When I was a kid, I used to think adults who said they still didn't know what they wanted to be when they grew up were liars. Or at least just kidding. I mean, come on—Adults are Grown-Ups. Synonymous. Grown-Ups, thought my childhood self, are finished. They have real life jobs that they picked out special when they went to real life school, and now they work and that's it. And they do what they want. Game over.
Granted, my childhood self saw this somehow as both less of a downer than it seems (Game over? How...depressing) and also fantastic—a life goal. To pick a Job (capitol J!) and ta-da!, the rest of your life basically unfurls before you, ripe for the living.
Then, the strangest thing happened.
I grew up.
And the game changed. Suddenly my "Adults have it all figured" strategy wasn't working anymore because my adult self began regurgitating those funny things Grown Ups used to say: I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up.
And I discovered there's a lot more to that than just an oxymoron. There's fear, kind of. Or maybe that's just me. But a fear like, what if I never figure it out? What if I spend the rest of my life perplexing children by being this bonafide adult who hasn't picked out an adult life yet? Anxiety. What if pick the wrong career? What if I end up back in a lecture hall, drooling mindlessly over lecture notes praying that my purpose in life will suddenly flash before my eyes during another text-laden PowerPoint.
I never wanted that for myself. When I was younger, teachers, people like that, would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and it was okay that I didn't know then—I was six, or ten, or twelve, or whatever. But now I find myself having those conversations again, in a way, and I'm often at a loss. I'll meet someone new, commence small talk. And, of course, school comes up.
And this is how it goes:
"Oh, you went to A&M?"
"What's your degree?"
"Oh, cool, so you want to teach?"
Ok, so that's an awkward way to wrap up that exchange, I know. But it's true. Yes, I have an English degree. No, I don't particularly want to teach. But that's always the conclusion people reach, and then I start questioning things. Should I want to teach? If not, should I have majored in something else? But there wasn't really anything else I wanted to major in. So what am I doing? What will I be doing?
And the stress returns.
But folks, here's what I'm learning the older I get, and maybe 26 isn't old, but it's older than I was when I first started college, and a lot has changed.
I think it's okay to not know. I think it's fabulous if you do, and I know people who were blessed with a gift and the passion to go for it and the incredible luck to know exactly what they want to do now that they're "grown up". But for all of those people, I know just as many that are still searching, seeking, learning. Trying to find where they fit, taking stock of their skills and natural gifts and looking into the marketplace of jobs to see where their niche is.
And that's okay.
I used to think once you picked, that was it. You take a job, and by golly you'd better love the crap out of it because that's The One. The Job. The end-all/be-all mystical career you will climb ladders in for the rest of your life.
I don't think that anymore.
Sure, it's ideal. And if you've got it, congratulations! That's brilliant.
If you don't, don't panic! Don't shy away from things you're unsure of because What If. Because the thing is, it's a job. If you hate it, you don't have to stagnate in misery. You can bow out, pop another bit of experience on your résumé, and try again.
Because I do believe that eventually you'll find it. And you'll transcend your childhood "I dunno" and find your adult "I do know" and you'll be satisfied.
And if you aren't, you can continue to baffle people by telling them you still don't know what you want to be when you grow up, exactly like I've been doing.
And you can keep looking.
Chins up, friends. Your place in the world is out there. If you've found it, you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't, you will.
Until then, embrace the journey, accept the challenge, and don't stress yourself stupid trying to measure up to any other Grown Up out there.