There are days when it feels like my goals are within grasp but yet are still too far for me to reach. After working at a particular non-profit organization for nearly three years now, I have had to ask myself several times, “Is this what I want to keep doing for the rest of my life?” The answer that would automatically arise in the back of my mind was always an uninhibited “No.” It wasn’t my passion. Although I knew I was making a difference in a few lives, I wasn’t in love with my job. I felt disappointed, disheartened, and disillusioned for a while. In fact, it got to the point where I had gone into a panic mode, wondering what to do with myself next while feeling stuck at the same time. One thought scared me — the thought of starting over. Even worse was confronting the question of just how I would be able to pull this off.
How does one start over?
Many people do it. Lots of people change careers or switch to different fields altogether even after working in a particular field for several years. Sometimes things don’t turn out the way we expect them to, such as our expectations not matching up with the realities we must face with our day-to-day responsibilities. Sometimes you have no other option but to start over, perhaps in a new job or even in a new city altogether, just so that you are able to make ends meet and ensure that you have enough resources to support yourself and your family. However, the REAL and more pressing questions that most people are either unwilling or are afraid to confront has a lot to do with their individual mindsets and their level of determination.
How much time and energy are you willing to spend in order to start over?
I had been visiting one of the program sites within the organization that I currently work for so that I can visit a few of the clients when I saw a colleague of mine. We exchanged friendly banter about traveling between program sites, and he asked me, “Aren’t you tired yet?” To be honest, I was. I told him I had plans to go back to school and work in media or in publishing, which were completely different fields from the fields of mental health and healthcare. “Do it while you still can,” he said, “while you’re still young. Don’t end up like me. I keep telling myself every morning that today is going to be the day when I find a new job and finally leave [this organization]. The next thing I know, the morning comes and I wake up and tell myself the same thing. Then the next thing I know, fifteen years have passed.” He then advised me to keep looking and don’t give up on my goals.
It’s easy to start over; it’s much more difficult to commit to starting over. We fall back on what we feel is most familiar to us. It’s in our nature as human beings. We feel more confident and tend to believe in ourselves more when we cling to the familiar. When faced with our doubts, we wallow in the comfort and familiarity of the knowns, rather than branching off and going out of our way to learn something completely new and different. Other times, we just don’t have the energy. Or we can’t muster up the effort to follow our true passions anymore. We grow tired. We grow jaded. We give up.
We must fight this kind of mindset.
Often, the only person stopping you from fulfilling your own dreams and living a passionate life is yourself. We can blame our job or the fact that we have to put bread on the table, or that we are just simply too exhausted to think. In the end, however, it is up to us to make those necessary changes. It is up to us to set our own paths and stay on course. It is up to us to determine when the right time, the right moment arrives for us to depart and decide what to do next.
As for me, it’s not like I don’t know what I want out of life anymore. I know what I want. I am in the process of going after the things I want. After much debate with my parents and overcoming my own doubts, I applied for graduate school and got accepted into the program that I wanted. I applied for a few job and volunteer positions and even got the opportunity to be interviewed for a few of those positions. Although I am still waiting to hear back from the hiring managers and prospective employers, at least I know that I was the main driving force behind these new transitions. I chose to update my resume, I chose to reach out and search for new opportunities, I chose to start doing something about my life rather than complaining so much about how miserable I was feeling. Those opportunities would not have come my way had I not taken the time to do the research and do the work to find out what’s available.
People want to live passionate, fulfilling lives. People want to be engaged in work that they truly believe to be personally meaningful for them as well as to the larger community. They want to be fairly compensated for their efforts, and they want to be able to wake up each morning energized and enthusiastic about going to work without feeling like they’ve made the wrong choice. Yet, even if we have made the wrong choice, we need to recognize that it’s not over yet for us. It’s not the end. It’s only the beginning. We just need to find the support, resources, and the help we need to dig ourselves out of the hole of existential questioning, pull ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and try again.
If you ever find yourself in this situation, do yourself a favor: go to your nearest bookstore, saunter over to the “Careers” and “Business” sections, and start looking. Or just do a straight-up search online on Google. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What changes do I want to make and why?
- What do I want to do? What do I want to work on?
- If I don’t have the skills or the background to work on the kinds of projects I’m interested in, how can I gain the experience to develop those skills?
- (Think about the types of degree(s) or experiences that are necessary to the type of job you’re hoping to secure, to determine whether you should go back to school and/or do internships related to your preferred field.)
- Who do I know (family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances) that already works in the field that I want to break into?
- Is there anyone in my immediate social network whom I can go to for advice, support, and guidance as I embark on making these changes in my life? Are they willing to act as a mentor for me?
- Do they know of any openings for opportunities around them?
- How can I thank them for their help? (Always keep the door open for communication so they remember you in the future, in case you come to their mind for an opportunity they might hear about.)
You always want to look for more ways to grow. It’s just a matter of determining how you want to grow and reaching out to your immediate resources — your friends, family, colleagues, and (yes) even Google — to get some ideas. You won’t know until you start. So get your coffee, grab your planner and to-do list, and get to work.