Life’s purpose, are you out there?

We just finished watching “Julie & Julia” and it was everything I thought it would be and more.  It comes at the most perfect time when I find myself in the same dilemma as the two women depicted in the movie.  Both lost, uncertain what to do with their lives.  It’s comforting to know that the fearless Julia Childs was at one time confused and lost and jumped from activity to activity trying to find her calling.  These stories are always a double-edged sword for me because they comfort me in the fact that I’m not alone in my quest to find myself but these stories always have a happy ending – the main character always wakes up with a grand idea or has an epiphany while taking a stroll through the park.  Their ideas always appear ever so effortlessly.  Needless to say, I’m still waiting for my big idea.  It’s funny that this was the central theme of the movie since I’ve been trying to write a post on my quest for life’s meaning for about a month now but could never express the right words.

I’ve expressed my journey for purpose at one time or another and I feel that my confusion has been magnified over the past year or so.  When I had Olivia, I thought this emptiness would be filled with the newfound role of motherhood but the feeling has been replaced with an insecurity that Olivia will grow up with a less than perfect outlook on her own mother.  I feel this overwhelming dread that I’m not providing Olivia with a good-enough role model for her – that she won’t respect me.  I argue with myself everyday that it’s not the occupation that’s a measure of a person but for some reason I always come back to this argument.  Is my destiny to be a homemaker or am I destined to find something more?  When I was a young girl and I thought I was destined for greatness, was this it?  With the addition of websites like Facebook, I have the unfortunate luck of discovering long-lost friends and past colleagues who proclaim what newfound profession they have conquered or the latest promotion they have received and I can’t help but feel somewhat envious.  Where along the lines did I get so confused?  

I often mention to Ryan that one of my biggest mistakes was choosing Marketing as a major.  My original justification for choosing Marketing was it’s endless array of opportunity.  Being a person who had no clue what to do after college, I decided to pick a major that was filled with opportunities.  Problem I’m discovering now is you never give a person an endless supply of choices if the person has difficulty making decisions.  I have a trend of getting overwhelmed with ideas and shelving the entire project out of frustration.  Perhaps that is what I have done with my career – the unlimited list of opportunities left me confused and frustrated and I just wiped my hands clean of the entire idea of marketing.  It really was a stupid idea for me to pick Marketing – with my social anxiety issue, it’s like a person picking the profession of teaching when they hate children.  

I am constantly torn with the idea if I should return to school and pick a new career path – perhaps something fun and frivolous that encourages creative growth or should I do something noble and contribute something back to society – something that would make Olivia proud of me.  I often think maybe I should go to school and become a nurse or a teacher.  My biggest fear is never finding anything that speaks to me.  I fear I will bounce from idea to idea and Olivia will think of me as “flighty” with no real direction or purpose.  It’s a problem that eats at me everyday and I am determined to do something about it.  I’m planning on creating a New Years resolution for 2010 (more to come later on that topic) that will give me some short term goals – nothing dramatic but something I feel that will help build character and hopefully something that will jump out to me and create that lightbulb moment I’ve been waiting for.  

I hope that in some sense that my story does have a happy ending so I can teach Olivia that it’s OK to not know what you want to do with your life.  I hope that my story can teach her that it’s OK to not have a plan.  However, I feel my lesson will only be effective if there’s an outcome and that outcome is happiness.  I know I’m not the only person out there that feels like I do but it’s annoying as hell when you bump into someone you know who knows exactly what they want to do or has a strong passion (Ryan!)  I still think it’s horribly wrong to expect an 18 year old to pick a major that will define a person’s life career.  Instead of studying one specific topic, people should have the option to study and dabble in a little of everything until you find what fits best.  Believe me, when I have my lightbulb moment, everyone will hear about it and it will be a long awaited joyous moment. . . . until I change my mind on the topic and we start this conversation all over again.

8 responses to “Life’s purpose, are you out there?”

  1. Oh, Jen….do any of us really know "what we want to be when we grow up"? I feel like George Plimpton…which you may be too young to know him. He made a career of having hundreds of careers in his lifetime. For me, I’ve been a stay at home mom while Hugh found success in his career. I’ve taught preschool for many years and then tried my hand as a daycare director (which really sucked). Now, I’m saving orphaned and injured wildlife, and even work regional oilspills. Oh, and by the way, none of these were part of my college degree…go figure. I must say, that wildlife rehabbing has been my favorite and continues to be. So my advice is this…Olivia will always be grateful for the time, love and effort you put into motherhood. While you’re busy doing that, explore the real passions and talents inside you. That’s where you will find the answers you seek.

