Ever since we were little, we have been looking forward to the future. When we start off as fresh faced elementary school students we cannot wait to be in the next grade, to be older, to grow bigger. We reach high school and look only towards the next step of graduation, and getting into the post-secondary education of our [or our parents] dreams. Once we are in University, we stay focused on the final outcome of diplomas, degrees and all that finality will encompass. Some of us take a second to pause here to re-consider “is this really for me?” Those wonderers then change their field, change their school, or they change their path altogether on a pursuit to find what they love. The majority of us don’t bother to pause here however, and we keep at it with our head down believing that we are doing what is best for the future.
A jam packed schedule of classes, studying, working and socializing had not allowed me much time to consider what I was actually getting myself into. I had always pushed aside a small tingling in my gut that screamed, “You don’t love this!” and “You won’t be happy in a cubicle!” These feelings meant nothing to me, as I had neither the time nor the leftover resources to reconsider my options. Everything had already been invested into this decided upon future. This future had a predetermined outcome that my family and friends would be proud of; I would have a 9-5 with stability, a salary, a pension and benefits. I would be able to care for myself, to care for my family, and be set up for the rest of my life. I thought this path was the only option. I was concentrating on the “future” and it sure looked bright.
Well, I got to that “future”, and I learned that it is not any easier there. After graduation I knew I was lined up perfectly for the impending cubicle days ahead. On the same day as my final exam, I got my first office job. Over the next few years I spent every single day sitting at a desk, typing, filing, redacting, boring, boring, boring. Don’t get me wrong there is nothing wrong with a desk job if you love what you are doing. I have always been so happy for those with jobs that they love waking up to go and do. My jobs however only felt fun for the first week but then the monotony and the feeling of being “stuck” would quickly set in. I was working every single day at a job that made me unhappy, working weekends at a nightclub to supplement my income, and found myself with zero time for myself, for rest or for relaxation. I began to think this was how life was supposed to be. That adulthood just sucked.
A friend once asked me why I seemed so stressed. I was in the pinnacle of my stressed out schedule working seven days a week and sleeping an average of five hours a night. When I told him that I wasn’t happy at my job he asked me an important question that I had never thought to ask myself. He said, “Well, what<em> does</em> make you happy?” All this time and I had never taken a step back to ask myself what I am happiest doing. What am I passionate about? What do I want to do with my time? My calendar had been so jam packed with things that were not of my choosing; school, work, studying, more work, forced social engagements. What was I doing to make myself happy? At the end of the day I’m the only one I’ve got – so why am I not doing everything in my power to do something everyday that makes me feel happy.
I found myself continually looking for the next “future”, the next step or the next big milestone. Unlike school, once you are in the working world the next step is not clear. The next step is one that you must build up for yourself. For some, the next step is a promotion, or a partnership, or simply moving forward in your profession. For me, the next step was to take a step backwards.
I quit my job. I left. I had rent, bills, payments, lots of responsibilities, but I had to quit. Something deep inside me told me that instead of feeling like I was trapped with no real choices, I needed to open myself up to all the possibilities and choices the world has to offer. I needed to stop confining myself by those 4 cubicle walls. I needed to be free. By giving myself time, space and rest, I would finally be able to see what my calendar would fill itself up with. <em>What are the things that I would choose to do with my time, now that I would finally be the one choosing what to do with it?</em> No professors, teachers, friends, telling me how to live my life. I no longer wanted advice I wanted to find [as corny as it sounds] <em>myself</em>.
I had to stop living the life that had made me unhappy in order to open myself up to happiness. I have found hobbies and passions that I had never even had the courage to envision for myself. I am now happily creating a career out of one of these new passions and I hope to be one of those corny people that can truthfully talk about having a career that never feels like you are working a day in your life. It was a scary thing to step backwards in a world where you are constantly encouraged to only move forward and upwards, but that is exactly what I needed in order to climb even higher than my original path would have ever taken me. Happiness is my new goal, motto, and tagline. And I couldn’t be happier about that.
I dare you to ask yourself, what makes you happy?