Choosing a profession is a big deal, but choosing life’s passion is bigger. We put so much emphasis on success in this society without really defining what it means for ourselves. The advice is always to find something you love and do that but it seems unobtainable if you aren’t sure how to turn it into a career, or even really what you love.
To me, the best advice was to take my 20’s to find out. To take these years of movement, change, excitement, and challenge to search for something purposeful to work for and provide meaning for the rest of life.
So here goes: The best lessons I learned along the way.
Get a job. Or many jobs.
Starting out after undergrad, I thought I would never go back to school. Certain Master degrees have become such a business with the diploma mills out there that offer online degrees in exchange for people’s hard earned money, and I had no desire to partake in that. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I talked to people about their first jobs and they were rarely awesome yet provided knowledge about what not to do, how to work hard, and how to be productive without passion there. The best take-away was that I took jobs I wasn’t sure I would love trusting that it would get me closer to one I did, and help me to financially relax in the meantime. It turns out my first job, working for the unemployment agency in Michigan’s capitol, turned out to be the first time I heard of OT. A nice unemployed man called in talking about his daughter, who worked for Ford and traveled the world as an OT in ergonomics, and the wheels had started turning.
Do your best work at said jobs.
My next job was in business development in the male-dominated logistics industry, and I gave it my all. I worked long hours daily, checked my phone constantly, gave presentations in Toronto/Dallas/Houston/Sacramento/Philadelphia to name a few, figured out that I was pretty good at cold calling, and overall built confidence in myself and work ethic that I never knew I had. You will meet people along the way that mold your experience, your thoughts will transform, and opportunities will arise as they are meant to. You will never regret appreciating the present and being open to change along the way.
Set an intention every day. I carried over this aspect of yoga’s asana and typically chose gratitude, or attention to the present moment. Both of those things have served me immensely but to “trust” is a more recent one I have gone with. Life has been busy the past ten years, and full of countless jobs, figuring out income streams, social events, relationships, and everything else that goes into being 20-something in the city. Whenever I am worried about something, whether it is to move, or take a job, or even what to do on the weekend, I repeat trust as a consistent mantra to remind myself that it isn’t all in my hands. All I can do is work toward what I think I want, treat people well, and give the days my best, and that is enough. Life can’t, and shouldn’t be, forced.
Disregard societal mile markers.
For whatever reason, this has always been a given for me but if I have seen unhappiness in people around me, it is the faulty thinking that societal milestones should happen at a certain moment in time/age/. I say “societal milestones” because they are just that – life’s moments defined “big” in society’s terms, not personal terms. One of my most significant life milestones was getting into my top choice OT program but because of cultural beliefs others may see it as insignificant next to, say, my engagement which is worthy of 400 Facebook likes. You get the idea. Let your proudest moments be yours.
It’s worth it.
Be confident in your choices.
It took me almost all of my 20s to learn this one. I have never lived in a sleek new place, or driven a new car. I go clothes shopping maybe once every 1-2 years, if that, and therefore rarely love the clothes I wear. Commercials and media tell us life is too short to not have the best of everything, but not dedicating energy to this has opened time and funds for discovering what I truly believe in. Time otherwise spent shopping, upgrading, renovating, has gone toward finding depth and purpose versus material things with fleeting happiness. At times early on, I felt I should have a nicer car or newer place. Now, I love both – because they are my choices, and play a role in my plan. This is undoubtedly the most empowering lesson I have learned, not just for finding my passion but appreciating my life. Develop your identity enough to not need everything society says we do to be happy.