It plays over and over again in my mind. Sometimes it plagues me. Sometimes it’s more of a nagging itch. Other times it arrives with a shrug, as in “I know you’re still there but there’s nothing I can do about you right now.”
I’ve often thought that my struggle with this question came from a lack of parent/teacher direction when I was a teenager, but now I am not sure that this is the case. The only “job” I ever really dreamed about as a child was writing, but my dad always told me that was impractical. So, I ended up just letting my career develop organically, jumping from job to job until I found something that worked in terms of enjoyment and reward.
But was it really what I wanted to do? Like, for the rest of my life?
No. And I knew that almost instantly when I was laid off in 2014. The wash of relief was very much like being glad that your boyfriend finally broke up with you because it’s been over and you haven’t had the nerve to cut the ties yourself.
So, what do I want to do when I grow up?
A question that motherhood has served to both highlight and confound. With three children at home, I have very little time to think about myself, let alone dream and scheme about my next career move. But every now and then, especially as the children grow and become more capable, this question forces its way back to the forefront of my mind. Begging to be answered. Determined to be heard. And at those moments when I finally stop and listen, I am more inspired to find that right answer because of how little time I can devote to such a task. With my heart bent towards my children, whatever takes my attention away must be really precious. Really worthwhile.
This final pregnancy has delayed my ambitions for the time being. I know fully well how much time and attention and energy a new baby will need, and I’ve slowed up my plans accordingly. Before we decided to have just one more, I was considering a freelance writing career, dabbling in copywriting and essay writing. There were books I wanted to write and small businesses I wanted to run.
Despite knowing that my time will be monopolized in the near future, ideas come to me in droves. My cousin just finished her doctorate, didn’t I want to go back to school for a doctorate? My passion for business and psychology could lead me to a study of industrial organization psychology. So, back to school. Would that be worth it? Another 2-3 years of devotion to set myself up for a potential consulting job?
What if I went back to a corporate career – didn’t I find enjoyment in the sense of accomplishment and structure of corporate life? I would certainly enjoy the regular paycheck and benefits. But seeing my husband run his own business and reap the rewards of entrepreneurship has given me a craving for the same. Don’t I want to be my own boss? Do I have enough discipline?
The truth is: I like pieces of everything. I can get excited about so many different topics and so many different fields. And that is what I think is the more likely culprit in my lack of answer to this question than the vague direction I received as a youth. Too many passions leave me floundering between them all.
I recently came across a great TED Talk that helped me feel better about this. Emilie Wapnik has spent many years coaching people who feel the way I do; people with varying interests, dreams, and desires. Her philosophy is that it’s totally normal to have “multiple potentials” and we just have to figure out the best way to navigate them. I’m picking up her new book and will review on the blog.
But… back to that dreaded question.
The answer is: I don’t know. But let me tell you what I do know.
I know that I have many, many passions. I know that I have time to sort it out, although I will probably have more time to do so after our newest addition arrives and becomes more independent. I know that it’s okay to try things and fail. I know that I have time in this lifetime to do several different things, perhaps at the same time, perhaps consecutively.
I am okay with not having an answer for today. For now, I’ll keep weeding through my passions, taking the time to explore what constitutes me. I’ll be making some lists and testing out some theories. Want to join along? I’d love some creative collaboration on this journey!