I'm 28 and I Don't Know What I'm Doing With My Life…Still

Happy Tuesday, folks!

I’ve gotten a flurry of Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ love for my birthday last week. Thanks again for your outpouring of love and support, especially all I’ve gone through this last year. It means the world to me.

So, on to the title of my post. Pretty loaded, huh? Well, it’s the honest truth. I think people have a tendency to frame the conversation — meaning that they want to express to people the version of themselves they want people to view them as. Perhaps not as genuine or honest, but it’s their only way to communicate their (somewhat) true selves. One of my friends (both online and IRL) has a priceless Twitter bio which sums it up perfectly: “Let’s be honest. I’m a nobody. But I’m working hard to change that.” There’s an element of truth to that for all of us, but I also suppose it depends on how you define yourself.

Historically I’ve always defined myself by my career — what I planned to do with my life, what I studied, what I’m working on. There’s an element of predictability and truth to that. You are what you spend your time thinking about, right? I design and design, mostly fatiguing my mind and interest on it until I find something to distract me long enough until I stumble upon something that will inspire me to pick up the pixels again. And so the process repeats. However, let’s get some facts straight here — as of last week, I’ve pretty much been doing the same thing, over and over (in different ways) for 15 years. If my personal philosophy holds true — that you shouldn’t do something for more than 10 years — then I’m approximately 5 years overdue for a major career change. However, in my attempt to change my career I’ve faced a number of “signs,” if you will, that keep bringing me back into the design sphere.

Let’s start with my reiki studies. Reiki is the study and practice of energy healing. In one of my texts, a short passage caught my eye.

If you a have a talent to help people and you choose not to, then you are stealing from yourself by denying your gift.

I stopped after reading that passage and thought about it long and hard. Was I really stealing from myself by denying this gift I have of design? Am I even helping people with my design work? I’ve come across a handful of scumbags in my design career. I’ve come across people who have told me to my face that I don’t have any real skill in design. On the other hand I’ve had plenty of happy clients, projects deployed, and work on display for the world.

Then I thought about what I’d rather be doing. Wait, let me rephrase that. Is there something I’d rather be doing? Design is difficult and taxing. It’s a problem that won’t go away. Will I be fulfilled by hacking away at the problems presented to me forever and ever? Maybe…maybe not. My focus as of late has turned to healthcare, wanting to get back to patient care. It takes a lot of time to retrain for a new career, especially in medicine. I’ll need a pretty lengthy runway and I will probably still need to design to survive. Will it be the best use of my time? Will I be able to affect the change I seek through this different medium, or am I just spinning my wheels?

Some of you are probably wondering what has caused this change in tune (again). There’s been a few things.

One, I’ve been removed from most of my friends and family and spending time solo. Wait a minute. I spend most of my time alone in my own head.

Two, I attended the LAUNCH Conference on some complimentary Broke Startup Founder tickets and met some amazing people that inspired me. I met a couple of other broke startup founders who were doing amazing things. I some incredibly smart people that were going to change the world. I saw one of my heroes and froze and then lamented that I never got a chance to shake his hand. I spent most of my time there live-casting the startups as they were pitching but also keeping a pulse on the general attitude of those around me.

Third, the projects that are availing themselves to me are inspiring. I’m a bit superstitious so technically everything is in stealth mode and I won’t tell you about them…mainly for fear that they’ll go away once I talk about them. (Weird, I know.)

Fourth, it’s always so difficult explaining to my parents what exactly it is that I do. Social media? UX design? Mobile apps? Where’s the money? I don’t know, mom and dad…but it’s there somewhere.

Fifth, I’ve had somewhat of a new lease on life. A few years ago I had a bit of a cancer scare. After a couple years of refining the way I live my life and the things I eat, as well as the way I’m taking care of myself, I’m proud to say that all suspicious traces of whatever was in my system is completely gone. I got the lab reports back in February. I like to think of it as “free and clear.”

So yes, you can say that I’m 28 and I don’t know what I’m doing with my life…still. I’m certainly farther along now than when I was 18 but sometimes I’m not so sure. When I was 18 I was bright eyed and bushy tailed. I wanted to change the world. I stopped at nothing to make enough money to send myself to college. I explored different majors, internships, and even schools. I sought to meet as many people as I could. I spent more time in nature. I’m 28 and, to some extent, doing the same thing — except now I’ve dropped out of grad school (too boring), dabbling in other potential part-time endeavors (massage therapy school), working on other startup ideas (never-ending), and working for other startups (on-going). The projects won’t stop coming (THANK GOODNESS) but certainly I wouldn’t be getting offers for projects if I didn’t bring some sort of value to the table, right? The design community is this never-ending cesspool of disgustingly amazing talent and utter mediocrity. You’re kind of one or the other.

Maybe my self-projections were right. Maybe I was never meant to work for someone else. Maybe I’m doomed to a life of permalancing and chasing the next big idea in my sketchbook. I suppose if that’s the worst that can happen to me, then it can’t possibly be that bad.

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