For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved to write. Longer actually – I found some old notebooks at my mum’s place whose awkward letters indicate I was 4 or 5 when I was writing stories about a princess with a nasty, evil sister named Melanie (sorry Mel) and random fragments like ‘My dad is a policeman and I don’t think he likes it very much.’
Throughout primary school whenever we had free time I would scrawl out stories, often starring a fabulous and adventurous little girl. I can’t count the number of times I wrote myself out of a bind with the classic ‘and then I woke up and it was all a dream.’
I was also an avid journaler, from childhood all the way through to university, though it’s dropped off quite a bit lately. I use writing as a way to clear my head, to sort out my thoughts, and to convey information to others. I’m fascinated by the written word, how meaning can be altered by the most subtle changes.
When I was quite little, I’d tell everyone I wanted to be a writer. But that wasn’t the only thing I wanted to be when I was growing up. I’m sure it’s changed more times than I can count, but here are some other aspirations that spring to mind.
By the time I was about 11, I wanted to be a lawyer. And once I found out that there were different kinds of lawyers I adjusted this to being a barrister. They were the ones that got to go to court and argue their case. I think argue was the key word here — I wanted to get up and explain my case, and why it was the better point of view.
As an avid reader, being an editor was a dream job for me. To be paid to read, how delightful! And not only that, but to be in a position to offer guidance to writers as they crafted their work. Bliss!
As a writer, this seemed an obvious choice. I could spend my days writing, bringing interesting and useful ideas to a wider audience. As time went by though I learned that I would not work well with the stress of very short deadlines. Perhaps now that I’m a more experienced writer, but I think I’d still struggle with ‘I need 750 words on this in 6 hours.’ (To be fair, I don’t know if it’s really like that, but I do not want to find out the hard way).
I’m not sure where this came from, maybe inspired by some of the great teachers I had growing up. I loved the idea of guiding people as they learned new information and finding new ways to present it when they had trouble grasping a particular idea.
By mid-high school I’d settled on psychology. I love to help people, and I was always asked by my friends for advice. Psychology, the way the mind works, is endlessly fascinating to me, and the idea of speaking to people and seeking to understand their particular issues, viewpoints, and needs was highly appealing. I majored in Psychology at uni (and English, because I’ve never been good at choosing just one thing), and it was there that I realised maybe being a psychologist wasn’t quite right for me after all. By the time I finished my degree the extra study needed was a bit off putting, and I also knew that I didn’t necessarily need that particular job title to do what I wanted to do.
Only a few years ago I came across this conversation between Jonathan Fields and Marie Forleo in which she explains why she trained as a life coach. Life coaching, she discovered, is
‘strategically focused on helping people move forward, it was very positive, all about moving forward [rather than focusing on ‘what’s wrong with you’ or ‘how your parents screwed up your life].’
I’d been aware of life coaching and I was interested in it but I didn’t really understand what it was all about. When I heard that conversation I had a big YES moment! Being able to help people and offer support and guidance while they are working towards positive change – that’s what I want! And from that moment, I started wanting to be a life coach. Still do, actually, but not anytime soon. Right now I’m happily all about my business 🙂
I wanted to share this with you today for two reasons.
Firstly, while I didn’t hit any of those future-dream-careers (yet), that’s not the point really. What I loved about looking back on them is the common threads that run through. Writing. Helping people. Exploring new ideas. Sharing information with others. Supporting people as they work through challenges. When I look at what I’m doing today, it’s all there. How fantastic is that?! I guess it’s a reminder that even though you might not have a particular job title (that you perhaps thought you would or should), it doesn’t mean you can’t incorporate what you really love into your role. Sometimes it won’t be obvious, but I bet it’s there.
Secondly, it taps into something that I’m aware of and extremely grateful for. In my grandparents’ generation, the norm was to finish school (or a trade) and go into a career that would last for your whole life. Can you imagine at 16 or 18 choosing the path you would be on for decades to come? Madness! These days, it’s increasingly common for careers to be more fluid which, as a multi-passionate person, is just about my favourite thing! 5 or 10 years is long enough to make a meaningful contribution to a workplace or career or industry (and sometimes less will do it too). So go there, do that thing and do it well, then change your mind if you want to.
This is not an excuse to be flighty — whatever you choose be there 100%. If you don’t like it explore something else, but don’t half-ass what you’re doing now. But it’s an acknowledgement that you are not locked in to your current path, and you can do a whole bunch of useful things over a lifetime.
Tap into what you love to do and what gets you excited on a deeper level so that you can see the common threads and find work that will be fulfilling to you.
I still have at least 30 working years ahead of me I reckon, and when I think about all the different things I’ve done in the past 12 I’m really excited to see what might come next — because there’s a whole lotta space and time to explore many things.