Sunday, August 8, 2010

What I Want to be...

Recently, I was discussing with a friend what I want to be "when I grow up." I realize that I am already a thirty-something and by now I should be well on that path already.

I have been working for more than half my life and "should" have an idea of what I want to do. My conundrum does not spring from lack of experience. I have worked in a dry cleaners, a newspaper subscription company, a fast food chain, a nursing home, a hospital, a pizza place, a night club, a clothing store, an insurance market, a couple animal hospitals, a department store, an industrial supply company, and a couple law firms (I may be missing a couple jobs here and there). Mind you, this drawn out list doesn't even include all the places I have volunteered. Still, here I am and I do not yet know where I belong.

When I was a child, I wanted to be a doctor and a ballerina- at the same time, of course. I know this because I proclaimed it at my kindergarten graduation- a recording of which remains to this day. (As does the dance routine that followed). The ballerina idea died almost as quickly as it surfaced, but the doctor idea held on until my first year of college.

I toyed with the idea of being a veterinarian, but nothing ever came of it. The switch from pre-med, psychology major, Italian language minor to philosophy major, psychology minor caused my parents some angst, but again, it did not lead me on any particular career path.

I loved philosophy for its enticing ability to provide an outlet to ponder the world and all its mysteries, but that is not a career- it is more something you do while hanging out with friends over a couple of beers. Rarely, if ever, do you see want ads for philosophers. I did the thing that most fresh out of college philosophy majors do with huge loans- I took a general office position with good benefits and dream of doing something else.

We often to fall into a job which we continue to do because our personal responsibilities increase and life continues on. My question is, what happens if those responsibilities disappear? What happens when you are no longer responsible for anyone but yourself?

Do you continue on the path you've already set or do you change gears and start over in a different direction? Does it matter that you have invested so many years in getting to where you are currently? If not, is there something stopping you from trying something different? Is it the fear of failure?

Andre Malraux said:

     Often the difference between a successful person and a failure is not one has
     better abilities or ideas, but the courage that one has to bet on one's ideas, to
     take a calculated risk - and to act."

Is failure really that bad? I have experienced my share of failure and I know it can sting, but is that enough not to try? I am not so sure. To really love the life one leads does it require taking chances? I am going to say yes, it does. Chances for happiness, chances to find a passion that drives you. Does that make for a successful life? Again, I would say yes- maybe not in the conventional sense, but for you yourself, as a person.

I have been content with my life thus far, with all its ups and downs. But when faced with change not of your own making, do you wallow in it or do you grasp it and allow it to expand your horizons? Do you allow it catapult you into a new space, to color your dreams and reinvigorate your wanderlust? I just don't know...

...or is this the pondering of a bourgeois armchair philosopher with too much time on her hands? Possibly.