I was having lunch with a good friend of mine earlier today and we were discussing how hard it is to figure out what you want to do in life, career-wise. She has entered a new chapter of her life and has the time to try different things – volunteer, teach, administer, perform. But she’s not sure what direction to take it. I am at a point in my life where I’ve tried a LOT of different things, and still feel I have no clue what it is that I want to be when I “grow up”. We’re both in our early 30’s, at a time when most people, even if they are not completely sure of what they want to do, settle on…something.
But, one of the hardest things for me in deciding what I SHOULD do is that the things I CAN do, the things I WANT to do, and the things I LIKE to do are all very different things. They never seem to all add up for me into one perfect career. For instance, I LIKE to sing, but I CAN’T do it very well, and certainly not well enough to make a living at it. At one point in my life I thought I WANTED to teach, but I don’t ENJOY doing that as much as I thought I would. I also LIKE to play the drums, but apparently not enough to stick with it for any length of time. Same goes for playing the guitar. In all honesty, I wish I were a puppeteer. Because at least I’d be in control of something.
Instead, I have ended up doing a mishmash of things, ranging from writing grant proposals for nonprofits to marketing for small businesses and owning my own online marketing consultancy. I don’t hate doing any of these things; I rather like doing them. But I don’t LOVE doing them. I imagine most people feel the same about their career choices, but I DO run into people who are so gung-ho about their jobs, maybe they’re acting, I don’t know, but it makes me stop and think: why don’t I have that kind of passion in my own life?
Or, maybe it’s that I’m scared of settling on ONE thing. I like to have choices. I don’t like to do the same thing over and over, though sometimes that’s the best way to get good at it. Maybe I simply haven’t figured out that magical combination yet: What I’m good at, What I like doing, and what I want to do. And then there’s also this thing called an URGE.
Until recently my urges have been very short-lived. I get REALLY excited about something for a few weeks and I get REALLY into it…and then I quit. Once I’ve had a taste of something, the flavor wears off, swallowed and gone. Been there; done that or so they say. As I’ve explained, I started this blog because I have an urge to write. And it seems to be a lasting urge. I think I’m good at writing. I’ve only ever entered two “writing contests”, if you could call them that, and I won them both. Plus, I LIKE doing it. I’ve always liked to write, but I never felt that I was all that good at it, or I didn’t really have anything significant to say. Until now.
Now I feel like there’s so many things I want to say about different topics and to piece together information and bring thoughts to life, in a way that people can connect to my words easily. Not just on this blog, but elsewhere, too. I have an URGE to do this, like I’ve never had an urge to do anything. The problem now is just to find the TIME. But where there is a will, there is a way. And now that I’ve got that urge, that will, and so far it hasn’t died out, I think this is what I SHOULD be doing.
My heart going boom, boom, boom. Yes, I’m quoting Peter Gabriel again. His song was running through my head while writing this post, which is quite appropriate. My friends would think that I’m a nut. Open doors will soon be shut.
But I digress. Let’s get back to looking at this should = can + like + want equation. I think too often people think they SHOULD do something because:
a) they *think* it’s the right thing to do, helping people, etc.
b) it’s what they thought they wanted to do when they were 19 and now it’s too late to change their mind
c) someone else thinks they should
d) other vain reasons, i.e., money, popularity, power, etc.
The truth is that any motives that don’t involve truly looking into oneself deeply (being introspective!) and doing what makes one happy, are the wrong motives, and therefore we end up doing stuff we probably shouldn’t even be doing. (albeit, it takes *some people*, like me, a looooong time to be able to see the real self and get this equation to match up.)
But we have to survive, and unfortunately many of us never get far enough on our life’s journey to reach our full potential because we’re too busy doing just that: surviving. It’s hard to breathe with your head under water. Also, we’re busy with kids/family/life and we suck up the 40 hour work week in hopes of weekends, vacations, and retirement. We all know this.
Still, when I thought about this equation, something struck a chord with me.
What I Should Be Doing = What I Can Do + What I Like To Do + What I Want To Do
This is common sense for most people, but I’ve been struggling too long with an equation that looks nothing like the above, and not only that, but it’s taken me this long to figure out each of the components of the equation that work for me. I’m still figuring it out, I guess, and maybe that’s never ending.
Also, the school of thought that says “Hey, you can do ANYTHING you want” has always appealed to me. What this means, for me, is that even if you weren’t born with a voice like Billie Holiday, you can still sing in some capacity if you work at it hard enough. I wasn’t good at math and it didn’t stop me from being a business major. I never thought I was very coordinated, but it didn’t stop me from taking drum lessons and playing and gigging in rock bands thereafter. I HATED speaking in front of people, but I overcame that by doing it over and over again and torturing myself. Now I’m fine with it.
But enough of the torture already!! All this torture because before I didn’t have anything I wanted to write about! But now I have that URGE. Finally. It makes me feel free. And all my mishaps, struggles, and detours can’t be all for not, right? Maybe all my failed music attempts might just make me a half-decent songwriter, who knows. So MAYBE I’ve been (sort of) on the right track all along? We’ll see!
It’s possible that I end up a penniless street musician. Joking, but I think it’d be fun for a few days!!
(By the way, all pictures on this post were taken in New Orleans in 2003 (I think).