I’m 34 years old and I haven’t found my calling. My biggest fear is that I will die without having found my true purpose.
The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem: Hi, my name is Alex and I am a career commitmentphobe.
When I graduated college, I was sure I wanted to be a lawyer so I got my first job at a large, corporate, white-shoe law firm in New York. I have a political science degree and a huge sense of social justice, so it made sense. I ended up working for some of the meanest micromanaging workaholics that side of the Atlantic. One of my managers pulled me aside to tell me that I didn’t “look happy enough.” This was after I accidently stapled my index and almost bled all over some very important legal documents. Of course, that explanation wasn’t sufficient for her. In the entire two years I worked there, I didn’t meet one lawyer who liked their job. My own days were spent redacting documents and fetching coffee and I wasn’t interested enough in the type of law we were practicing to work the hours needed to rise above an entry-level position. I certainly didn’t see going to law school as an option.
I understand everyone has to start from the bottom but what’s the point of climbing the ladder if everyone at the top is miserable?
I decided I would try to get a job in the financial industry. I’m still confused by that decision to this day. I was never good at math. I took a couple of economics classes in college as part of my poltiical science degree and liked them well enough but the main reason I went into finance was that it paid well. Before the Subprime and Credit Crisis of 2008 (or as I like to call it Great Depression 2, Electric Bugaloo), it was also stable. (Not having) money was a huge source of anxiety in my family so I looked my banking jobs as not only a way to make money, but a great way to learn about how to make money…that is until I realized I couldn’t commit to a job for the rest of my life because of the paycheck. I didn’t have enough interest in investing in the stock markets to be an effective financial advisor. The financial industry with its conservative, predominently white bro culture (brolture?) made this liberal, biracial lady feel extraordinarily out of place.
Fast forward nine years later and I still don’t know where I fit in. I still can’t bring myself to pick a career path and stick to it. In fact, my decisions have led me to exactly the wrong careers. I know I like to write, but I haven’t fully embraced my creative identity. It seems so cheesy to say “I’m a writer” when I haven’t written anything in The Atlantic or The New Yorker. Hell, this will be my third failed blog attempt because I couldn’t come up with a writing schedule and stick to it. There’s also the question of what to write about. I get passionate about something and immediately my first thought is: someone is already doing this and doing it better.
Here’s the real truth about me: I don’t want to commit to my career because that means risking failure and I loathe failure. More than that, I fear failure. I’m terrified of looking stupid, being wrong, being a bad a writer, alienating people, wasting your time and my time, showing my work publicly. This article–this website even–is the online version of skydiving for me. I’m tired of being terrified. I’m ready to jump.