How to Figure Out What You Want to Do with Your Life

Like many other twenty-somethings (and arguably folks of any age), I am on a journey trying to figure out what in the hell I want to do with my life.

It is a universal struggle — I know you have been there (and if not — that’s really great and I’m beyond envious). And in some cases, the struggle may be unending (*dread*) or put more positively, ever-changing.

We can also move in and out of this struggle over time — at one point in our lives we feel we have shit figured out and then at a later moment we are back to square one, wondering how in the hell we got back there. Shit happens. Challenges and change are inevitable, but how we choose to approach them is when the fun really begins.

And so what to do with this dilemma — this “figuring out what to do with your life” thing? Plenty of resources exist that you can consult — books, articles, webinars, courses, entire websites…all good stuff, all helpful in various ways.

But since we live in a world (‘Merica!) where we are always trying to one-up the next person and improve ourselves ad nauseum, I would like to take my place in this world and one-up all of these resources with my own helpful guide to show you how fun this dilemma can be.

And so I give you: “How to Figure Out What You Want to Do with Your Life.”

(Note: Please read on expecting humor and silliness and some nuggets of wisdom — enjoy and cheers!)

Ya ready? 

Let’s go:

  1. Make ten million and one lists of all the things you want to accomplish in your life and then lose them throughout the course of your lifetime to the pages of unfinished books, half-written journals and piles of old mail.
  2. Attempt to find that one list you wrote once upon a time ago that you stuffed into a National Geographic magazine from 2001 because you are sure now that it is the secret to your future all these years and experiences later.
  3. When finding said NatGeo magazine, you gasp in horror! Alas, the list is merely a shopping list from that one time you attempted to make homemade crème brûlée, which, like your life right now, also turned out to be a horrible mess.
  4. Cry.
  5. Cry some more.
  6. And pout and scream and pound your hands against your steering wheel because you are not only frustrated that your life continues to be in shambles because you cannot figure out what to do with said life but also because today’s morning commute is the biggest killer, with a complete stop traffic jam five miles long. The pain, the horror!
  7. Cry even more because all is terrible in the world and life is unfair.  
  8. Read an article about what genocide is going on in the world right now and realize that your life is not terrible nor unfair, sobering yourself up to the reality that surrounds you everyday — that there is more pain in the world than you can comprehend.
  9. Feel bad for thinking your struggles were anything more than trivial.
  10. Continue on with your day, which turns out less desirably than planned — your friend cancelled a long-standing coffee date after work, you catch an error you made on a major project and are repeatedly kicking yourself for it, your mother is nagging you, your father is nagging you, your boss is nagging you, your friends are nagging you. EVERYONE IS ON YOUR CASE AND YOU DON’T KNOW WHY.
  11. Break down. Your head explodes. Not literally, but you feel like it has. You want to cry again, curl up into a fetal position right on your office’s dirty reddish gray yet strangely muti-colored floor caked with months and months of dust you know is there and eye the ever-accumulating dust clusters under your colleague’s desk, collecting in her desktop’s fan, on her lower shelf drawers, on her forgotten pen.
  12. Keep it together because you’re at work and still have some thousand things to get done and your colleagues are counting on you.
  13. Collapse onto your couch at home, face first, like a tipped log, letting out a muffled welp as soon as you get back from work — which is not the work you would describe as your ideal “what I want to do with my life” since you must make this apparent to yourself every chance you get to remind yourself there is some higher goal you are grabbing at which is still unclear to you but you know it’s there.
  14. Know that it is not the worst day in the world. And it is not the worst struggle in the world. But it sure feels like shit nonetheless, all this aimlessness.
  15. Go back to list-making because this restores some sense of control in your life, which you haven’t yet gotten today.
  16. List, list, list, list and realize how brilliant you are or self-critique yourself ad nauseum because you are a self-proclaimed perfectionist and can’t let shit, or yourself, off the hook.
  17. Fall back on the couch, exhausted.
  18. Take a deep breath. And then take another ‘cause you really f’ing need it.
  19. Decide: enough is enough! And that you are enough (cue new age positivity philosophy doves).
  20. Start putting the pieces together to create a more workable vision of your future and realize that your future will not look like your parents’ necessarily or like the person’s next to you or even like your best friend’s.
  21. Ask yourself: What do I like doing? What do I dislike doing? When have I felt most alive, most excited? When I have felt dread? When have I felt most accomplished? Least accomplished? Does money really mean the world to me? What would I do if I lived with less, with more, and what kind of difference does it make in the end? What do I care most about, least? What do I remember doing growing up but have long since put on a dusty shelf thinking it was a silly endeavor but know that my lonely, creative heart hearkens for it day in and day out to take it up once again? And what would you want people to read about you in your obituary — will it be the fame you achieved, the children you helped grow, the world you helped save? What would YOU want someone to write about you after you’re gone?
  22. Answer these and other questions you pose to yourself and analyze the shit outta them. And then over-analyze because you can’t help yourself.
  23. Ground yourself, steady now, and realize that few really have this shit worked out. Realize that you are a part of a community of people trying to figure this all out — you are not alone.
  24. Realize you can find your relatively balanced place in this world once you become at peace with certain aspects of yourself and decide to work toward changing and challenging other aspects.
  25. Realize that you have it in you to take yourself to whatever next level you want to take yourself — whether that is stretching outside your comfort zone or seeing that you have really been happy all along with exactly where you are and with what you’re doing. You are the maker, creator, destroyer of whatever it is you want to make, create or destroy. It sure ain’t easy, but you got this. Because you’re a rock star.

