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What are you doing with your life? It’s okay not to know.
It’s the dreaded question that every person gets when they hit that age when their decisions start to have real consequences. What are you doing with your life?
For the most part, I’ve never really known what to say to that. I’ll stumble over my words and give a half-hearted summary of how I spend my days. Sometimes I’ll embellish the good parts just to seem a little bit more put together. Sometimes I’ll just go with the grade school reply of “stuff”, “you know, just living my life and paying my bills”
I’ve never really felt good about answers like that though for two reasons. First, it’s kind of a rude question based on how personal it is. Second, my answers feel like a lie to both myself and the one I’m talking to. Because honestly? I have no friggin idea what I’m doing. But I think that’s okay.
Some incredibly famous people didn’t know what they wanted to do until later in life
- Alan Rickman was a graphic designer before switching to acting at 43.
- Julia Child didn’t release her first cookbook until she was 50.
- “Colonel” Harland Sanders opened his first KFC at 62.
- Laura Ingles Wilder’s “Little House” books weren’t published until she was 65.
and my absolute favorite
- “Grandma Moses” Anna Mary Robertson Moses didn’t start painting until she was 78!
Life isn’t a race to the finish line. It’s okay to take the scenic path.
Sometimes it can feel like everyone is in a rush to collect and do ALL THE THINGS because that’s what everyone else seems to be doing. That isn’t the only way to live though.
It’s okay to take things slow and fully explore where you are right now before moving on to the next thing. Marriage, house, babies, “serious” career. These are life-changing events that deserve proper time for consideration. You don’t have to decide right out of graduation what you want out of life. Enjoy the experience of finding out who you are first.
My favorite self-care mechanism for when I feel like I’m falling behind in life is what I call Timezone thinking. Because of the whole rotation of the Earth thing, it is a different time of day based on where you are on Earth. It might be 7 pm here in Florida but it’s already 1 am tomorrow in Germany, and 8 am in China. I just ate dinner but the people in China just had breakfast. Are either of us “doing it wrong?” No, of course not. We are living at the same time, it just happens to be a different time of day.
Life is like that too. You might not have accomplished the same amount as your former classmates but that’s okay. They are just living their life in a different timezone. Just because they are having breakfast doesn’t mean you need to be eating breakfast right now too.
No one wants to be unhappy at 50 or 60 or 70 because they rushed into something just to be doing something.
The urge to be doing something, anything, is strong. I get it. But don’t commit to something just because you are afraid to be alone with yourself.
Sometimes doing nothing is the way to find your perfect something.
My main point is don’t make any HUGE LIFE ALTERING decisions just because you feel like you need to do something bold to make up for a recent lack of exciting decisions. Like choosing to get married because you are feeling guilty about not finishing college. Or having a baby because you got passed over for a promotion. Reactionary decisions are not ideal.
This is your one wild and precious life. You can do or not do whatever you want with it. Look for the adventure.
Your time is precious and uniquely yours. You are free to do with it what you want, as scary as that is. I suggest that you look for the adventure in every day.
If you’re lucky you’ll find that the looking is the whole point.
So, the next time you get that mildly panic-inducing question, “What are you doing with your life?” just respond with “Living it.” Because you know that that is good enough for now.
You aren’t here to compare yourself to others when you’re enjoying the experience of learning who you are and what you really want to get out of this beautiful existence. You’re looking for the adventure.