I stop for a moment and imagine what my life would be like with a steady career. It sounds so enticing: an income, independence, direction. I'm suddenly lifted above the gray cloud that's descended over my mood, floating in a make-believe land of Could-Potentially-Haves where there is an actual reason to get out of bed in the morning. I have a purpose and it's fucking beautiful. My moment of euphoria is just that, however: a moment. My spirits plummet when I'm once again confronted with the reality of my situation...I'm an unemployed 30-something who is skilled at many things and a specialist in nothing.
I think, in many ways, my generation is a little lost. We grew up hearing stories of the American Dream: college and career leading to countless riches and contentment. It seemed like a formula, a guarantee. If we followed some steps, we'd get to where we needed to go. I adhered to the prescribed path with a relentless fervor, earning near-perfect grades, picking a major that I thought sounded interesting, attending a great college, and graduating with a commendable GPA. But when I stood on that precipice between College and Life, I had a disturbing realization: I'd accomplished all of this without thinking about what I actually wanted to do. I had a degree in a field that ultimately meant nothing to me. My fundamental assumption had proved erroneous: turns out that blindly following the approved path didn't automatically lead to success. I was 23 years old and had no idea who I wanted to be, where I wanted to go, or what I wanted to do. And as far as I knew, there was no conventional method for getting myself out of this predicament.
A few months ago, a friend of mine mentioned that he has a buddy who's known from the get-go that he wanted to work for Apple. He was hired by the company straight out of college and is still working there now. After relaying this story, my friend made a rather poignant comment: "I envy that he's always known what he wanted to do. Even if I did know what I wanted to do, I still don't know if I'd know how to do it!" We were all raised with this idea that we could do anything and be anything with the right amount of determination. But what if we stand up to wave our wand and have no idea what to wish for? Oftentimes even if we do have some inkling, the path to attainment is uncharted; this not only creates obstacles but also leaves infinite room for error. And then a final hurdle: what if there's not a place for us in the job market once we've trained ourselves to get where we thought we wanted to go?
My solution to this conundrum has been a bit haphazard; I've just chosen the most interesting of my available opportunities and hoped for the best. The idea is that I'll eventually stumble upon something that gives actual meaning to my existence. Until I find this, however, I'm going to keep pressing the Reset button. That's the most difficult part: choosing a path, eventually realizing you've erred, and then altering your course. You doubt your inner compass, your ability to persevere, and your knowledge of yourself as a person. Whereas my parents' generation picked a career and stuck with it for 30+ years, members of mine have often had three or four "jobs" before they even turn 30. I can't help but wonder why we are so indecisive and fickle...and I can't help but worry that there's an arbitrary time limit on all of this, that one day a clock will strike and suddenly I'll be unable to change my course. [This of course will happen when I'm a 60 year old checkout clerk at Walmart who's earning a few pennies less than minimum wage]
Sometimes I think that my life might be easier if I'd bitten the proverbial bullet and randomly selected a profession; at least then I'd have a safety net. However, I also would've devoted numerous additional years to schooling and certainly wouldn't have had many of my [inspiring] worldly experiences. I still haven't cobbled together much of a Life Plan, but maybe that's okay. In a world where there are no guarantees, I suppose I'd rather have a diverse portfolio than run the risk of being pigeon-holed. Unfortunately this strategy will involve a lot of dry spells, uncertainty, and discouraging conversations at the dinner table from time to time.