After all my falling apart lately, it seems that things are starting to clear a little bit.

My tendency, for better or worse, is to approach shifts toward the positive cautiously. Because, you know, they could shift back the other way at any moment.

Does my old buddy, Urgency, still visit without an invitation? Oh yeah.

Hence the caution, because sometimes Urgency shows up and decides to camp out on the couch for days at a time. In his boxer shorts and undershirt stained with Cheetos dust. What a dick.

Wait, what was this post supposed to be about?

Oh, I remember. Things looking up.

So the fact that things are looking decidedly less staring-into-the-abyss-ish meant I needed to figure out what’s next.

And wondering what’s next led me to reflect on what was going on for me when I started this blog (and before ever starting it).

Which led me to remember how stuck I was.

First, let me be clear that I am in no way implying that I am immune to getting stuck. I think my previous two posts make that point pretty well.

But there was a particular flavor of stuck that I was in for years. The I-hate-my-job-and-I-want-to-do-something-else-but-I-have-no-idea-what-my-Thing-is flavor.

And by Thing, I mean the thing I am good at, enjoy doing, and want to be paid to do.

Story time

Way, way back, when I first discovered that I loved databases and wanted to work in IT, it wound up taking me about a year to get my first real IT job. I was so excited to have finally broken through that frustrating Catch-22 of not being able to get experience because I didn’t have experience, yet.

And then it took less than a year for the career honeymoon to be over.

Even if I decided to ignore the feeling that I was living a Dilbert cartoon everyday, all the little technology gremlins that kept something from working for no apparent reason? And the constant assault of new tools coming in to replace the old tools? Drove. Me. Crazy.

Yes, there is always new stuff to learn no matter what field you’re in. But I quickly got tired of all the new learning required to be successful in IT. It just wasn’t my Thing.

I was heart-broken. Because for the second time, I’d thought I’d found my dream career, only to learn that I would have to go back to the drawing board. (The first time? I really thought I’d be a scuba instructor in the Caribbean for longer than three years.)

But the drawing board was not a fun place to go back to, especially for someone who doesn’t like being in the not knowing.

“What do you want to do?”
“What do you like to do?”

Those questions caused me a lot of anxiety. Because no matter how many times I asked myself, or others asked me, I only heard static.

I started reading books by people like Barbara Sher and Martha Beck. And the kinds of books that had tests you could take to help you figure out what you’d be good at. Those stupid tests never worked for me – they always seemed to result in the answer of “you can do whatever you want.” (Uhhh…thanks?)

What did you like to do as a child?

That wasn’t a helpful question because, by the third grade, I was only interested in making sure I got straight-A’s in school. There was no time for anything else.

Oh but wait…I used to like crafts.

At the time, though, that wasn’t an acceptable Thing at all, so the information wasn’t helpful. It was so tied up in all my Stuff around creativity and perfectionism that there was no way I could explore it as a possible business.

Looking back, what really kept me stuck was that I was unable to give myself permission to do anything about finding a new Thing. No experimenting. No trying and then moving on to something else if it turned out I didn’t like it.

It’s a sad and uncomfortable place to be. I desperately wanted to want to do something, but between the disappointment of so quickly falling out of love with IT and the fear of getting the next choice “wrong,” I couldn’t even let myself dream.

Am I alone?

I’ve got some ideas that I think would have helped me had I been able to give them to myself back then. But it made me wonder about you.

Can you relate to wanting to find your Thing but not knowing where to look?

If you’re still in the process of figuring out what your Thing is, and you’re feeling stuck around that (or have felt stuck in the past), what flavor of stuckness is it?

What kind of “yeah-buts” are you hearing when you come across something that could be your Thing, and you’d like to know more about it?

Or maybe you’re pretty sure you’ve found your Thing, but you’re still hearing lots of yeah-buts. Are you feeling stuck around how to move forward? Or how to be sure it’s for real?

Of course, I’d love to hear about it in the comments. But I know this can be a difficult and frustrating topic. So if you want to remain anonymous, you can share your answers in the form below.

