When I was a kid, I wanted to be a veterinarian. Or a lawyer. Maybe even both. At the same time. Or a singer. Childhood is like that, with the words “Why not?” as your anthem. It’s only as an adult that “I’m not sure if I can…” creeps in.
I went to college to be a computer programmer. Then a gemologist. Then an accountant, and I actually stuck with that for quite a while. But life got hard in a million ways, I couldn’t focus and I dropped out. I no longer had any idea what I would be, so I just worked. Then I got married and had kids, so the obvious answer was being a mom.
But moms can be more things than a mom, especially when they have to make a living or there won’t be any food on the table. So I was a dispatcher, then a bookkeeper, then a law clerk, then a receptionist and then an escrow secretary. And then laid off.
I know people think men tie their identity in to their work, but women do it too. The only job that actually paid the bills was working for a local utility, reading meters. Having to face down bad dogs and stroll through scary neighborhoods changes your attitude. In my case, it made me realize how strong I had been all along. But this isn’t what I want to do forever. Walking 20 miles in 115F heat to face down a large, irate animal or get threatened by a customer is not what I picture myself doing when I’m in my 60s.
So… what now? What do I want to be when I grow up? Holy crap, I’m 47. You would think I would have it down by now. But that’s the point. There’s no answer that I should have figured out decades ago. The future is a moving target.
What would have happened if I had decided, back in 1980, that I wanted to be the guy that puts the labels on records? You remember records, don’t you? Or maybe you don’t. The first CD went on the market in Japan in 1982, Billy Joel’s 52nd Street. The US market followed with 16 CDs in 1983, effectively sealing the fate of the 33 1/3rpm vinyl album. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, and in the late 1990s, mp3s were introduced, dropping sales of CDs drastically ever since. I guess that record labeler job would have been a bad idea. But it worked out pretty good for Billy Joel.
The point, I guess, is that you have to take life as it comes. Like the saying goes – want to make God laugh? Tell him your plans.
Look for opportunities, find the ones that make you happy and show some promise. Then just go. It’s all about moving forward, not finding the perfect map.