I have a cousin who has always known she wanted to be a teacher. Even when we were little kids, she’d line up her dolls and give them names and homework. When she got her first computer, she promptly made a register for them to include a roll call. All throughout school, she worked toward this goal without ever faltering or failing. She made good grades, never got into trouble, had two parents who supported her, went to church, got a scholarship to one of the best teaching universities in the state, and graduated, moving on to fulfill her life-long dream. She’s two years older than I am and she still loves teaching.
I, on the other hand, have never had a clear path to walk. I’ve never had visions of my future or even any real goals to work towards. I’m good at loads of things, but not good enough to base my aspirations on them. I’ve spent my whole life fighting to survive, much less thrive.
I was on the honor roll through 4th grade, until my home life got the best of me. A year or two later would see me in and out of courts, foster care, and deaths of loved ones. I failed 5th grade, failed 6th grade, was withdrawn, aggressive, and had no friends. My momma pulled me out of the public-school system and decided it was best to homeschool me. I skipped 7th grade, but I never could fully recover. I hit high school overweight, rebellious, and wild. I made bad decisions, lied about everything I could, pushed people away, and did my best to disappear into drugs and God. (Funny enough, I clung to my church like it was the only water source in the desert) I dropped out of high school, got my GED, and was in self-destruct mode until I threw myself into a lesbian relationship with someone who had a baby. I worked various jobs, earning me some interesting experience points in the business world, but still had no idea where to aim my efforts. 10 years later, I’d raised 2 children that weren’t biologically mine, and was cheated on by someone I never thought would hurt me.
Fair enough, I learned some valuable lessons, and this isn’t to say my cousin didn’t have her own share of difficulties, but where the hell was I supposed to go in life? What was I supposed to do with myself?
Surprisingly, I’ve always been a pretty well-rounded person. I feel like this comes from being put through nearly every kind of fire imaginable. My momma likes to tell people, if there ever was a nuclear war or some kind of apocalypse, after the dust had settled and the fog cleared, I’d come crawling out of a rock somewhere. This is probably true. I was built to last, I suppose, despite the efforts of many, myself included.
After years of healing, I made the decision to go back to school and try to drive my life in a specific direction, but the problem I faced was much the same as when I was growing up. I felt like I was standing at a crossroads with no idea which direction to go. I left college after two years because I felt like I was spinning my wheels and I didn’t need to waste thousands of dollars trying to force it. I put my nose to the grind and became a kickass bartender, which I loved, but I felt like I was missing some higher purpose. I didn’t want to become a retired bartender any more than I wanted to retire as a store manager, or CNA, or any other of the various job titles I had held and abandoned over the years. I decided I didn’t want a job anymore. I wanted a career, something I could sink into, devote myself to, be proud of. I wanted something I could grow in.
How do you choose a career when you have no real idea how you fit into the world?
When I was in college, I studied the MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator), a personality test that tells you who you are and how you see the world. Everyone in my group got specific horoscope type answers except for me. I scored evenly across the board, proving just how well rounded I truly am. It was when I was writing the paper on my results I realized why I was so disappointed by them. The test was the tangible crossroads I kept seeing in my mind. The thing is, when you can see down every road and are faced with so many choices, you hit the inability to make a choice at all. Being well rounded, is basically the same as the figure of speech, “a jack of all trades but a master of none.” My brilliant cousin saw only one road laid out in front of her so she followed it, bless her, and here I was standing frozen at the start.
So, here’s my advice for people who don’t have a map: To find a viable road, you must narrow down the choices. Keep lists of all the things you’re interested in, passions only, try to follow your heart as well as your head. You can’t afford to lose any more time chasing after something you don’t love. From there, cut out everything you know is a dead end. Cut out everything toxic that’s making you stagnant, this includes damaging people and drama. Open yourself up to opportunities. Be honest and put yourself out there. I started talking to anyone who would listen about my search for self- fulfillment and a career that really spoke to me. I surrounded myself with similar minded people and started becoming a more productive member of society. I branched out, ventured out, and just started walking. I left the crossroads and that was the bravest thing I’ve ever done. The future is a scary place when you have no idea what’s waiting for you.
If you lose sight of where you are, don’t be afraid to start over. There’s a lot to be said for new beginnings and you’re not the only one struggling with this. Some people make it all the way through university and still don’t know what way to go, so be kind to yourself. Stay determined and focused on having a better quality of life. One of the many pearls of wisdom passed down to me from my darling mother was the difference between living and existing. If you live day by day without any drive or motivation, you’re not living at all, you’re just existing… like a bit of furniture. Live every day. Make the decision to get up and go, every step you take is for happiness and happiness is worth everything.
Your destiny has no choice but to find you. No matter what you decide, your future is inescapable. It’s your choice to put in the effort to make it prosperous. Obviously, you can’t control accidents or tragic events, but you can make sure you’re doing everything in your power to ensure a happy life. Maybe I don’t have all the answers, but I know I’ll never stop looking for them. I refuse to settle and maybe that is my dream.