At what point in one’s life does one decide, with some level of certainty, what they want to do with their life? Presumably throughout history, people and their lot in life were defined by their professions, and these professions were gained via hereditary means, caste, or education. However, in even those cases, diaries and letters recount a sense of yearning, that there’s more to life than the future that they’ve been allotted. And then there are hobbies, which many throw themselves into with abandon – the things that bring people joy, that they would be willing to do regardless of compensation or reward. There’s a classic exercise employed by guidance counselors which involves the act of the counselee imaging a rack of magazines at your local bookshop or newsstand, and imaging which of these infinite choices you’d choose amongst the many. In this thought experiment, the resulting selection is what you should pursue in your life. Despite the predictable outcomes of this exercise – sports, fashion, cars/horses/guitars/music, etc. – we in fact see very few people ultimately reaching the heights of general manager of a sports team, or designer of a fashion label, and many more becoming consultants, nurses, or social media coordinators (who maintain their passions for these interests in their spare time.)
I pose this question because I find myself at an interesting and potentially precarious point in my life, where I’m in the fortunate position to have several opportunities in front of me – some of which are of my own efforts / choosing, and others still invisible to me, still to be defined through chance encounters and continued efforts. Contending with this universe of potential choices is predictably exhausting. Similarly, the split between the short, medium, and long term, and how each decision made in the moment might impact one’s life, oftentimes sends me into a tizzy of self doubt and questioning.
In truth, the way that most would advise someone like myself in these types of situations is to “go with my gut” — to ask your own subconscious feelings govern what’s next. Others may draw you to your innate curiosity, asking if this is something that keeps you interested and engaged in your work – but that keeps you up at night thinking about it. And yet others might caution against putting too much stock or weight of one’s happiness in the job that they do – that as long as one is able to develop a healthy work-life balance, and enjoy oneself outside of work, that they will feel happier, more fulfilled.
I bring up these examples because over the past two months I’ve nearly heard them all. And while they all have merit, and all in some ways mean more to me now today that they ever have, I still find myself stuck at this point of gross uncertainty. And while it’s not necessarily a question of happiness – my needs are met, my health and that of people close to me is thankfully ok (if not stable), and I feel relatively valued and engaged in my work. And yet, I still don’t know, and that uncertainty continues to eat me up.
The conclusion that I oftentimes come to, if any, is to keep pushing forward, to continue making progress. In times of uncertainty and indecision, I must recognize the blessings in front of me, and continue to pursue what it is that interests me and will bring me closer to that fulfillment, rather than wallow in the indecision and continue to focus on the immediate present, or the choices and decisions that led up until this point. Moving forward consists of seeking out the texts, materials, and routines / practices (such as writing, here) that will set me on my path and unsure slow, but incremental progress. Identifying these things, and setting yourself on this course involves removing some layer of fear from the equation, acknowledging the inherent risk involved in taking responsibility for one’s own fate. I am committed to these actions and endeavor to remain emotionally present in the face of the inevitable up-ands-downs that will persist. But the act of incorporating these feelings in writing, and leaving them available for all to see (but mostly for me to come back to) is a positive step in that direction. Hopefully, I can continue to hold myself accountable, and continue to track my progress on (e-) paper. Onwards!