what to do with your life

Because our parents had REAL jobs

Being self-employed is a wacky adrenalin ride. I was talking to a time management client of mine the other day about the many perils of this particular roller coaster. You would think that being the genuine master of your own professional destiny would be invigorating. Some days it is. But other days, it’s nothing short of terrifying. And then, after talking about it some more, we realized we blame our parents.

The previous generation had more rules. This was accompanied by more limitations but, nonetheless, there was more structure regarding how your life would be. The “Hamster Wheel” was pretty well defined. There were certain kinds of jobs that required certain levels of education or experience. Tradespeople learned trades, doctors and lawyers went to tons of school. And it was even clearer for women. My friend was sharing how her Australian mother had two options if she wanted to work outside the home: nurse or a secretary. Not a very long list.

Just to be very clear, before I really piss off my dear feminist friends, I am in no way implying that we were better off before. But what I am saying is that since the world was so quick to define us and as a society we were so quick to accept that, it required very little personal inspection. When the grocery store is small, the shopping trip gets shorter since there is less choose from.

So maybe it’s all the options. We are drowning in them. What to do, who to be, what to care about and how best to make it all happen. Prioritizing time and energy can feel impossible when everything is on offer. People don’t know how to be happy because as a result of this plethora of choices, indecision has become our middle name. In this context, it’s easy to lose perspective. Perhaps Tyler Durden said it best:

“We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our great war is a spiritual war. Our great depression is our lives.”

Today, there is no gold watch. Fame and fortune would be an enticing option, but we see the toll that takes on the human spirit – um, celebrity rehab anyone?!? So the idea that something else is possible remains. And less and less people seem to have a sense of where to go next, even the ones who basically have a plan.

More than ever, as a result of media and technology, we see on a large scale that anything you may want to do could potentially have an audience. Some of the best career gurus base their work on the premise that if you enjoy something there must be others who do too. And if you become truly excellent at it, someone will pay you money for it. But instead of looking outside, we now have to look in to find the goods. Our professional quest can inadvertently become existential, fast.

I believe that we do all have a purpose here. Not necessarily that it is predestined but that it is something we can discover/create. It seems logical that the stuff that makes us unique can show us what we are here to contribute. Perhaps this can serve as our “true north” when it comes down to how we should focus our energy, our breath and our very limited time on this planet. This work is not easy and is not an exact science. But if the only other options are mediocrity or oblivion, what choice do we really have?

Yes, our parents had jobs. But we have a personal quest to meet ourselves. Not too shabby.

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