I really want to hear from you.

(If you’re reading this via email and aren’t able to see the special form, you’ll need to click through to the web page in order to use it.)

14 thoughts on “Remembering

  1. Wulfie

    Hi and you are sooo right.

    “It’s a sad and uncomfortable place to be. I desperately wanted to want to do something, but between the disappointment of so quickly falling out of love with IT and the fear of getting the next choice “wrong,” I couldn’t even let myself dream.”

    That pretty much describes where I am right now. Heck, I’m not even blogging about TRYING to find my thing anymore. I just stopped, which means I’ve hit that statistic where new bloggers go under before the sixth month. Yup. Under I go.

    You mentioned the tests, yeah, no help. And being able to do many different things, not helpful. I ‘think’ my THING is writing about the other things I’m into. I’m not willing to take the dive though. Not yet. It’s too scary and too depressing because what if I’m wrong AGAIN?!

    Things are dicks…um…which is way more funny than I intended it to be if you think about fooling around with one trying figure out what it is and what it does and how it works. Well, at least I get to end this laughing! Shmorking!

  2. Patty K

    Snicker snicker about the whole things are dicks and figuring out how they work…naughty Wulfie.

    Wow, Victoria…we have similar stories. Straight As in school? Check. Love affair with databases? Check. Frustrations with having to learn new damned tools all the time in order to simply continue on with a “not quite right” career? Check. Able to do so many things? Check. Not wanting to make a mistake? Sigh…

    I’m pretty sure I’ve found my Thing now. Actually, more precisely, I would say that I’m finally getting around to doing my Thing now. (My biggest stuck about finding my Thing was admitting that yes, this scary/exciting/might-even-be-fun-and-not-feel-like-work Thing was my Thing.)

    The yeah buts and stucks:
    yeah but what if it doesn’t work and you go broke?
    yeah but you have so much time invested in IT, how can you throw it all away?
    yeah but you’re too old
    yeah but you started too late
    yeah but you suck and no one cares what you have to say
    yeah but “ordinary people like you” can’t have “Things” – they are reserved for special people

    While these (and their slimy friends I can’t remember off the top of my head) still come around to visit, I’m managing to more forward. Among other things, I keep thinking back to something Barbara Sher said. Something to the effect of: “It’s not about you. It’s about those people that only you can help. It’s absolutely criminal of you to keep your gifts to yourself. You owe it to society to use what you were given.” (Of course this is only helpful if you know who “those people you can help” are and you can actually identify your gifts.)
    .-= Patty K´s last blog ..Wishing I hadn’t stopped, wishing I’d started sooner =-.

  3. elizabeth

    Oh, goodness. I was stuck for years. The few ideas I had were in the, “Yeah, but you can’t do that unless you go back to school, and how can you pay for that?” I went through a mini-crisis-of-sorts where I wanted to hang it all and join the Peace Corps, but then realized that I couldn’t afford to join the Peace Corp (credit card bills wouldn’t stop coming).

    After I did suspect what my Thing was, I heard: “Yeah, but who is going to pay you when they could pay someone else?” “Yeah, but you’ve been told that you don’t know how to make it on less than you earn now.” “Yeah, but what if they don’t see results.” “Yeah, but you can’t even sell candy bars; how can you be in business for yourself.” “Yeah, but you should just suck it up until you retire; then you can do what you want.”

    I feel like there were a lot more, but those are the ones that come to mind right now.
    .-= elizabeth´s last blog ..i stand in wonder =-.

  4. Victoria Post author

    Thank you so much to the people who responded via the anonymous form. I’m so glad you were willing to share what’s going on with you. And thanks also to the folks who shared via comments. It’s giving me lots to think about. Please, keep it coming! :)

    @Wulfie – “Things are dicks” OMG I love that. Maybe we should get t-shirts made. On a more serious note, I definitely understand the “what if I’m wrong again” yeah-but.

