Growing up, I wanted to be a marine biologist. Then an archaeologist. An artist. An actress. An author. A farmer. A shopkeeper. A poet. A mechanic. A zoologist…
A shift halfway across the world aged 16 led me to doing a fine arts degree. I wanted to be an artist again. …Or a writer. Or a curator. Or an arts therapist.
Or a crazy old lady living up a mountain, in a house filled with stacks of paintings and half-written poetry and miscellaneous artefacts…
…And then I finished my degree and realised that for all my dreams and ideas, I had no idea what I could (or should) actually do out in the real world.
I didn’t know where to go, or how to start becoming any of those things I had imagined myself being. Where was the fairy godmother to knock me over the head with her careers wand and turn me into one of those accomplished and confident versions of myself?
How did I bridge the gap between that resolved future state and where I currently stood? (Lost, and more than a little afraid.)
It wasn’t that I expected life to be easy or straightforward, but I guess I had always assumed things would get clearer once I completed my education - that everything would come into focus and I’d suddenly know exactly how to get where I needed to be, to have the life I wanted to have.
It didn’t work out that way, and for that I am profoundly glad.
The reality has been a little more… erratic. But it has also been incredibly surprising and enlightening. Because I’ve discovered that I can do - and do well - a whole host of things that I had never considered before.
My career journey so far has mainly involved learning to do things I’ve never had to do before. I’ve learnt practical skills: how to use a whole host of new programs and software; how to apply my fine arts background to everything I do - from writing and editing, to creating videos, to designing everything from stickers to workbooks to training modules to who-knows-what-next! But I’ve also learnt to manage projects and processes. Learnt to create, innovate, strategise and productise - all in a business setting utterly different from any of the fields I pictured myself in.
And you know what? I love it. I wouldn’t have expected to, but in this unforeseen journey I’ve found that there are spaces for me - roles I can fill and enjoy - in a wider range of areas than I ever imagined. And the best part is that the new things I’ve picked up - the new skills, and particularly the new interests - will stay with me wherever I go.
I think there is an erroneous message that is instilled in us early in life: that we need to know exactly where we’re headed and how to get there. That without a clear vision for our lives we’ll amount to nothing.
There’s some truth in that I’m sure. Without vision it’s almost impossible to achieve anything. But if you’re fixated on some future end you’re going to miss out. On options, opportunities, and exciting possibilities that you just don’t have the knowledge to envision right now.
If you let yourself, you don’t ever have to stop learning, or discovering, or creating new visions for your life.
So if you’re feeling lost, or struggling, or just utterly clueless about what you should be doing with your life, then my message is this: pick something, for now. It doesn’t need to be for forever: just make a step. And when you’re ready, make another step. Keep learning and developing, and broadening your scope and narrowing your focus (yes, both. Always, and at the same time). Don’t get stuck, but give yourself time too.
Time to figure things out; time to learn yourself thoroughly. Because whatever else happens in your life you will always have this constant: you are you. And your journey through life should be as unique as you are yourself. There’s going to be plot twists.
I don’t know what I’ll be further down the line. I still want to be an artist, a farmer, a coffee shop owner, a museum curator, a park ranger, a writer, an LX designer, a botanist… maybe I’ll even get to be the crazy old lady living up the mountain one day. I’ve got time to figure it out.
And in the meantime? I’m working at what I love, learning new things, and making the most of where I am - and where I’m heading. In short: I’m enjoying just being who I am.