See yourself in this list? Good — know that you are not alone. You’ll figure something out with whatever you’re struggling with in the “what to do with my life” battle.

And if no one else believes in you then I do even if I’ve never met you or know you that well (or if I know you super well then you know I got your back).

I gotta feeling that everything’s gonna be alright.

(Yes, Black Eyed Peas AND Bob Marley medley in that last line. What?! Mind explosion.)

Thanks for reading. Much appreciated, as always. ❤

Until next time!

Ciao ciao brown cow,

KP

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Feature photo credit: Work Pose / KP

On Writing about Being Tired and on Coming Home to Writing

On Tuesday, I wrote rather successfully about being tired. I didn’t think I could do it. And I almost didn’t. You know why? Because there was that little voice — my voice inside my own head (I know you have one too!) — that told me, “No, no, it won’t be good. It is pointless. Don’t waste your time with that.”

I’m glad I didn’t listen. I wish I would listen less often. And I like to think that I do listen less frequently now than I did before. Once upon a time ago, it seemed that I only listened to that tiny but powerful ever-present inner voice day in and day out (eek!).

I’m glad I didn’t listen to this voice yesterday because (1) I am trying to get in the habit of not listening to it and (2) I am trying to also get in the habit of writing, even if that means writing about being tired because I don’t have the energy to write about anything else (hey — it’s still writing!).

I have missed writing desperately. Sure, I have written emails, written notes in greeting cards, written reports and proposals for work, and written in all forms of regular everyday communications. But that is not enough — and it has not been enough.

I have felt such a void for the past couple years or so because I haven’t been writing very purposely in a creative manner. A part of my soul has not been complete — to be completely melodramatic. (The only way to live and breathe like a writer — ah, sweet melodramatic air!)

And for this longish while I sat around wondering: what on Earth is wrong? Why do I feel strange, down, trampled on and not quite so easily able to bounce back? What is this freakish void?

Likely I felt this way for different reasons, but a big reason seemed to be that I simply wasn’t attending to an important part of me that had previously always made me alert, alive, and present — my creative side.

It’s this creative side that many of us office folk let slide away like the mysterious crumbs and paperclips that cozy their way into our keyboard cracks, collecting where we don’t see them until that fateful day when we shake it out and admire with awe at what has been camping out right before our eyes each and every day.

While this is a part of us that we often push out of sight in favor of things like…work, family, work, friends, work, and all other manners of productivity and social normalcy, creativity is just as essential as any of these other parts of our lives, and arguably should be re-prioritized to have a lucky top-tier spot.

If we don’t make our own creative life a priority, no one else will.

Creativity is so individual, so personal that it is hard for one person or the next to really know what it means to you. Because of this, it can be difficult for those around you to understand why you must prioritize creativity as a part of your daily life and ergo difficult for you to see value in prioritizing it if no one else you care about sees the purpose in it. 

But we must prioritize it. Or at least, I must prioritize it if I want to feel my most alive and fulfilled. Without it I am fine, but with it I am great.

As Elizabeth Gilbert put it through a story in her newest book, Big Magic:

“Three mornings a week, Susan awoke before dawn and, in that groggy hour before her demanding day job began, she skated. And she skated and skated and skated . . . It was a revolution . . . Please note that my friend did not quit her job, did not sell her home, did not sever all her relationships and move to Toronto to study seventy hours a week with an exacting Olympic-level skating coach. And no, this story does not end with her winning any championship medals. It doesn’t have to. In fact, this story does not end of all, because Susan is still figure skating several mornings a week–simply because skating is still the best way for her to unfold a certain beauty and transcendence within her life that she cannot seem to access in any other manner.”

Creative writing is this beauty and transcendence for me. It allows to me not only to express myself more adequately, but also to be the brave person I imagine myself to be and to feel at peace, at home in some strange and beautiful serenity garden, which I imagine to be filled with golden sunflowers turning with the sun’s skypath and with lavender perfuming the feather-light breeze.

It’s a lovely place — this creative space.

And I hope if you are searching for yours, or trying to reclaim a space for it in your life, that you find it.

May you have happy travels on your path to creative living.

Cheers,

KP

P.S. I highly recommend Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert for some inspiring, refreshing and invigorating reading. It is her book, in part, that inspired me to re-start my creative writing and begin it again in a more exciting, fun and less fearful fashion.

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Feature photo credit: My Journals / KP