I started this blog three years ago. I’d graduated from a hip liberal arts school, with a marketable degree (Economics) and no student loan debt (public school!). I had such dreams, and assumptions, about what real life was going to be like. ‘Fabulous’ comes to mind.
I did what every young SATC-era college graduate is supposed to do: I moved to the nearest big city (also happened to be my hometown), got an apartment in a historic building, bought up IKEA and raided my parents’ storage unit for cheap furnishings. Only, I never fully felt at home. True “home” was 5 minutes away, with the quality and familiarity of surroundings I was accustomed to. In my own space, I was constrained by a modest budget, dinky window A/C unit (the horror!) and I relied heavily on credit to shop, make my little apartment more livable (bought a huge glass desk!), and take trips over long weekends to see friends in New York. The cycle got uglier and uglier, and it could not continue.
Less than a year later (by February of 2010), I was back in my folks’ place. I was one of the dreaded boomerang kids. Or as I preferred, a stay at home son. My plan was to save the difference in monthly expenses and pay off credit balances. Instead, I adjusted my spending and absorbed the difference by taking more trips, and shoppingÂ more. WIN!
I’ve been back at home for about two and a half years now, and although I know I’ve grown and progressed in other ways, and I 100% enjoy the time I have with my parents and family, which is truly priceless, I still feel like I’m in the same spot I was then. Confused, frustrated, waiting.
The core driver of the rut I find myself in presently is my career. I don’t feel motivated or committed to it, and by some wacky, misdirected ideal, I feel like IÂ should love what I do. I should get up every day and be excited to put one foot in front of the other.
Leaving school, I leapt for the first opportunity I had, which was with an urban planning practice. Times were not good then, and little did I know they were not to improve markedly for at least the foreseeable future.
Through all my years, in high school or in college, I never had a serious conversation with myself or anyone else about what I really belonged doing, so it seemed natural (or the least unpleasant at the time?) to just choose something and try it. Three years on, I’ve found myself on good terms with my coworkers and able to fulfill the job duties, but I know it’s not my calling, like it is for some of my brilliant colleagues.
On switching career paths, my feelings range from: fear of having to start at the bottom again, on a different ladder, to high hopefulness for an exciting, fulfilling, ‘natural’ fit somewhere. To make matters cloudier, my interests are so diverse. I find it hard to imagine picking only one upon which to focus all my energies. This blog embodies my somewhat scattered consciousness and hunger for exposure and experience in a wide range of fields.
I love cars; and style; and design; and real estate; and cities; and exercise. But not just at a topical level. I love learning about features, technologies, booms and busts of brands and influencers. Why some sell better than others or are more popular, and how tastes change over time. I like learning about all aspects of these differing subjects, from high-level trends, to the minute details of construction or production or cellular-level pros and cons.
I also have a more general desire, in life, for everything to be thoughtful, beautiful, and efficient. Food, space, events, interactions. You see where I start to lose direction?
Last year, I took the GMAT test, thinking, as a base layer, I could go to business school and then narrow focus from there. For some reason, though, I wasn’t set on that as my only option moving forward, so instead of applying to several schools, and potentially having to pay for a degree, I only applied to one of the best in the nation (Northwestern Kellogg), thinking that if I could get in, then it was worth going and paying for. I put some significant effort into my essays, my recommendation letters solicitation, and during my interview with a local alumnus.
I didn’t get in. I was disheartened, but also relieved. No big decisions to make or checks to write (/electronic transfer – I don’t have checks). WIN!
And that was that.
Now, a year later, faced with the option of applying to school again, I have a number of disparate options on the table.Â And a grab-bag of experience, interests, and credentials:
- BA from “one of the best in the nation” public schools – New College – no GPA though, it’s a pass/fail system there. I passed everything.
- 3.5 years general consulting experience for government clients – Jacobs Engineering – my latest resume is here.
- Mad writing skills (perfect GMAT writing score), attention to detail in life and otherwise
- GMAT score of 680 (on 800 scale) – average for all test-takers is 650, which puts me in the 85th percentile
- Brief but very exciting and fulfilling event planning experience during the RNC here in Tampa
- Crazy dedication to this blog and making it better and better each day
Now, most people I talk to, looking in, think I have my life very much together, at least more than other people my age (25). But, part of wanting to be fulfilled from work means that I’m not easily satisfied, hence the present problem.
Based on my interest here, in this space, do I devote myself to writing? Reverend Judy Cooper, of Cassadaga fame, told me I should delve more into it as a creative outlet. Others have said the same, but I’m not fully convinced of my ability for commercial success. A self-published blog is one thing. Having others pay to read your words is another. Even then, it’s not known for being lucrative. Now I don’t have delusions of grandeur, but I do have a spending problem, as we’ve established.
