Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What Should I Do With My Life?


I think some time during high school (or was it college?) my dad bought me the book above. The author interviewed tons of people who had asked the question, "What Should I Do With My Life?" and found all sorts of different answers. I read the whole book and it was definitely interesting. I think his goal in giving me the book was to show me all the possible careers out there. Now that I'm a Kindergarten teacher I see from an adult perspective the careers that kids know about... doctor, professional athlete, vet (I can't tell you how many kids in the past 5 years have wanted to be a vet, is there something about that career I'm missing?!), teacher, police/fireman, astronaut, you know the drill... However there are SO many jobs out there beyond all of these jobs you know about as a kid, and in reality, you receive very little exposure to them unless you happen to have a parent who is a publicist or an event planner or basically anything out of the elementary school norm. No wonder no one really knows what in the world they actually want to do with their life...

My internal dialog about my career has gone something like this...

High School/ College:

Kids are fun, I think I want to be a teacher. Wait, I don't want to be a teacher then I'll be poor forever. But I like kids. Maybe I'll major in elementary ed. I should have a back up plan, Communications seems pretty random, how about that? I actually like a lot about teaching, maybe I will do this. I think I'm going to switch my major to early childhood because I like teaching kids to read. First grade is awesome, I want to teach first grade. Kindergarten is terrible, first or second grade but definitely not kindergarten. I need to get a job. Let's interview in random faraway towns I would never want to drive to. So I landed a job in the ideal school district/location but it's teaching kindergarten... here goes nothing :)

Kindergarten Teaching:

Wow, kids and their parents suck. Kindergarten is terrible. Actually I love the curriculum but not the kids... Maybe I should switch grades. Maybe I should quit teaching. Ah, this new class is making me love kindergarten. Yay Kindergarten. Boo Kindergarten. Maybe I should be a reading specialist. Maybe I should leave teaching all together. I love teaching, I was meant for this job.Maybe I should switch to 2nd grade. Maybe I love kindergarten. Yay kindergarten. Boo kindergarten. I love kids I could never leave teaching. Kids are the worst.

I have a few thoughts on the question, "What Should I Do WIth My Life?"

1. Job does not equal Life. So, in answering the question, "What should I do with my life?" also consider what you want to do with your time NOT at work. My job is often times all consuming, but I do get time off to pursue my other passion: trips! For me, what I do with my life is very connected to my job... for others the two may be almost unrelated.

2. I used to think people who said they "love" their job mean they love it all the time. Then one time I overheard Eric tell someone that he "loves" his job. WHAT? I thought... no you don't! What about our hour long complaining session every single night? That's not love. I've come to realize love is a relative word when it comes to work. Work is always work. Even the best boss will be annoying at times. Even the best "clients" will be annoying at times. Even the best job may not motivate you to wake up before the sun with a big smile on your face. But at the end of the day (and I mean "day" in the broad sense, not the daily sense), could I imagine doing anything else? no. I could not imagine a day without cards and drawings piling up on my desk. I could not imagine a day without the clean up songs. I could not imagine a day without being told what to do by 5 year olds. Or by people who have never actually taught children. I could not imagine a day without hearing the kindergarten rendition of "Dynamite" (it included "I'm gonna rock this club like it's a volcano... singing heyo, baby let's go"). I could not imagine a day without being asked "why?" at least 10 times per hour. etc. etc. etc.

3. You may change your mind about what you want to do with your life. It's a process. You have the luxury.

4. For me, the key has been to focus on what I know. I do want to be busy. I do want to be active. I do want to have purpose. I do want to be challenged. I do want to use my mind. I do want to work with others. I do want to feel confident. I do want the power to make someone's day (even if it means the pressure that I could break it). For now, teaching kindergarten provides these things.

What do you want to do with your life? Do you know? When did you figure it out?

What is something you DO know that you want to do?

If time and money were no object, what would you do differently? Believe it or not, I'd still teach, but I'd hire someone to do EVERYTHING else for me. This includes cooking, cleaning, landscaping, laundry, grocery shopping (might as well since they are cooking all my meals), clothes shopping, donating clothes I don't need anymore, etc etc :) Since we are living in my ideal world, I wouldn't really mind more vacation time too. Might also hire some sort of behaviorist to come and whip my class into shape... and a parent manager (for the kids parents, not my own parents lol) wouldn't be terrible either. Whoa I'm getting carried away...


  1. Wow, I love this post. I actually LOVE my job -- seriously, everything except the crazy commute is perfect -- but I realize that's the exception, not the rule, when it comes to work.

    My dream job is still to host a show on the Travel Channel and spend my life traveling but I feel lucky to have spent two years traveling before settling down to a 'real' job.

