Not Knowing What to Do With Your Life Is Totally OK
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There are two incredibly stressful times in the average young adult’s life:
1. Applying to colleges and deciding where the f you want to spend the next four years blacking out.
2. Graduating college, saying goodbye to blacking out, and saying hello to some type of career.
Both of these times in my life were ridiculously stressful for me, and it’s not because I didn’t get into my dream school or get hired for my dream job, it’s because I didn’t have a dream school or a dream job.
The thing is you actual don’t have to make a final decision right now — or ever.
Stephanie Synclair, self-made millionaire at 30 and wealth consultant, says that it’s actually a benefit to you if you’re not sure what you want to do.
You can never truly figure out what you want to do until you’ve tried a bunch of things. It’s really easy to say that you want to do something, it’s another to actually want to do that thing every morning, five days a week. I thought I wanted to be a fashion designer my entire life, but after going to school for a year and sewing a bunch of shit, I realized I hated it. When I randomly got an internship with Galore and they had me write, I realized that I loved it even though I never planned on doing anything with writing before.
“Often what your true niche is comes with experience,” explains Stephanie. “I’m in University now and I have to pick a major. Usually that decision is based upon what your parents want you to do, what the ‘right’ decision is in order to make money, and the smart decision as opposed to what you’re truly passionate about and excited about.”
Unfortunately, the “right” decision may not be “right” for you.
If your parents are pushing you to become a doctor and you have to spend all your time studying for the MCATs, you’re probably never going to find the time to pursue your opera career or start that blog you’ve been dreaming about. While getting your “dream job” right after college is a blessing, it can also mean that there’s no room for exploration.
“I personally think the downside is getting your dream job right out of college is you may get locked into it,” says Stephanie. “I remember when I first went to school for broadcast communications and I thought about taking a position as an editor at a news station and it was highly suggested to me to turn the position down because once you start that’s what you’re stuck at. I did turn the position down and someone else who went to school with me got the position and 15 years later guess what? She’s still an editor.”
Even if you have no clue what you want to do, it doesn’t mean that you can’t try different things. In fact, studies have shown that college graduates who take the first job they are offered are actually happier than graduates who wait around searching for the “perfect” career.
“Not knowing what you want to do allows you to try different things,” explains Stephanie. “It’s part of the reason why I believe internships are important. I’m really excited because many companies are opening up internship experiences for older people. It’s good to try different departments and see what really sparks your interest.”
The problem with internships is that so many are unpaid, and the ones that are paid are measly wages. If you’ve already got a decent paying job (even if you hate it), it can be hard to take the leap to something less lucrative.
“My advice is to be willing to do it,” says Stephanie. “You can stay at your job, but your job is all you’re really going to be doing. If you want to try different things and see what you’re really passionate about, you’re really going to have to experience other pieces. Something I personally did when I was young and working and wanting new experiences in addition to my full-time job is that I called up a director of a department and asked if I could intern for three hours a week. You can still make it possible without giving up the money you’re currently making.”
You also can’t expect your “passion” to walk up and slap you in the face. Finding your passion is a bit like finding yourself, you never really know when you’ve succeeded until it’s too late.
“I think it’s a process for most people,” says Stephanie. “You have some people who from the very beginning know they have a passion but they don’t know how to make money, so they keep it separate from their career. And then you have other people who maybe they were raised to go into a certain career and do the ‘right thing.’ Those people really have no idea what their passion is. It’s a process of trying things and they’ll look up one day and say ‘I really enjoy this.'”
But it’s one thing to be totally cool with the fact that you’re just going with the flow, it’s another to try to explain that to your super-traditional parents.
“Say ‘thank you, I appreciate your opinion,’ then leave it alone,” advises Stephanie. “Don’t think everything needs a response.”
It gets annoying and can make you want to lash out at your parents like a emo teen screaming “you guys just don’t get me,” but try to remember that your parents really are trying to help.
“The fact is people actually mean well. Your family thinks they have it figured out,” says Stephanie. “My mom did not support my decision to quit my job and figure out what I wanted to do. She wanted to ensure that I could take care of myself and my family. So I just said thank you, but I know what’s best for me. I don’t think I ever verbalized that I know best for me, I don’t think I had to say it, but you can’t continue to live other people’s dreams out. We have one life, so it makes sense to live our dreams, not our parents’ dreams.”
If you are worried about disappointing your parents, just remember that you’ve definitely let them down before. Remember? When your mom said the soul-crushing phrase, “I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed?”
“I hear people say pretty consistently ‘I don’t want to disappoint my parents,’ but I say ‘get over it.’ I’m pretty sure you’ve disappointed them at some point already, I promise you. Within the disappointments they can be proud of you,” says Stephanie. “With my mom, she saw an article the other day about me in a magazine and she sent me a text message and said ‘I just want to tell you how proud of you I am.’ But she didn’t see that seven or eight years ago, she thought I was out of my mind.”
At the end of the day, you need to remember that whatever you’re doing right now may not be what you’re doing in five, 10, or 20 years. Allow yourself to try different things and don’t allow yourself to get stuck. Above all, don’t feel like a failure because you don’t know what you want to do with your life. In fact, you should feel brave for not taking the easy way out and simply settling on a career path that you’re not truly passionate about.
“There are a lot of people who are living other people’s dreams,” says Stephanie. “All it really takes is the courage to stand up and say ‘I don’t want to do that.'”