Let’s start of with this: I work hard. At least I try to; I read emails all the way to the end and use numbered lists. I try to make things easy. I try to do what I’m asked. I keep a to-do list. Crossing off all those tasks – how satisfying. Need a meeting booked? Want to get 17 people in a room together? Come to me. I’ll make it painless.
I plan out my days carefully. I have goals, milestones, timelines. I live my life organized. Want to see my five year plan? I’m moments away from writing a Vision Statement or making a dream board. My childhood self (arrogant, moody, and often filthy) would be amazed. I bought a dust-buster yesterday. I’m still excited.
I’m finishing my undergrad, cleaning up the messes of a younger, less responsible self. One of my classmates said it best: “I keep forgetting you’re a grownup!” Am I really? News to me. Although I can’t for the life of me remember to call any of them “classmates”. I keep saying “colleagues”, or worse, “co-students”. Is this what growing up feels like? Inventing terminology that nobody needs or asked for?
So here’s my problem, fellow grown-ups and co-students: what the hell do I do now?
I have oodles of self-esteem. I’ve got it in spades, maybe more than I should. My generation invented “everybody gets a trophy” culture. We tore down all the dangerous play-structures and replaced them with humourless plastic monstrosities. I got plenty of praise for frankly mediocre performance but slipped through right before cyberbullying became a big problem.
I like me.
My problem is not a lack of desire or capacity or confidence. My problem is that I have no idea what I want.
Well, that’s not strictly true, but all the tools that I have to get what I want seem patently useless in the face of my desires. What I want is a life full of happiness and satisfaction and free time and creativity and love. What I have is a Google Calendar and a tendency to double-book myself and probably a bit of carpal tunnel.
I want to enjoy going into work every day. And I do. But could I enjoy it more? Am I succeeding at this particular amorphous goal? How do I measure it? Where does it live, so that I can observe it in its natural habitat? Will I enjoy this in three years? Five? Ten? And if I don’t, how do I get back to enjoyment?
I want a life full of love, but how the hell do you get that? By being nice to people? But people are jerks! Lots of people will take advantage of you! How do you balance kindness with self-care? When am I being justifiably selfish and when am I just being a jerk? Is there a Geiger counter for toxic people? WHERE DOES THIS GO ON MY VISION BOARD?
It’s like trying to find the Northwest Passage with a map of Disney Land.
When I am overwhelmed with the big question – What the Hell am I Doing? – I retreat to the safety of concrete metrics. I am can bike x kilometers. I saved x dollars this month. I got x grade in the course. I line up all these neat little facts as if they will protect me from the bigger questions, but they are umbrellas in a hurricane. When you ask how to measure love, the number of pennies in a jar is irrelevant. And that’s what so many of these lists are for: counting pennies in a jar.
I believe that the world is my oyster. But what the hell do you do with an oyster?