On Not Knowing What to Do with One’s Life

Do you know what you want to be when you grow up?  What age are we considering that to be these days (hopefully 40 at the minimum)?

I’ve always been envious of people who knew they wanted to be a doctor or whatever since they were five years old.  I know many career dreams require difficult paths, but I would just love to have that kind of clarity.  I wanted to be something different every couple years growing up, and since college I’ve already had three different careers.  Not jobs, careers, and I’m sure I’m not done.  I know some really cool older people who have done many different things.  And I’m a multi-faceted person who wasn’t likely to take a traditional path; I don’t know why I’m so surprised.  But it still frustrates me.

I feel contradictory things about working.  Part of me is this type-A overachiever who could do most anything and wants to really kick ass, if only she could figure out what ass to kick.  And part of me would be quite happy renting scooters and eating gelato in Florence.  I wonder if I’m too old to keep changing directions.  I wonder if my perfect work doesn’t exist yet.  I wonder if I’ll get the chance to be a mom, and how that will affect my work.

No matter what job I’m doing, I never feel like I’m doing it well enough.  And I’m usually chafing against something – the hours are too long; the schedule is too predictable; the schedule is too unpredictable; I have too much work; I don’t have enough work; I’m too emotionally invested; I’m not emotionally invested enough…ad nauseam.  Like too many things in my life, I’m only ever satisfied for a few months.

Then I think, does it actually matter?  Am I defined by what I do?  Can I enjoy, learn, and make an impact no matter where I happen to be working?  There’s something about my generation that just does not want to settle, at all.  We were generally so privileged growing up–sheltered from reality by well-meaning parents and grandparents that had been through too much–that our expectations and entitlements are crippling us as adults.  I hope one good thing to come out of this bad economy is general thankfulness for employment (myself included).  We are not owed good jobs.

The more I grow in my spiritual life, the more I see how much I’ve fallen into the trap of thinking I’m only as good as my latest achievement.  If I believe the truth of the Bible, there’s really only one thing I have to do: love.  And even that is not so much something to do as someone to be.  So I wonder if my not reaching the “full potential” of my intellect, education, skills, etc., is actually a gift, because if I don’t become someone who is focused on loving well first and foremost, what I do could in fact be worthless or even damaging.

It’s hard to give up on the quest of finding my “perfect work” and I will probably keep searching.  But the more I’m able to put work in it’s proper place the less I’m forcing it to meet needs it was never meant to meet.  It’s not fair to ask my job to shore up my self-worth or to make up for the lack of a husband.  If I become more focused on who I’m meant to be rather than what I’m meant to do, I think good work has to naturally flow out of that.


1 thought on “On Not Knowing What to Do with One’s Life

  1. Your work is amazing! You speak to that existential crisis that is within most of this present generation. That crisis that comes from the fact that the goalposts of our parents generation have been moved! Shifted away from us! We struggle to understand the reason for our lives and it do our “accomplishments” matter or not. Your voice is important. You speak deeply to the heart of this new millennium generation. I can’t wait for you next blog.

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