  2. If time/money were no object, I would own a little book store. That has always been a dream of mine but it's something I know I will never do because owning an independent bookstore is extremely difficult w/ big box retailer, amazon, and the e-reader movement. So... it will always be my 'wouldn't it be nice' dream.

    I read that book my senior year of college... so I was a little bit late reading it as I was already committed to my major (math).

    Right now, I want to work on getting into a job that will use my talents a little better. My job right now is ok, but I am not really using my MBA. So I want to eventually get into a job that is a better fit. But I want to have work/life balance. I want to be able to take vacations and spend time with my family.

  3. i LOVE that you've reframed the question to define life as not only work. because whenever that question gets asked to me JOB is the only thing that comes to mind.

    but job wise i want to be in the health care field. specifically a doctor but i really just want to help patients so i'm not opposed other routes (PA, NP etc) but i really want to be a pediatrician. and i've known since i was like 10 that it's what i want

  4. You're very wise to realize that what you want to do with your life shouldn't mean what do you want to do with your career...job is just one aspect of your life.

    When my kids were little, I realized that I wanted more of my time to myself away from work for my family. My job was crazy and I was working 50/60 hrs per week. I switched to part-time (24 hrs) thinking it wouldn't work and that I'd eventually quit. I did that for SEVEN years. Now it has been over 10 yrs since that decision and I still work what my employer calls a reduced hours, but full time schedule (32 hrs). I don't think I'll ever go back to 'regular' full time again.

  5. Still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up! Right now, bewing a mom is the perfect job :)

  6. Hmm probably own a bookstore/coffee shop. Or be a lawyer. Or a full-time traveler haha. I really wouldn't mind working every day if it meant I could come home to a clean everything ad not worry about it!

  7. Wait so... this question doesn't go away once you graduate college and land your first job?


    I think I'm at the point now where I really don't care what job I get, I just want a job. Okay.. that's not true. I do care. But I mostly just want to graduate.

  8. GREAT post!! I got a degree in Communications and then...hmmm what job can I do?? somehow I ended up as an event planner...I am good at it but don't feel like it is my calling.. But it pays the bills.. I hope that someday I can find a job where I want to go to work and don't complain when I get home.. to me that would be love..

  9. This is a great post.

    I just recently finished six years of graduate school (after a couple agonizing years of figuring out what I wanted to study and why I wanted to study it) and landed a job on the academic tenure track that I had no business landing. I absolutely love what I'm doing - and I still come home with frustrations and horror stories. This being my first semester in the "real world," I've definitely felt freaked out by those frustrations and have wondered whether I made a mistake in doing what I'm doing... but I'm starting to feel more comfortable with the fact that nothing's going to be perfect and if 80% of my days I don't feel like I'm actually "working," that makes me pretty lucky.

  10. Hahahaha! I love this post so much and the reason I'm laughing is because I always say I LOVE my job but that doesn't mean I love it 100% of the time. I love being challenged, I love being busy, I love being creative - I do NOT love sitting at a desk all day and I don't love have to get up and go to work every single day. But you know what? I also don't DREAD work - and I think that's the line that's the fine line. Some people DREAD going to work every day and hate their life for 40 hours a week. No thanks, not me!

    Ideally - I would still be doing what I'm doing now (I really do enjoy it!) but only for 20-25 hours per week! I don't mind working every day, it's the working 8-4:30 every single day that gets to me. I would also love to have more time to do freelance writing and maybe do something fun on the side like be a yoga teacher :)

    I REALLY like this post!

  11. Haha, I love your inner dialogue about Kindergarten. I have a lot of the same thoughts...LOVE it then get so frustrated by behavior and working so hard to keep their attention that I kind of want a desk job where I can have some peace and quiet...hehe.

  12. This post had me cracking up - especially how you feel about teaching kindergarten now! Tehehe.

    I like the job I'm at now. It's not my ideal career path, but it's fine for while I'm going through school. I'm kind of like Caroline, too, I just want a job when I graduate! I want health insurance, darn it! ;) I want to feel challenged at my job, but also happy to be there. I'm not sure where it will be, but happiness plays a key role!

  13. This is a great post and obviously so relevant to many people! I am in the process of figuring it out, and I am pretty certain what I want to do with my life will change multiple times throughout. I really have spent a lot of my time thinking that what you do is who you are. It was why I had such a hard time leaving a job that I was miserable in; I was successful, advancing, making good money, and working like a maniac while crying everyday, I thought that made me tough and admirable. Now a month and a half into freelance working, I have redefined my job's place in life. (though I still have plenty of panicky, doubtful moments!)

  14. I've had jobs as a graphic designer since I graduated college ten years ago, but I know for a fact that it's not what I want to do with my life. I'd like to do something that involves a bit of design, some writing and nutrition type stuff.