The question isn’t “What do I want to be when I grow up?” it’s What should I do with my life? Where do I fit? What am I here to do, specifically? I have studied several potential vocations, from minister and graphic designer to microfinance and teaching, but I haven’t found my answer yet.
So the relevant question is not what you will do, but who you will become. What belief system will you adopt, and what will take on heightened importance in your life?…It takes a while to learn who we are, and for our latent talents to emerge.
I have a natural talent and disposition for administrative work. My current position involves a lot of paperwork processing and number typing in a claustrophobic back-office. It’s great. It’s what I’m good at. After years of struggling through customer service jobs, it feels nice to do something well.
Three guys laying bricks are asked why they’re doing it. The first guy says, “I’m doing it for the wages.” The second guy says, “I’m doing it to support my family.” The third guy says, “I’m helping to build a cathedral.”
While I am suited for administrative work, my interest lies in building. I have given this some thought, most of my interests have building and improving as common denominators. I like writing and editing because I can construct a piece and then make it better. I want to build a project car. Something about the step-by-step process of bringing a machine back to life and seeing my vision take form appeals to me. I might get involved in nonprofit management for the same reasons; to use my administrative abilities to build an organization and improve other’s lives. I even have some interest in construction and renovation, literally building and improving.
Dream -> Lockbox -> Fuck You money -> Lockbox -> Dream
That cold, calculated formula. Rarer than I ever imagined…Don’t put your dreams in lockboxes, and don’t invest years of your life in a day job for the wad you expect to have at the end.
I can’t adequately pursue all of my interests, there aren’t enough hours in the day or dollars in the bank. I have to narrow it down. Seeing that my various desires share some fundamental characteristics helps me focus. I can’t build a project car right now because I have to get out of debt, buy a house with a garage, and get a job that pays well enough to afford it first. However, I can write and edit. Someday I could volunteer and work for a nonprofit. Because they share some foundational aspects, I can get similar fulfillment from a combination of my interests. My drive to build and improve outweighs the specifics.
There is no conclusion, I am still trying to answer this question for myself. I have a long list of things I don’t want to do. I have a short list of things I want to do more of. Hopefully I’ll have an answer in another few years. I want to contribute in a meaningful way, but I am not yet certain how.
The Brilliant Masses are composed of nothing less than the many great people of our generation, the bright, the talented, the intelligent, the resourceful, and the creative–far too many of whom are operating at quarter-speed, unsure of their place in the world, contributing far too little to the productive engine of modern civilization, still feeling like observers, all feeling like they haven’t come close to living up to their potential…Being guided by the heart is almost never something an intellectually motivated person chooses to do. It’s something that happens to them–usually something painful.
(Inspiration and quotes for this post are from What Should I Do with My Life? by Po Bronson. I highly recommend it.)