What defines you

It wasn’t until I had removed myself from my last job that I realized how truly lost I was. I’d been relying on what I was doing for work to define myself, to provide me with a sense of pride, and without it to fall back on, I felt out of touch with who I was.

Now, I can’t help but ask, why? I refuse to believe that what you do, makes you who you are. If anything, wouldn’t it make more sense to say you choose your career path because of something rooted inside you? Whether it be passion, knowledge, or a strong drive for power, aren’t those all things that stem from the type of person you are and what makes you happy?

Like many little kids, my parents raised me to dream big and follow my heart.

If you were to look at my yearbook from elementary school, this is the list you would find next to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

  1. First woman president: For a little kid, what could be cooler than becoming president one day? For me, this position represented the idea that I could one day have the power to help people and actually make an impact. I loved the idea of living in a big house and essentially doing whatever I wanted.
  2. Professional basketball player: I was on a youth basketball team and I loved it. Was I a strong player? Not at all. But at the time I didn’t know that. All I knew was that I was part of a team, and our games meant people coming out to cheer us on.
  3. Cat-detective: Yes, I made this one up. I was weirdly obsessed with cats as a kid and I wanted desperately to take care of as many as I could. Originally, I thought about being a veterinarian so I could save all the animals, but I’m squeamish and don’t do well with blood or needles, so this was a compromise.

What do these all have in common? To me, they were all “jobs” I could do and be proud of, and perhaps make people proud of me. Are any of these “career-paths” of interest to me now? Absolutely not, and that’s not just because one of them is made-up. But at the time, they were all things I could see myself doing because of what I cared about. In a way, this list represented my values.

I recognize that there are people I grew up with who wrote with certainty what they wanted to be “when they grew up,” and have become exactly that. Others had lists like mine, dabbling in ideas for the future that they thought might make them happy.  My point isn’t that dreams are meant to change, but for some people, they do.

I established goals for my future as a freshman in high school and held tightly to them through college. For whatever reason, I felt that being strapped to a step-by-step plan was the only way I could grow up into a respectable person.

In moments of self-doubt, I clung to the idea that I had something to prove. I convinced myself that I couldn’t be happy unless I graduated college with the same goals I’d had when I arrived.

Sure enough, I did graduate with the degree I intended. And guess what, I’m not using it.

There was a time I had my foot in the door to the industry of my dreams. But it didn’t end up being what I had imagined.

If you read my last article, you know that I felt compelled to leave my most recent job because I was receiving unwanted attention from a co-worker. What you don’t know is that my dying dreams helped soften the blow when I finally decided to walk out the door.

While I would never refer to what happened to me as a “good” thing, and without trying to sound cliché, I have to admit that sometimes things do happen in your life for a reason.

That being said, I didn’t feel ready to leave when I did, and I struggled for months trying to figure out what it was I would do next. I felt disconnected and confused and wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself.

What I failed to realize initially is that I was no longer tied down. The world was at my feet, and I had the opportunity of a lifetime waiting for me right around the corner, or rather, in Brazil.

Being able to pack my things and leave the country for weeks at a time has been the most refreshing, eye-opening experience of my life. It hasn’t been the easiest process but being so removed from what was once my “life” has provided me with an opportunity to face the hard questions I once ran from. I no longer feel coddled or stagnant, like I’m just running through the motions before something falls in my lap.

Call it “soul searching,” but I finally feel like I am able to direct more energy into myself and what it is I can contribute to the world.

I still don’t know exactly what it is I want to do, but that no longer scares me the way it used to. I don’t feel lost anymore.


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