I want to have a clear cut, time stamped, annotated plan for every minute of every day. To do lists are my heroin. The unknown is my greatest foe in every capacity. I find calm in setting small achievable goals for myself rather than attempting to think about the future and all of the work that will need to be done.
Recently I've been in a season of change, which is not something that I deal with well. I've been grappling with that all too common question of 'what do I want to be when I grow up.' At varying points in our lives we all face the reality of our age, careers, relationship status, and accomplishments thus far. And while many of these categories may overall seem like they are in the black, they can often still feel in the red. It's so easy to play the game where you compare yourself to others.
She's married, he just got promoted, she bought a new car, he proposed, she started a business, he moved to a new city.
You go down and down the spiral of what other people your age have done, or have materially, and start to wonder about the value of the life you have made in the same length of time. There are these widespread cultural expectations of what it means to be 'successful'. Whether or not they are realistic we use them as these yardstick measurements of where we should be in our lives.
I'm 25 and I should be married. I should be making more money. I should have paid off my student loans. I should be able to live on my own without needing roommates. I should, I should, I should, and down I go until I'm laying on the couch, binge watching shameless, halfway through a bottle of cab wondering where it all went wrong.
It's fucking awful. It doesn't usually take long before I pull myself up by my boot straps and realize that even though my yardstick might measure different things, that I've done a lot for my age that I should be incredibly proud of. I pat myself on the back, make my list for tomorrow, and slowly make my way back to the land of the (mostly) living.
I recently read a book called Grit by Angela Duckworth. Her Grit test has become an international standard for determining whether or not someone has what it takes to succeed at whatever it is they are trying to succeed at. While her research is incredible and very interesting, one of my biggest take aways was the fact that she did not begin this journey of her career until she was in her 40's. She had an entire career as a teacher, and worked in varying psychology fields before her life's work came about. She is now considered an expert and works with companies and organizations around the globe administering and analyzing her grit test.
I realized in her story that no matter what I am doing right now, that doesn't mean that I have to be doing this forever. I have the power to change my life, to completely recreate myself and build an incredibly successful life no matter what I was doing at 25. The only determining factor is me.
How many times in your life do you think you've been asked that question of 'what do you want to be when you grow up?' I think I'm reaching the millions in terms of the times I've been asked that question. At varying points in my life I've wanted to be a lawyer, psychologist, photographer, writer, musician, stay at home mom, event planner, PR manager, zoologist, and the list goes on.
It's been difficult to find a focus given that my interests are basically unlimited and highly varied. No matter what I do, the only thing I've ever actually wanted to be is happy. Is there a job for that? Hello, I'm Melody and I'm 'Happy'. I make a livable salary and spend my time doing what brings me joy. If only, right? On what job site can I apply for the Kim Kardashian role of basically being paid to exist?
I see my peers in career paths that promise vertical movement. They've taken their passions and skill sets and found jobs that allow them to channel both. Leading to my only definition of success, which is happiness. I envy their satisfaction of sitting behind a desk without becoming homicidal and wonder if the system is broken or if I am.
For the majority of human history people didn't sit in cubicles. They worked outside, or in shops, or on ships. The need for 16 years of classroom education followed by 40 years behind a desk is something very new in the grand scheme of time, and not something that I personally believe we were built for. However, just like everything else in our culture there is this incredible stigma that unless your are cog in the wheel of corporate America that you are breaking the rules. Non conformity doesn't pay the bills.
So those of us who don't want to be on the outside looking in follow suit. We conform, and punch that Monday-Friday/9-5 clock because everyone told us that doing that means that you are successful. But for a lot of us, that doesn't make us happy. What it does for me though is to allow for the perception that I am in control. It provides a comfortable paycheck, consistent work, and a lifestyle that allows for the occasional trip or shopping day. It has been easy to believe that this constant stream of money is inevitable, but anyone who believes that they aren't replaceable is a fool.
My parents, like most other parents of millennials, raised me to believe that I am special. That being who I am makes me amazing, and talented, and valuable, and worthy of every A plus and gold star. So when things are going well it feels like somehow I deserve it, just because of who I am.
Don't get me wrong, I work hard. I like to earn first place and am extremely competitive to get it. But no matter how many A plus's or gold stars I receive they could bring someone in tomorrow who might wipe the floor with me. Removing the illusion that I am special and irreplaceable. Constantly reminding me that I am only a cog in a machine.
Working in an office environment is comfortable, easy even. But it's not satisfying. My heart is constantly dreaming of new adventures, but the fear of not having consistency and routine has kept my feet firmly planted on the ground.
The common thread in all of my passions and interests is that they are all creative, interactive, and in the vein of story telling. So in the most stripped down sense that's what I want to be when I grow up, a story teller. Not just with words but with photographs, music, travels, all things creative. All things alive. I want to cultivate tangible experiences in every possible medium that allow others to feel the things I've felt, and see the places I've been.
My hope is to one day be able to make a living by doing exactly that. This blog is one of many outlets I have created for myself to share my journey with the world. My desire for non conformity is one that scares the crap out of me because it means I'm going to have to work harder, push myself farther, and bet on myself in ways that would never be required of me in an office job. It's going to take grit. It's going to take heart. And it's going to be worth it.
Bring it on <3
(This post is dedicated to my cousin Jeremy. Love you, J <3)