When One Path Isn’t Good Enough

Whenever you come across people who have that cool job or moved to a new place, often the question of how they first knew they wanted to do that comes up. And once in awhile there will be those who respond with, “I knew since I was young that I wanted to do that.” And for many of us, who still might be searching for the ideal job or destination, it can feel like a kick to the soul as if we did a terrible job figuring out what we wanted to do with our life.

We all know the craziness of having to have some sort of idea of what we want to do by the time we reach university. At least, that’s what we’re made to believe in society. It can be even harder in some countries, which foster the belief that what you study in school is virtually the only career you can do. While in other countries, like the United States, the idea of the degree being a supplement to the experience you gain can allow people to explore different careers; as long as relevant skills can carry over. Regardless of the country, many of you out there might be in a period of life where you feel stuck. Uncertain. Is this what I want to do? Is there something else I can see myself doing? How can I go about doing this? Am I willing to do what it takes and risk a leap of faith?

You’re not alone, as I have been in that boat since I was a kid. Entering high school, we were already being guided to not only look towards university once we graduate, but also what to consider studying. I took those tests, which were indeed helpful in narrowing down areas (not necessarily specific careers) that I could see myself doing. I knew things like accounting, research, engineering and intensive math were not up my alley. Other things like sports, acting, medicine, and human service were among those I could end up doing. While these tests, as well as self exploration, can help with figuring out what we may or may not enjoy doing, they don’t offer a peek at what to expect. There’s mainly what is seen on television and movies, and those are not always accurate depictions. One thing you could do is talk to people in the industry, but every experience and response will be different. It was fun everyday, the people were terrible to work for, the pay was amazing, you had no days off, and more.

Choice #1 or Choice #2? Yes.

Several successful people talk about doing things that we don’t necessarily love in order to be successful. There are two sides to that notion. One side is that it’s true, and that you really shouldn’t do what you love. Doing what you love as a job will eventually diminish that original passion you once had for it, as it becomes somewhat of an obsession to be good at it and be able to sustain such a job. Whether it’s art, travel, cooking, sports and more it will be a never-ending pursuit to appease and meet the demands of the clientele. What started out as a fun, honest food blog to talk about friendly neighborhood restaurants can suddenly turn into a marketing outlet that pays for strictly good publicity. That’s just one example of how what we love can change over time.

And on the other spectrum is that fact that if no one did what they loved, then we wouldn’t have the greats in life. Whether it’s musicians, actors, scientists, inventors and more just imagine if they didn’t pursue what they had a passion for. There wouldn’t be your favorite bakery in town, that coffee shop or glamping place because those self-starters didn’t follow their dreams. It’s that classic battle between realists and dreamers, however both can coexist within the same person too. Too often do we think in an “either/or” mindset. Are you a glass half full person OR glass half empty? Are you an introvert OR extrovert? Do you prefer French food OR Italian food? And there are people like us who say, “why can’t it be both?”.

Everyone tends to lean a little more to one side, whether it’s the situation or preference. You’re a little more extroverted than introverted, or you’re more urban than nature. However, we are not absolute creatures and we are constantly changing whether it’s our personality, interests or beliefs. Those changes can effect many other areas of our lives from the people we hang out with, to the lifestyle we live, and even the type of job we want. Many of you might be going through a sort of existential crisis trying to figure out what you want to do in life. Will it be meaningful? I mentioned successful people talking about what it takes to be successful and pursuing dreams, but we also have to remember that word “success” and realize what is successful to them can be different for the rest of us.

Success Looks Differently

How do you define success? When you look back on life, what is it that you have done that will make you be happy and proud? These and more existential-like questions of figuring out who we are in this big world can overload the mind. But success varies for everyone. For the highly successful, they talk about it as if you want to do something that will make you a millionaire or billionaire. Sure, we all want to live comfortably and provide for ourselves and maybe others. But what they see as comfortable won’t look the same for others. Some are actually turned off by the lavish lifestyle, and not everyone wants to live in a upscale loft or mansion. Successful lives are what we make of it. Some who go into teaching feel successful knowing they are shaping the lives of future generations. Others sacrifice years studying, as life goes by, to become doctors and improve people’s lives. Plenty see success through traveling to as many places around the world, and uncovering it’s mysteries and broadening their horizons. And some go into accounting to be financially successful and not worry about living paycheck to paycheck.

