Staying True to Your Path
I felt so guilty fo not making enough money, for moving back in with my parents, and for having an a-typical life path.
"Have you got a full-time job yet?" "So, what are you doing now?" "Have you got work lined up?"
The queries are always well-meant. Sometimes they're even thoughtless conversation starters. Yet I often have a sneaking suspicion that they are disguising the real questions: "What are you doing with your world-class degree? Why aren't you on a firm career path? What are you even doing with your life?!"
In many ways, I have the ideal set-up. Part-time teacher, part-time proofreader. I often get to work from home. I get to see people, then I get to hide away for a while. I'm not overwhelmed by the aspects of the teacher lifestyle I hate -- the System, the inability to switch off, the planning and marking and paperwork that steals me away from other people and activities I love. I'm not a slave to the 9-5 (and overtime).
The downside of part-time or freelance work, particularly at this stage of my career, is that it is not always consistent. It is also not expected, particularly of a 27-year-old with honors in her undergraduate and post-graduate degrees.
(There is also the temptation of succumbing to the easy entertainment of Netflix and mindless Internet scrolling.)
So I often feel guilty:
I'm not making enough money.
I'm a burden on my family (typical Millennial, having moved back home for financial reasons).
I'm not doing enough. (I seem to have inherited a tendency, from all the women in my family, to have a compulsion to do things, and a sense of guilt when I am not doing. Although who defines what "doing things" actually means?)
I'm not where I should be in life.
I'm not on a typical career path.
(Does anyone else remember hearing Twenty-One Pilots' song "Stressed Out" and really resonating with it? "Now they're laughing at our face, singing 'Wake up, you need to make money!'")
It is a little disconcerting to find that you're not actually that passionate about what you thought was going to be your entire career path. (Although who knows, this may just be at this point in my life.)
It does make me feel a touch guilty when I look at my teacher friends in good jobs right out of college, and I do not share their palpable excitement over classroom decoration, lesson plans, and other expectations and preparations for the school year.
I do experience the odd twinge of self-reproach for wanting to continue to explore my options, to have my finger in more than one pie, instead of committing myself to a steady, regular teaching position.
Yet, when society's ideas of success and (sometimes legitimate) concerns about cash flow attempt to crank the guilt higher, I try to remember the importance of staying true to myself and my values.
There are reasons I have chosen to stay where I am for now. They are several and a little complex, but suffice it to say that I have always felt it was the right decision. It may not be typical. It may not be what's expected of me. But it feels right. It is true to what I want. And in spite of my bouts of guilt, I am content.
Contentment counts for a lot.
"What are you even doing with your life?!"
I am being present for friends and family, building relationships with people I love.
I am taking time to deal with personal growth and healing, instead of getting busy enough to ignore my issues. (And believe me, that takes a lot of time and energy!)
I am expanding my professional and personal interests.
I am working with words, which I love.
I am travelling.
I am attempting commitment to a church family and its accompanying responsibilities (which I haven't had to do for ten years!).
I am learning to appreciate beauty in little things and commonplace days.
I am trying to rediscover my creative side.
I am working on finding my passions and creating new goals.
Sometimes, when people's questions and my own comparisons make me feel guilty or inadequate, I have to remind myself that these are all worthwhile pursuits. It's true that my entire life's path has been atypical. But it is my path.
It's true that at some point, probably next year, I will have to take a different path. I'm trying to decide what that path will look like and where it will take me. (Brazil? Asia? England still? Somewhere else entirely?! "The world's your oyster" presents too many options!) Perhaps the next path I take will again be somewhat unexpected. It may look unusual or even risky. But, as James van Praagh says,
"We have all been placed on this earth to discover our own path, and and we will never be happy if we live someone else's idea of life."
Find your vision. Know your values. Stay true to yourself and your own path.
First written in 2017