I could reapply to business school. Pay for it (or at least pay something), and hope that there are jobs waiting on the other end, maybe in cool fields, maybe not. There are some great schools in cool cities like Austin (UT McCombs) and Atlanta (Emory Goizueta). That is the other facet: I desperately want to explore young life in bigger, more dynamic place. Tampa is wonderful, but too conservative and small. Anything in the South, or Texas for that matter, may not cut it. San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle are more in the running. Or Chicago. But I’ve already tried there once…
I could move first, then find a job, network, and work my way into something more appropriate. Or I can market myself from thousands of miles away, which has a success rate of about 10% for what is essentially a cold-call. Or I could start anew in Tampa, building a reputation in a chosen field, and then leave with some capital in hand? This last option is what many have suggested, but I feel like the opportunities just aren’t here.
Or, I’m missing an obvious piece of my psyche that I should be exploring. Do I belong in retail? I do love shopping. Interior design? I do enjoy a good debate about lighting.
My dad has offered to pay for career counseling. A kind offer, but seems like a drastic use of $1000, when I know the answer is hiding within me, just below the surface.
I’m not asking you, kind reader, for an answer. This has been an exercise for me to air my thoughts, in multi-draft form. I keep moving ahead, always confident my calling is somewhere on the itinerary.
So many things to consider still. Having so many interests and ideas can definitely work against you when trying to make a decision but ultimately the biggest fear is taking that leap of faith. No one wants to start at the bottom but if you are willing to accept and welcome that possibility think it would help setting up to take a risk and just ‘jump’. Good thing is that you still have a safety net just ‘in case’ the jump to do something different doesn’t work out. Never get comfortable, even if you do find something you like. Gotta keep moving…just like at the gym:)
As a Social Worker, I usually view situations in the context of the big picture (we say “system”) . You entered the work world at a difficult time in history. The economy is in rough shape. The business sector has a huge credibility gap. The government is reeling from issues ranging from fraud, to total lack of integrity of the powerful! Into this, you emerged with intelligence, skills, creativity, and a kind heart. Try to follow passion and compassion and you’ll land on your feet.
Now if we can get the middle-class, social services, etc. realigned!!!
Alex . . .
I want to add on to Paul’s comment above, which are right-on. I’ve known you since you were 4′ tall . . . watching and listening to you transform into who you are today. If you want to continue to wait on the Golden Egg to drop in your lap . . . I wish you good luck friend.
I’ll try and keep this short, but so much I want to say. . . Get off Your butt and go make something happen!!! YOU are way to charming, handsome and smart (and now older) to continually whine about your situation. Pick your City of choice . . . Tampa ain’t it. But pick it wisely. Your future won’t happen unless you are physically there beating the streets. Hone in your professional options . . . things you really like that make you happy. MOVE there and do it NOW! YOU my friend are the only person in control of your own destiny. YOU need to take the reigns of your own life and make those tough decisions that will shape your future . . . be it better or worse. YOU are young enough right now that if you fall . . . it’s easy to get back up and try something new. The older you get the more difficult it becomes . . . ask anyone over the age 40.
I don’t think your family and/or friends want to hear another post on your blog like this again. I certainly don’t 🙂
Get off your butt and go make it happen Bro!
I Love You Alex!!!
As someone who also frets about choosing the “right” thing, I can empathize with your decision-making inertia. The best advice I can give is the stop worrying about choosing the “perfect” thing. Nothing you choose will be wrong. Watch for your opportunities and take them as they come decide what’s right in each moment – but while you are waiting, ENJOY where you ARE. Here’s a free career coach tip: have an “Attitude of Gratitude”. Start making a list of everything that is good in your life: people, things, experiences for which you are grateful. It will make you appreciate what you have.
In terms of “moving on with it” – you have another 40+ years to work and you will likely make small changes and take small steps through life’s experiences that over time will make for big changes. Along the way, you’ll make trade-offs and different things will be important to you that will change your decision-making thought process. Ask yourself before every decision, “will I regret NOT doing this?”. We regret more the things we don’t do, the risks we don’t take, than the choices we make that grow our list of experiences. Rarely are decisions we make permanent situations, you can always alter the course and time is undeniably on your side. So make a list of all the things that you think you’d like to do over the next 40+ years and choose something, anything on the list. It won’t be wrong even if it is scary. There will be no better time to take a risk than right now when you are young, healthy, single, without children and not possession laden.
All that and I adore you. So if all else fails, you can come be my nanny in Australia. 🙂