But it’s hard for some to strictly pick one path and roll with it, especially when life and it’s people say that we should just choose and go. The irony is that what once worked in the past is no longer applicable in this modern time. A hundred years ago, there were a lot less people and job titles were fairly simple. You could be in one job for many years. But now we have grown so fast and created/destroyed careers with expanded knowledge and technology. People who used to make candy or shine your shoes have been replaced by machines. Instead of going to school, some want to be professional gamers and make money online. And many nowadays think about being influencers whether it’s for clothing, makeup, food, vlogging, etc. to become successful. All the while, unique jobs are being born that we had no idea existed. Have you ever heard of a bioethicist, color experts, flavorists, veterinary acupuncturist, or even a professional cuddler?

There are so many options, how could we ever know at a young age (or even now) what exactly we want to do when there are so many options we may or may not know about? It can also be hard to simply pick one path, because we might be afraid of settling and possibly wasting our potential away. Sure you’re doing okay, and are content, as an engineer but maybe you’d be more happy and find personal success owning that bakery you thought about. Going back to the irony of picking one path is that we simply don’t pick one path. We no longer live in a world where we work at one company, in similar positions, for decades upon decades. There’s still those who stay, like doctors, in one field but for many others there are moments where the ‘Reset’ button is hit and a new career begins.

Times & People Have Changed

We are always moving whether through jobs or to other places; sometimes both. A statistic once floated by that I was told in which the average person changes jobs about 12 times in their lifetime. Twelve. As much as we wish we could be one-and-done and thrive, often we end up going someplace else. Maybe you want to challenge yourself, they didn’t pay enough or offer plenty of hours, maybe you wanted to travel less, or perhaps that former supervisor was the worst you ever worked for. Whether quitting, getting laid off, retiring/unretiring there were reasons it didn’t work and moving on to something new. Times like these, or long periods where you’re not working, can make one reflect on what you did and want to do. And again, you find yourself wondering if you will enjoy doing what you want to do or did you enjoy it.

When meeting others, and they see this, it can make them either relate or pull back. It can be comforting to find others who are trying to find their path as well, and it’s frustrating when people you may hardly know look down on you. Viewing you as if you’re not driven or don’t have your life together. While some are unfocused and slacking, we’re talking about those who are determined but trying to find that path. Make no mistake, not everyone has their life together. Not everyone was born with a silver spoon in their mouth, and at any time the life they built can be instantly crumbled and lead them to where you are. In a time like today, where many have been laid off, there are now many certainly in your shoes. So whether you’re 18, 25, 35, or even older don’t let what others think of you get to your head. Not the strangers, your friends or even family. Yes it’s not a fun feeling when you’re 30 or 40, living at home with your parents still trying to figure things out, but think of it this way: You’re actually closer to finding that path than you think, compared to those spending years doing something that they’re “content” with but not fully enjoying and simply settling for this life.

Sometimes we wish that dream job would just fall into our lap, because there are just way too many possibilities. And for people like us, who have many different interests and can see ourselves in different roles, it’s not easy. One thing that can help is indeed having connections with others, even if a friendship doesn’t form. Just getting to know them, their personalities and beliefs. Tie that into what they do, and see if they’re happy and successful (remember it’s different for everybody). But probably the most important thing here, and in general, is being willing to take that leap of faith. It can take on many forms – this brave act. Maybe it’s joining a business just starting with the future uncertain. Perhaps it’s in a field you’re not too familiar with, but heard good things and could be fun. Or it might be abroad where you’ll have to decide if you’re willing to leave family and friends (at least for a while). And now we reached traveling.

No Place Like. . . Global?

While a huge chunk of the post has focused on career paths, so far, there are still other paths that are hard for people to sort out. Another big one is traveling, whether for trips or living. You wanderlusters, you, can sometimes have a hard time picking where to go next. So many places to see, yet so little time. Whether going alone, with friends, or loved ones it can be hard to pick a place in absolute because there are many reasons each place is cool to go to. You could hold a koala in Australia, but wait(!) you can explore the underwater restaurants in the Maldives or Spain, or(!) you can visit Patagonia in South America. It’s as if you could throw a dart at a map, and be happy to visit wherever it lands. Now imagine if you had to choose a place to live abroad.

