You Can’t Be Whatever You Want, But Don’t Panic!

We all participated in the kindergarten activity where we drew a picture of what we wanted to be when we grew up. No idea was too big. Little Susie wants to be an astronaut? Of course, dream big….

You can be whatever you want.

How many times did our generation hear that? On paper it is a nice encouragement to give impressionable children. It is always good to set the bar high. Children live up to their expectations; if they are told they are bad, they will live up to it. If they are told they can land whatever profession they want they will achieve it. Right?

Not quite.

Fast forward from kindergarten to college. We were pre-law, pre-med, pre –whatever majors. Coming to the reality a few semesters in we were already drowning in undergrad student loans. The reality of taking out more loans for a graduate degree and hit the pavement to basically beg people to hire you as ….anything….would be too much to bear. Knowing you’ll most likely never get the graduate degree you wanted is your first disappointment. But you’re still in college – the world is your oyster and you keep on keeping on.

So we graduated school with a Liberal Arts degree; bright eyed graduates with as much passion as we had confidence. We wrote cover letters dripping with descriptive adjectives attempting to prove this passion. Quickly, reality ensues as does the wave of rejection letters. You accept a decent paying job with a company you’ve never heard of. Because let’s get real being unemployed for three months looking for your dream job isn’t flying with mom and dad anymore and your savings is dwindling…

Sitting in our cubes, doing our tedious desk jobs we look back at all the promises that were made by well-intentioned teachers, money hungry colleges, and hear our email ping; another reminder that our monthly student loan payment is due. We are unsatisfied; feel like our souls are being sucked. That’s ok we will quit this job and go find another job. Lather, rinse, repeat. Every job is the same. Every cube identical. The work mind numbing. We spend our days pursuing, hoping, and wishing for our dream job.

Does that dream job exist?

We’ve all heard the John Lennon quote, “When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”

I think Lennon is right. Life is less about the dream job and more about contentment and happiness. Sometimes the things you didn’t want are exactly what you need. And in a culture consumed with instant gratification; sometimes we need to stop and be grateful.

  1. Mourn the disappointment you couldn’t afford the master’s degree or didn’t get hired at the prestigious company or organization you always thought you were meant to be a part of. You gave it your all and life threw you a curveball…straight to the face. It’s rough. Mourn it.
  2. Evaluate your current job. Is it really that bad? Or is just different than you thought your job would be? Try to make a list of pros and cons. Is one of the major cons that it is just different than you pictured?
  3. What are the things you like about it? Even if you get hired on at your dream company – if you hate administrative work and you’ll be doing administrative work – most likely it will not make you happy.
  4. Commit to at least a year. At a year evaluate again.

You’ve gone through steps 1-4. You’ve decided that perhaps you never pictured yourself working in a cube all day but it is your life right now and if you’re 100% honest with yourself it’s not that bad.

  1. Be grateful. Write down something every day that your job gives you to be thankful for. You can always start day one with this simple one, “I have a job while many people are unemployed”.
  2. Feed your passion through volunteer work, hobbies and time spent with friends.
  3. Be kind to yourself. Yes – we would all prefer to do something we are proud of; the type of job you don’t mind telling strangers at a bar what you do and don’t cringe telling family friends. It’s not that your job is that embarrassing you just thought you would be more successful at this point in your life.
  4. Which brings us to this: remind yourself that this is not the end all be all. As you gain experience and knowledge of what parts of your job you find interesting you will be closer and closer to job contentment. Time is your friend; not your enemy. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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