had all been a really bad move for me, and I dropped out.
So I was back at square one. My next genius move was to sign up at the local community college – my dad’s alma mater. I also signed up to major in my dad’s preferred career – accounting. You guessed it – my second stab at figuring out what I wanted to be was also made just to please my parents. Accounting would’ve been equally disastrous a career as the military.
But luckily, fate intervened. I found out I was pregnant soon after graduating high school. Admittedly, I didn’t see that as a stroke of luck when I got the little + sign on the pregnancy test, but it was. Because after giving birth, I found something I was really good at – being a mom. I wound up having three kids total, and in between raising them, I struggled with the idea that there must be something else that I’d be good at; something I could turn into a career. I worked part-time jobs and went full-time once or twice but nothing ever stuck. We’ve homeschooled our kids, too so that made having one of us at home pretty important. So I’ve been a stay at home mom most of my life, and have never really regretted it. But I knew the time would come that I’d have to figure it out, and that hit really hard once my youngest entered high school. I have an Associates degree in Communications, but that doesn’t necessarily make you someone that headhunters are going to fight over. I’ve been out of the workforce for awhile, and that gap in employment isn’t going to look great on a resume either. My prospects looked pretty bleak – at least to me. I even tried direct sales a couple of times – wow, talk about a bad fit!
Meanwhile, my husband and friends and family have been in the background all along, chirping quietly about writing. And it’s something I’ve always loved to do. The problem was, I had a very narrow view of what being a writer meant. To me, being a writer meant you wrote books. And I knew I didn’t have it in me to write an entire book, at least not a fiction one. Writing fiction or poetry or anything of that nature isn’t the slightest bit enjoyable to me. But all along, I was writing in my journal, writing a personal blog, writing letters, writing long-winded comments on other people’s blogs and articles and I was getting a lot of praise for what I was writing.
So what in the hell took me so long to figure it out? Why didn’t I just listen when a bunch of people told me I was pretty good at writing and maybe I should give it a shot? Two reasons: lack of self-confidence and narrow-mindedness. In short, I didn’t think I could do it and I didn’t bother to think that maybe I could use my writing skills in ways that I’d actually enjoy!
And those two things might be the biggest dream-killers out there – not thinking creatively and not being confident in yourself and your dreams will ensure you stay right where you are in life. For instance, let’s say you love cooking and you’re good at it. But you don’t have the time or the funds to go to cooking school. Does that mean there’s no way you can use those skills in a productive way? No, it doesn’t. You could open your own catering business. You could open a cupcake store or bakery. You could work in a restaurant. You could even write a recipe book or blog about cooking or make cooking videos.
The world is full of so many more opportunities now than it was even 10 or 20 years ago! With the advent of the Internet and the ability to harness the power of the Internet to reach people, the possibilities are limitless. But that also means that you can get easily overwhelmed at all your possibilities. So how do you narrow down your options and figure it out for yourself?
The first step is to quiet your mind a bit. Let go of your parents’ aspirations for you. I know that’s hard to do. None of us want to feel that we’re disappointing our parents, but in the end, you’re the one who’s going to be doing the work so you have to do it for yourself or you’ll never be fulfilled. Let go of “keeping up with the Joneses” (or anyone else). Let go of what your spouse/kids/significant other/boss/pet hamster wants for you or expects of you. Also, let go of society’s expectations and their definition of success. Let go of all of that and just be quiet and listen to your soul for a minute.
What do you want to do? What makes you jump out of bed ready to take on the world? What inspires you? WHO inspires you? What are you passionate about? If you could do any job in the world without having to consider the financial aspect of it, what would you do? What do you do for fun? What makes you feel successful? What was the last thing you did that made you feel really happy and whole?
I mean it – sit down and ask yourself the hard questions. Write down the answers. Or if you deal better in visual images, make a vision board. Don’t know what that is? It’s a kind of visual collage of what you’d like to have more of in your life.
Now – is there an image or response that keeps popping up repeatedly? Then that is something you need to think harder about and expand your thinking upon. I’ll tell you what happened when I did this for myself – writing and helping people keep coming up over and over again. And then I considered the fact that I have a very short attention span and a 10-year book project just was not going to work for me. And I noticed that I spent a lot of my spare time reading other people’s blogs. Right in the middle of all that frustration and confusion, those three things were staring right at me – writing, blogs and helping people. Also, I have a real tendency to give advice whether people want it or not, so that figured in as well!
And here I am. The woman who never had a clue what she wanted to be when she grew up. The woman who never made any plan farther out than six months. The one who really figured she was just going to float along from job to job until she was too old to work anymore. I have found my passion. Has it made me rich? No, it hasn’t. But that’s not to say it can’t. It’s just not where my focus is right now. I have found what I want to be and that’s the first step. I have confidence that the rest will come along as I continue to plan and work hard and stay passionate about what I’m doing.
If you’re where I was and still haven’t figured out what you want to do with your life, stay tuned. We’re going to go on this journey together, step by step. And by the end, I hope that you’re able to find a way to find what makes you excited about your life and what you’re doing with it.
Also, here’s some Ryan Gosling to inspire you.
Sit down, ask yourself the questions and report back with your results in the comments section, on the Facebook page, or on Twitter. I’d love to hear from you! – Mama Bear