Like careers, the best thing you can do is talk to people there to see what it’s like. Talking to fellow foreigners living there, and gauge how they’ve been received since moving there. And, of course, taking that leap and seeing for yourself. It can be easier when younger to do something like be a flight attendant or an au pair, but for those older and ready to (somewhat) establish roots someplace else that leap must be more calculated; or it should be at least. Not only are you bidding adieu to family and friends close by, but so many other things must be considered as well. Those delicious cultural foods you love will certainly not be in the new country you go, although you might be lucky to find places that try to recreate it. Gone are your favorite to-go places that you frequented often, you’ll be far away from your sports teams, and certain events famous in your area you will miss out on. You might even go to a place that’s speaking primarily a different language.

So why leave it all for a place unlike what you’ve known as home? Because it isn’t home, and for some they know home is elsewhere. It’s not to say where you grew up, or living in for a long time, was bad but that you’re ready to have new experiences. You understand that there’s a world beyond the places and people within your town’s boundaries, and that you have a chance to like new things there. However, there will always be that home you’re familiar with, and can always come back to if things don’t work out. Maybe this move is spurred from your beliefs not matching society there in your city (not family-friendly, for example), or the environment doesn’t suit your needs (too cold, people are rude, not near the sea). It could be that you’re more interested in a certain culture, or country, and want to be there.

Bursting Bubbles

Many times you run into someone who goes to visit, or live in, a place for a while and proclaims it’s the best place in the world! Yeah, you know exactly the type of people I’m talking about. It may or may not have been their very first trip, but they’ll give their spiel about why [insert place here] is such an incredible place to be. They talk as if it’s the only place in the world worth living in, and that it will have everything you could ever need. It can be the other way around, with people proclaiming their home country/city is the best, but we’re focusing on the travelers side here.

I’m not exactly proud to admit this, but I always try and burst their bubbles or anyone hyper-focused on visiting/going to mainly one place. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still that optimistic/follow your dreams type person who wants to help people reach their goals and potential. But by that same token, I also am a realist and help people reach their potential; making sure they’re not close-minded to other things. For example, my sister lived in Qatar for several years. Upon moving back here, she couldn’t stop nitpicking things that were done here as opposed to over there. The food, the sites, the activities she’d do over there she wouldn’t stop talking about. Telling me how I’d love it if I lived over there. Then one day I said, “You know if I lived in Australia for a while, then came back here, I’d be saying the same thing too”.

She knew then I was getting tired of hearing about it, but also that what I said was kind of true. I’ve never been Down Under, and I wouldn’t know if I’d actually like it there, but that I could enjoy any place other than home as well and proclaim it better or the best place ever. Whether looking to get away from home, or just looking for a different experience, it’s easy to fall into the love-struck feeling for a new place; especially if it’s your first time really traveling or you’re trying to run away from a problem. Another example is when I run into non-Americans telling me the first place they want to visit is New York City or Los Angeles. While everybody else in every other state here rolls their eyes as well, it’s not hard to blame them for wanting to go there. The tall buildings, Central Park, Times Square, Hollywood, the beach, and more are there to see.

However, it can be very easy to get caught up in that and it’s here that I slip in some reality to them. I usually talk about how both those cities are the most expensive places in the country, as people who’ve been there before tell me that and I have to reiterate that other places in this country are not like that at all. I mean, a slice of pizza in NYC can cost about $12 USD! Twelve! I can buy at least 2 whole boxes of pizza here if I wanted for that much. Also, the traffic can be insane in either place as well as certain parts of town to avoid. Being mindful of the people, they aren’t always nice like in the movies but then again that can be anywhere. And for those looking to move to LA, for example, we’ve talked about the difficulties it might bring as well as pointing out so many Californians are actually moving out of the state for a reason.