    @Patty – Wow we really do have similar stories, because even after I was pretty sure I found my thing, it took me forever to be able to admit it.

    @elizabeth – Ouch – those “escape crises” are hard. Mine took the form of wanting to go back to school. I even started investigating culinary school (which, anyone who knows me would know that’s soooo not my Thing), but like you, I couldn’t afford to execute any of my escape plans. Which, looking back is really a good thing. :)

  5. Kyeli

    Can you relate to wanting to find your Thing but not knowing where to look?

    ARG YES.

    If you’re still in the process of figuring out what your Thing is, and you’re feeling stuck around that (or have felt stuck in the past), what flavor of stuckness is it?

    The flavor of Broken Hearts? I had my Thing all figured out, but then that other thing happened and now I can’t do my Thing, and so now I’m flummoxed and feeling lost and scared and small. And so now my Thing is changing, and I have some ideas, but I keep asking What now?! and not feeling sure.

    What kind of “yeah-buts” are you hearing when you come across something that could be your Thing, and you’d like to know more about it?

    Yeah-but it won’t make a good living. Yeah-but there are already so many people doing it! Yeah-but I’m not good enough. Yeah-but I’m not smart enough. Yeah-but I’m not patient enough. Yeah-but but!

    Or maybe you’re pretty sure you’ve found your Thing, but you’re still hearing lots of yeah-buts. Are you feeling stuck around how to move forward? Or how to be sure it’s for real?

    How to be sure it’s for real. That is one of my BIGGEST HANGUPS. I think, especially since I was for real sure no doubts whatsoever about my *last* thing, and then boom! I was wrong and now what? And even if I do know now what, how do I know it’s what I want and not just what I’m latching onto? And how do I even move into it? And how do I heal from the broken heart of my last Thing not being the Right Thing?

    Thanks for asking.

    .-= Kyeli´s last blog ..Kyeli’s 33rd Birthday Quest. Not To Say That She’s Had 33 Birthday Quests, But More Like That It’s About A Quest In Honor Of Her 33rd Birthday. =-.

  6. Rebecca

    Ohhhhh, yes. I LOVE this post. I have been through all of these. I have read all the books that tell you how to DO what you want (as long as you know what that is, which they give brief mention in one page at the beginning). And I have growled in frustration at the non-advice on how to find your “thing.” I especially loved this, “I desperately wanted to want to do something…” More people are frustrated by this than anyone cares to admit. You are on the right track, keep going!
    .-= Rebecca´s last blog ..How to Resolve Those Inner Conflicts =-.

  7. Anna-Liza

    Wow. I still don’t know what my Thing is … I am making a barely adequate (if that) income as a CS rep. Should say that it’s for a company I am very happy to be a part of, and I get to be around a lot of cool, creative people … but *I* want to be one of the creative people! I do crafts, have some talent (I am finally admitting) at art, totally untrained. Most of the things that “fit” are things I would have to go back to school for, so that’s a way I block myself. I love to read, love to c0nnect people to things or other people they need, love to synthesize information – 20/20 hindsight, I should have been a librarian.
    But what I really want is to make a living doing something creative and expressive of myself. Or at least make a living doing something that doesn’t get in the way of that. But what is “That”?
    And when people ask me what I want? Dial tone. Total dial tone.
    Oh yeah, the tests were no help for me either.
    .-= Anna-Liza´s last blog ..Pollyanna is a cranky monkey =-.

  8. pam

    I don’t even know where to start to look for my THING, and I don’t have the finances to join the places where I could likely be able to get the support I need t FIND my thing… so yeah, I’m completely stuck.
    I have the conditions as well — I don’t have a support network at all, I don’t have friends or family close by to help me find my thing, I don’t have a partner to help if something goes awry, if I don’t make money I lose my house but more importantly I lose the joint custody situation with my kids (even though I am a great mother, I have been warned by the courts that unemployment will be considered “unstable” and my ex will have the right to apply for sole custody on me) — so I want to find where I belong, I REALLY REALLY REALLY want to find people who I might fit in with, I want a voice that people will read, I want friends, I want to leave being a “secretary” (I’m an office administrator, but the guys tell me I am a secretary), I want to find what will make ME happy while supporting my family…
    I don’t have a clue where to start… and its like a catch 22 — you know you need help, but you can’t get help because you don’t know what you need, or you need finances you dn’t have to get to a place you can stay stable.
    No idea where to start, and I can’t get ANYONE to talk to me… so I persevere hoping I can find a way to make it change
    .-= pam´s last blog ..Pam’s Dating Manifesto… =-.

