This has got to be the most common issue on the minds of quarter lifers. Some of my first memories are of people in my life asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I even graduated from daycare (yes, my daycare had a graduation) when I was at the ripe age of 3 and each kid had to announce what they wanted to be when they grew up as a grand gesture of setting out to climb the ladder to success.
I proclaimed that I was to be a veterinarian.
A word I just struggled to spell right now, so clearly that didn’t work out…
And then the moment you step into high school or even earlier, things are kicked up a notch. What credits are you getting for post secondary school? Are you taking college or university level classes? What kind of job will you get with that education? ? ? ?
Some people just know. They have their passion clearly outlined in front of them. What they are really good at and what they are interested in lines up just right and leads them straight directly into a post secondary program.
Others are on the fence.
And others haven’t got a clue.
I remember going into my guidance counsellor’s office countless times during my grade 12 year. There were tears and frustration and it felt as though I was making a decision that would determine the rest of my life. I had been resisting the idea that I could go to school for something that I already knew I was good at – dance. Finally I succumb to this idea and decided to apply to Fine Arts Dance Programs in Ontario.
I didn’t necessarily see the exact job I would seek after graduating, but I did know that the entire experience of moving away to school, immersing myself in an art form that was effortlessly dear to me, and transitioning into adulthood surrounded by likeminded people was going to be amazing.
What I didn’t know was that it was going to be utterly transformative and it didn’t matter that I wasn’t going to leave school with a job waiting for me to jump into. What school gave me and what I made it to be was a chance to explore what I was good at and tailor my experience to the common theme in my life that I had been failing to see when figuring out what career path I wanted.
Even at my daycare grad, the core of who I was shone through my silly career aspirations. I wanted to help others. I wanted to put this amazing empathy I have to work for the greater good. When I studied dance, I found a way to deviate from the beaten path and combine my degree with a certification program in order to fuse together my love for both social change and art. I took the opportunity to practice helping others and facilitating workshops within a hands on internship and then went on to be hired by that same organization a little over a year after graduating.
What I know for sure is that there have been clear ‘checkpoints’ in my life. These are the moments when I think I have it all figured out. When I feel clear on my intentions and what I’m doing here in this life. And then 2 or 3 years after that checkpoint, everything I thought I knew changes or I outgrow it.
We are so consistently evolving and changing our thoughts and beliefs during our 20’s and 30’s that it isn’t really possible to say we know for sure what we’re doing with our lives. Perhaps some of us can’t say this at any age.
Here’s my real talk advice:
If you’re worried about what to do, write down a list of what you love. Then write down another list of what you’re good at (not what you think you’re good at but what you actually have skills and proof of being amazing at).
Then take some time to compare those lists. Find the places where they intersect. Once you find some commonalities between the ‘good at’ and ‘love it’ lists, work with a friend or family member to brainstorm career, life path, or volunteer options that fit the criteria.
Choose one and do it. You are never bound to one thing for the rest of your life. You can evolve and change over time but as long as you keep to a path, like mine of helping others and exercising my empathy, the work you do and the skills you gain will be transferrable.
The worst thing you can do is sit at a stand still and not choose anything at all. One of the most important things I’ve learned as I’m growing up is that you really can’t know until you’ve tried. So do an internship, talk to people who have that career, practice what you’re good at, and what you’re curious about being good at. Try all sorts of things and diversify your life!
Need clarity in your education, career, or life path? Check out the Clarity Package that I offer through The Courage Collective. In 5 sessions, we will turn your frustration and lack of clarity into a less complicated, clearer mindset with action steps to confidently take you into the future. Don’t make yourself sick over figuring this stuff out, let me help you through real exercises and strategies that work.
Thanks for reading!