Again, this “bursting bubble” thing is not to turn anyone off from going or shattering their dreams. It’s to a) Show them there’s more in this world besides one place and b) not fall into the infatuated pit that can blind someone. Go travel to places prepared to experience everything; the good, bad and ugly parts. Especially if you’re moving abroad, you must look at all factors and not get caught up on the glitz and glam of whatever that place offers. There will be bad days, and you will run into rude people wherever you go. Some days you’ll miss where you were before, and other days you’ll enjoy the adventure on the road. If you’re fortunate to find a new home abroad, that’s amazing! However for those still wandering or debating where to go next, having all those options can once again leave us frustrated.

When Can You Move In?

Many people I’ve talked to, including myself, tend to have a list of places to travel to. Some are more urban-based, while others are sea-based. Several destinations are big cities, and others might be smaller towns. While most might have a “preferred” top travel destination, usually the list is not in any particular order. It’s getting there that can be tricky. Besides money, having time is another factor as we know we only have so much of it. And for those wanting to move to another country it’s more things to do. The hoops we must jump through to take our lives across to a different place is crazy. At the heart of it all is either securing a spot at school or getting a job. And now we’ve come full circle of jobs and traveling.

I’ve talked about this in a prior post, pertaining to myself, but generally the two options for anyone are: try and get a job in another place from home or take the risk and move there to look for a job. We’ve talked about the struggles of having to pick a career that has so many options to combine with our varying interests. Now compound all that with choosing a new place to move to, especially if you dare to move first and then look for work. It can be scary, but despite the fear and risk there is beauty behind all of this.

Basic Interest

In trying to tie all of this together, which I’ll be honest has not been easy (just look how long it’s been since my last post), it all began with the one issue many of us have: so many interests. We were never just a one person show, where we were known for one thing only. Meanwhile Alex was obsessed with K-Pop culture, or Josh couldn’t stop gaming and Sidney was all about thrash metal. For folks like us, we could be all that and then some.

Even when people ask me my favorite music or movie genre, I tell them everything. Because that’s practically the truth (except maybe very heavy metal)! I listen to all types of music from 1930s-present, English to Spanish to Middle Eastern, and from Jazz to Country to EDM and more. Movies, sports, art, events, etc. you name it and I’d probably be down for it as well. Maybe you relate to an extent as your interest options are widely varied. No one weekend might look the same, while your friends and family appear to have a routine of sorts. And while in our head we have a sense of passion for all of it, others around us might see differently as if we’re not as committed to something.

We have a vast set of interests, but none of which we stick to and go with specifically. Blending it in with our personality, we know ourselves and what we enjoy doing. We have the freedom to go out and do any options we want. However, when it comes to sliding it into careers, that freedom is limited; and that is what we don’t like so much. All those paths being scrunched in, and choices must be made. And though I said we tend to change jobs quite a bit throughout our lifetime, we always try to go for that ‘one-take’ mentality. No one wants to bounce around twelve times, and go through all those interview processes.

There may be a dream job you know you want, and it’s possibly attainable if you’re willing to do what it takes; and I mean anything. But for everything else, there can be a middle ground that meets most of your needs. I mentioned there’s a beauty in having all these different interests, and not knowing what path to take. Here is why:

Let The Compass Guide You

Besides being an awesome person with many interests, beyond the boundaries of career, it makes you very adaptable for different workplaces. Imagine one person going through life focused on one thing (let’s use being an actor as an example), and so you went through school and work at a coffee shop while trying to get a role in a show or movie. Then one day, reality hits and acting is no longer cut out. Distraught about the dream being shattered, they might go on to work in real estate, selling insurance, or something vastly different and not feeling fulfilled in life. Meanwhile you, with your many interests, comes in and tried coaching (for example) but didn’t work. You’re okay with that, as you go on to the marketing field. It happens to be another interest of yours, and you can take relevant skills like strategic planning and statistical analysis with you into this field. And you feel fulfilled knowing you still crossed off some of your needs in a job.

We often feel stressed from not knowing where we want to work, or where we want to travel, because we see others already making strides towards something. And comments from others that might suggest we don’t have our act together can be uninspiring. Can it be harder to think of what to do? Sure. But it actually can be easier to act on what to do. See many people tend to put all their eggs in one basket (such as moving on to New York City), and focus only on that. But it can be better to spread the eggs around, and not just set yourself up for success in one area but several areas. Look at celebrities (I know they’re richer but bear with me on this), as they not only do their job but also do other things such as clothing lines, charities, and public speaking events. It’s on a grander scale, yes, but you can do just the same.