  2. Thanks mom for the words of wisdom – I always find comfort in knowing I’m not the only one out there with this dilemma. Tim, maybe you and I should start some kind of club or something?? We could have matching shirts with our names on the back!

  3. Jen, I have had this same dilema for some time now (minus the kid). It seems like these last two years I have been in a rut facing the same issues. What am I doing and am I really happy with what I am doing? I realized I wasn’t at all and I know exactly what you mean about knowing someone who is so passionate and great at what they do- Mike all the way! That’s why I decided to go back to school and persue something that I can use my talents on. However, it is so hard to balance the demands of work with the demands of school. I have struggled so much with this because on one hand I want to do really well at work and keep kicking butt. On the other hand that takes away from my energy that I can put into school which then takes away my energy when I am home. This still makes me feel that emptyness of what am I doing and is this really going to work for me. This was the first semster that I questioned even going back next semester because I was having such a difficult time with these feelings and it was causing me to feel insecure. I also agree with the bouncing from thing to thing which I often feel like I do in life. I always felt like I was going to come up with some great idea and it would start some great interesting career path that I would just love and everything would be perfect. Know I ask myself, where is that great idea you were suppose to have and why are you so unhappy with your current career? I can ramble on about this for days to be honest and Mike can attest to that because this is the common topic in the evenings when we are hanging out. I have no advice to offer except to hang in there and you aren’t the only one who feels this way. That movie had the same effect on me as well and hopefully the light bulb goes off for the both of us.

  4. They should really have some kind of class in high school or even in college that allows you to catch a glimpse of several careers – let people discover a passion for something they didn’t know they had. I know especially for me that I quickly become overwhelmed with decisions and eventually just give up all together. Maybe a class like that may be intimidating for me but it can be worked out. I don’t know if I have a passion for any one thing. I have interests but I don’t know if I would pursue any for a career. Perhaps I think of a career as such a permanent fixture. We’re all told while in school that you pick a career and that’s what you’ll do for the rest of your working life. I think the long-term commitment is what scares me into picking a final choice career.

    Michelle, I was just going to ask, are you still going to school for interior design? That would definitely be interesting to study. If you ever need someone to vent to besides Mike, I’m here and we can drive each other crazy with our frustrations!

  5. Jen, I think you nailed it when you stated, you think a career is such a permanent thing.

    Why does it have to be? Honestly, thats your parents ideals talking. They both had one job for their entire life. SO naturally, thats what you know and think. My father was the same way.

    But those days are long gone. Companies are no longer longer loyal to their employees like they were when our parents were starting out. Matching 401ks, retirement plans, gold watches… the only places that do that are the massive, global corporations where you’d feel like more of a number than an employee.

    Tim and I certainly jumped around, me more than him. I switched jobs when the current one sucked or became boring. I always gave whichever new job at least year which granted is a long time but to be fair to everyone involved, its plenty long to get past the introduction jitters and know for sure if it something you want to continue with. I jumped to so many different companies in my span… and who’s to stay what I’m doing today is it?

    I’d recommend trying to find something "good enough to commit to one year" … then after that time, you can decide to switch to something else or stay with your current position just a little longer.

    The other trick is not think of them as a career but instead, as simply something to do with your time.

  6. Well for you Ryan, you jumped from job to job but they were all still within the same career. It takes a lot of time and education to learn a new career. If I decided, Yeah, I’m going to be a nurse. School would take forever and what happens once I finish and start my new job and realize, no this really isn’t for me. Plus, would an employer hire you knowing that you jumped from career to career? Would I really be appealing as a thirty something year old just getting started with a new career vs a younger twenty something year old whose just getting started post-college? I feel like I have a giant ticking clock over my head forcing me to make a decision soon before it’s too late.

  7. I hear ya! I am going to be 32 when I finally graduate and from what I am told everyone in the design world has to start at the bottom then work their way up. This means giant loss in income. Plus, what was the point of working so hard to get where I am at here at work (eventhough I am completely unsatisfied at the moment with this place). I also haven’t exactly found my niche in the design industry. There are many things that interest me, but I have no desire to do forever. I hear ya Jen on the giant time clock ticking over your head. I’m not getting younger and the older I get the louder that clock is becoming.

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