As one gets older, there is one question that consistently comes up after each milestone. “So what’s the next step? Where do you see yourself heading?” I’ve always hated this question. At first, I thought I disliked it because it was nosy and I don’t care to share my life plans with people I barely know. I’d answer with something vague, yet satisfying enough to get them to stop asking any more questions. This question always gave me such anxiety because I never knew the answer. If I was honest when people asked me, What do you want to do? I’d say, “I want to read. I want to learn French. I want to travel. I want to cook big, fancy meals. I want to write. I want to learn people and form meaningful friendships. I want to experience nature through autumn walks, sunrises, and mountain views.” But I could imagine their look of confusion so clearly, the words “I meant for a job…” forming, and I felt too ashamed to say what I really thought.
I graduated with my masters degree in theology last September. I am not doing anything with my degree. I found a job at a coffee shop that was incredible and that I genuinely loved. Then I began watching my best friend’s baby girl and I’ve fallen in love with experiencing the world again for the first time alongside this child. But while I loved both of my jobs, the strain of performing both every week, adding up to 60 hours a week, began taking its toll. I never saw friends. I saw my brand new husband one day a week. I began to resent the job I once loved. I had more money, but I lost my life.
A few weeks ago, I had the distinct pleasure and gift of hearing author Anne Lamott speak at a nearby church. A question was asked which I don’t remember, but I do remember her response very distinctly: “I try to be a grown-up who practices radical silliness and rest.” Wow. Her response is so counter to what the American culture tells us is important. I have been taught that I must work hard in school so I can get a job in my field that pays well and provides benefits like paid vacation so I can still have some time to do what I want on the weekends. That has always sounded so horrible to me. The only jobs that have sounded remotely enjoyable to me have been teacher, musician, or writer. Office work? No way. Retail? Been there, done that, never again. Customer service? Well, still trying to get out of that one. I wanted a job that was fulfilling to what I loved, allowed me the freedom to enjoy holidays with loved ones, that allowed me to travel, to learn French, to practice piano, to cook for my husband…is that so much to ask?
It’s always felt like it has.
But Annie’s response about searching out the lighter, healthier things in life, like silliness and rest gave me hope. I don’t want to be made to feel that having rest means I’m not a hard worker. I don’t want to be made to feel guilty for doing something that I love. Because, it’s actually harder to chase after the things you really want. It’s really hard to say, I’m going to quit my job that gives me health insurance and paid time off, and just have one job that does not so I can have time to rest, and find joy and meaning, and purpose, and love, have time to write! To write! The thing I’ve always wanted to do (but didn’t know it). It’s scary to turn down security to pursue those things. But I finally realized the kind of grown-up I want to be: one who is able to find beauty in everything, one who values rest and self-care, one who pursues her passions with full force, one who fights for the life that is fulfilling to her, regardless of what parents or society may think is the safer route.
I’m finding that the safer route can oftentimes be the most restricting. It gives the illusion of freedom, but true freedom is throwing caution to the wind and chasing after beauty, in whatever form that may take. I think of the Howard Thurman quote, “Don’t ask what the world needs, ask what makes you come alive and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
I don’t want to sit in a job I can stand and miss out on the job- or life!- I would love because I was too scared to go and do the things I am most passionate about. And while I may not know exactly how that will look, I’m willing to bet it will be different than I expected, and way different from how life is “supposed” to go- and I can’t wait for that.