You can satisfy your interests in many ways. If you choose to pursue medicine, you can, but maybe volunteer at a garden nursery since you also like flowers. There you might even learn the in’s and out’s of running a nursery, and establish connnections. Or you could work at a psychology internship, while at nights having fun hosting a local sporting league. Suddenly, event planning and hosting (maybe sports announcing) not only are interests but could become viable career options. It’s all about experience people, and using that relevancy to continue pursuing something that meets your needs. More than likely, not all of your needs will be met unless you do find that dream job out there. But you can most certainly meet many of your needs in a job or going abroad. For the New York City example above, instead of putting all your eggs in that basket, being open to perhaps starting off in Philadelphia at least opens the door to eventually moving to NYC. It’s all about getting your foot in the door.

Life will always be constant, and we cannot just tell it what we want. We have to work with what he have, and be willing to make sacrifices as anything can happen; such as this current pandemic. Just keep in mind to do things you’re interested in, and be adaptable; for that is a valuable trait wherever you go. Having interest in so many things and places can be confusing, but it’s not a negative rather it’s an extreme positive. It opens up so many options that you can fall back on. Yes, the uncertainty part is not fun and as we get older we feel like we don’t have much time. But reflect on those much older, who did things like going back to university or ran their first marathon. It’s never too late to go and do something, whether you were focused on one thing or many.

The most important thing to remember, though, is to not settle. Don’t settle for a job just for the sake of telling yourself this is stable enough to tolerate as a career, or you’re going to travel here just because it isn’t so bad and isn’t where you are now. Try as many of those options as you want to, rather than feeling like you have to hit a bullseye on just one of those interests. In my lifetime, I saw myself as a doctor, radio host, copywriter, athlete, firefighter, police officer, travel show host, counselor, physical therapist, pro gamer, and more. A lot of options, but did I pick one? No, I tried several. Maybe not at once, but I always left doors open.

In university, I bounced between majors before ending with psychology. But I minored in biology, which left that door open for medical school. And I got to try for doctor, and had it not been for chemistry, who knows where I’d be now. While I wait for society and the economy to re-open, I’m interning in what I hope opens the door for advertising realms. And I’m still trying to get the podcast up and running, which lets radio interests be fulfilled. The important thing is I’m trying, and sought out interests, rather than settling on just one for the rest of my life. Same goes for traveling, as there is no one and only place I want to see or move to. I can see myself in many different places. Will I be happy there? Well, there is only one way to find out. But if you have a list of places to go to, and don’t know where to start first, just pick one that meets most of your needs. Eventually you’ll knock out the rest of your list. You don’t need to be hyper-focused on one thing to be successful.

Imagine if Eat, Pray, Love only took place in the U.S. or just Italy. Julia Roberts would not have answered many of her questions had she not followed through the rest of her trip, and met the other people along the way. I’m not saying everyone needs to go on some existential journey to find yourself, a career, or your home. Rather, I’m saying Julia had many interests as well and, instead of just picking one, she tried as many as she could. She knew what it would take to do it, did it and ended up happy at the end. At the end of this one-supposed-life we have, that’s the main thing we want to be – happy. And I’m happy with what I’ve done so far because I followed many of my interests whole-heartedly; although the uncertainty of this pandemic and not having a job makes things a little anxious. But my path is far from over, just like yours isn’t.

It definitely threw a wrench in many of our plans, which may be why we’re here having this conversation about paths to take. In the end, we’re not alone and you have that support that will make sure you’re okay no matter what. And if you don’t have that support, it’s not hard to look for it nearby; or even across the world. The simplest (yet hardest) things to do when it comes to following paths – whether careers, traveling, etc. – are to not limit yourself, try as many as possibilities as you want, talk to different people who can offer different thoughts and perspectives, and be willing to make a few compromises as some of your interests/needs might not be met. Focus on what you will enjoy. I avoided saying this too much throughout this post, but above all you know what you have to do to find that path – take the leap of faith you know you’re capable of doing. . .


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