For as long as I can remember, I have struggled with the age-old dreaded question.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
I look at people who have their whole lives figured out with a sense of amazement. It sure must be nice to know what the next steps are and how what you do today directly affects your future but that is not me.
I have always been a free spirit and have always believed in letting the universe decide for me, not because I believe that there is some huge cosmic plan awaiting me, but because, to me, it makes sense. As a child, I changed my career paths as often as one changes clothes and my school essays about where I saw myself in five years were always full of lies.
I have systematically allowed my circumstances to make school, housing, and lifestyle choices for me. I never looked that far ahead before and a few needed exceptions, such as financial planning and the likes, barred, I don’t really want to. I have been very lucky, but in the cases where luck does not favor me, I strive for the best. Making lemonade when life gives you lemons, if you will.
It is okay to not have your whole life figured out by the time you graduate high school because almost nobody does! Heck, I graduated from college and still had no idea where I was going to be in 5 years. I am now halfway through grad-school and finally getting a sense of what I want in life. It is not your fault to feel lost and aimless. Teenage stress levels today are unlike anything previously described and the idea of having to succeed at everything while also having your life planned out is part of the problem.
While I cannot easy the anxieties that result from this type of uncertainty, I can share the things that worked for me through my journey:
Explore new paths
Take that internship, apply for that job, take that class you have been curious about! I have had a string of odd jobs throughout my career and if not all have served a purpose for what I ended up studying, they have certainly taught me what I don’t like doing, what makes me miserable, and what a good leader should look like. Now is the time to walk off the beaten path and test new things!
Get to know yourself
A big part of the uncertainty that comes from not knowing what you want to do comes from not knowing yourself. Test your likes and dislikes. Learn and set your personal boundaries. My grandma used to say “choosing a career is harder than choosing a spouse” and I don’t think she was wrong. The only way to make a wise choice is to thoroughly know yourself.
Learn as much as you can about anything you can
Knowledge is power! Sounds so cheesy but it is really not. You never know where the future will take you and how the things you learn will come in handy. Read new books, study new concepts. There are so many free resources out there that you could use to test the waters.
This post was originally published here!