“I’ve learned that making a ‘living’ is not the same thing as ‘making a life.”― Maya Angelou
What I Thought I Wanted
I spent the first part of secondary school (equivalent to middle school in the US) being just a nerd. I then spent high school planning, building and shaping my life directly in preparation for college, so I stopped being just a nerd. My initial source of motivation was the idea of earning a prestigious degree and eventually achieving an ‘honorable’ job.
Attending a private school, I felt like I was even entitled to higher and prestigious education. I was part of this school for 10 years, and naturally, it became my main community and life during all this time. I had a near-perfect GPA for almost all of secondary school (except my last year) because I wanted to show that I was grateful and appreciative of the education I was receiving. But at the same time, I often felt like the rest of my life, at least my academic life, would be entitled to such prestige.
Of course, this all changed when admission decisions rolled around several weeks ago, and I realized that I didn’t get into any of the colleges I had dreamed of all these years. Each of their rejections was a direct blow towards my self-esteem and work I had invested particularly for the purpose of university.
Design Different Paths for Yourself
Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t given up yet – I still want all of these things. But I can now thoroughly evaluate why it is exactly that I want these things. But I had put so much effort into designing one path towards my success in my career life, that I was blinded by all endless possibilities that I would have noticed if I had just broadened my horizons a bit more.
Back at the start of the month, I was crushed by the college admission results. My English teacher told me that it was only because I had narrowed my possible paths to just one. At the time, I saw my future couple of years as either college or college. If I had designed for myself another great possible path, then, regardless of whether I got into the college of my choice or not, the resulting path would always be the best possible path.
That’s what I started doing almost immediately after I received what I believed was the biggest failure in my life so far. And if you see my Gap Year Bucket List, I have made it as elaborate as possible to prevent myself from falling back again.
In these few school-free months that I have had, I kept asking myself all the existentialist questions that every individual asks him/herself at some (or various) point in their life: Why do I exist? Why am I still here? What’s the purpose of my life? What I was truly wondering, however, was what would be that ‘thing’ that would make me happy and satisfied in this life?
Does Your Job = Happiness and Satisfaction?
I tried searching the answer by thoroughly scrutinizing the possible career options that I could ultimately pursue. I had originally planned in majoring in a general major, like Psychology or Sociology, at college, to then become more specialized at another career in graduate school. I was fixated by the idea that my career would become the most essential key to my life happiness and satisfaction.
This was primarily due to the fact that I when I looked up ‘job dissatisfaction’ on the web, all of the articles that appeared had headlines along the lines of “It’s official: most people are miserable at work”, “80% Hate Their Jobs”, and so on. My biggest fear would be to fall within that percentage.
I, and presumably most of you reading this, are better off than the majority of people who live in poverty in this world. These people struggle with the most basic needs that are not an issue in our lives, and that we often easily take for granted. Below, you can see Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which represents the sources of growth and motivation in humans.
In my case, I have all the 3 basic needs (starting from the bottom) pretty much covered. Coming from a family that prioritizes education second to health, I don’t need to worry about what I’ll eat tomorrow, whether I’ll have enough clothes for winter, or whether my family will support me or not. My main focus right now is about my self-esteem and self-actualization, which I don’t think I will ever achieve completely.
As someone who has always been competitive, like many people, I’m always looking towards that ‘next step’ that will enable me to learn and explore more about myself and the community that surrounds me. Up until recently, I believed I would find this when I earned my honorable degree and got a stable job.
But considering how insanely expensive it is to get a Masters and/or PhD education at the most renowned universities of the world, and the fact that most people end up at several jobs in their lifetime, I was shaping my outlook on life the wrong way.
I could have the greatest and highest-paying job in the world, and I could be miserable if my working partner had an annoying personality. Or if the workplace environment was not the one I had imagined. Literally anything could make my job wonderful or awful, depending on each of the factors that make up the job workplace.
I’m an introvert, and even though I enjoy working by myself most of the time, I also appreciate and seek a friendly environment in every thing that I do. This has enabled me to understand that I thrive the most when I’m actively doing things with and around people – and I assume this is even more crucial for extroverts.
I don’t know what my career will be, and though I do have some ideas as to what it could potentially be, my interests and passions are constantly changing. But I guess what I’m trying to say here is that the ‘plan’ that you may have had for your future career/life may not turn out to be your ‘dream’ life. You might find yourself in other unexpected situations that you end up appreciating due to other factors.
My job will define how I see life but only to to some extent. I know that because being in the music industry has enabled me to see and live life more aesthetically, teaching and volunteering for the sign language and deaf community has made me see life under a harsher and more realistic POV, and reading other books and taking different classes has made me realize that it’s the combination of different things that I do that will enable me to choose how I see my life.