  9. Chris

    I can totally relate to the “wanting to find your Thing but not knowing where to look”. For me the pressure to find my PASSION got me so stuck I couldn’t even think about it. I mean, how could I not have a PASSION? And if I did have one, how could I NOT KNOW what it was? And what if what I really wanted was an integrated life and I was looking for a way to make money that would support that? In that case, the actual Thing didn’t matter so much. But there was the guilt about leaving PASSION on the table….. Ugh!

    Thankfully, I seem to have moved past that particular stuck – for now. Whew!

    The yeah-buts are still camped out on my couch. We’ve declared an uneasy truce but they’re still there, eating my food and trashing my living room.
    Yeah, but you’re too old.
    Yeah, but you don’t have a process.
    Yeah, but you’re not a good writer.
    Yeah, but no one would ever pay money for that.
    Yeah, but no one would ever pay YOU for that.
    Yeah, but you don’t have any credentials, degrees, or fancy letters after your name.
    Yeah, but you never stick with anything.
    Yeah, but it’ll take too long.
    Yeah, but you’ll never make as much money doing your Thing as you do doing the soul-sucking but lucrative tech work you do now.
    Yeah, but you don’t have time to organically grow a business from scratch; you have to make a lot of money now.
    Yeah, but the people in your life are going to give you crap about it.
    Yeah, but you don’t even know for sure that you HAVE a Thing. (My current personal favorite. His name is Mickey.)

    Thing is, at some point I’d heard it all so many times that it started occurring as white noise. The only proper response was “So what? I don’t care.”

    Yeah, but you’re too old. So what?

    .-= Chris´s last blog ..Random Acts of Self-Care =-.

  10. Leila

    Wow it helps to see people up here – who I consider to be further along than me ‘career wise’ who are still in some stuck or at least go through periods of huuuge frustration.
    So I accept that there may be no one thing. But when I think of doing work which is about helping people to tune out those internal and external voices that limit them – I struggle with how to do this and be congruent – because you know I am growing and changing all the time, so, urghh, what if I’m wrong? And I am only an expert of me…So I’m doing more of what I love. That’s great. But none of it is paying my bills. My actual bills and it’s a vicious circle.
    I’m a bit worn out by the need to be positive too. I want real. I want people who don’t bullshit. I want people who don’t say do this and your life with totally change, you can have it allll, I want people who say I trust this thing most days but not always and here’s a few things that I’ve learned.
    I’m having a pooey day and I’m just glad that you are all here sharing and that the Brouhard has thought to post this up. Thank God.
    I’m thinking of creating a weekly ritual on my blog. A day just to moan and acknoweldge the hard and not try to fix anything. Arrrghhhhhh.
    Thanks for all the honesty. Loving it, loving it. Love.
    .-= Leila´s last blog ..How can we better support ourself as we journey to find our buried treasure? =-.

  11. Sherri

    Finding my Thing? Yes, I’ve been stuck at that sense the early ’90s. Haha! Not knowing where to look, wanting to try everything, not knowing what the options are, it can be really tough to feel grounded. Our society always values the people who want to climb the corporate ladder or, more recently, the people who can successfully run their own business. If you’re still stuck in the “what is it I’m meant to do” stage, you don’t know which direction to climb.

    Jamie Ridler recently asked me to consider that maybe my Thing isn’t a Thing. Maybe it’s Things… plural. That small mindshift feels like it might be shaking up the stuck. We shall see!
    .-= Sherri´s last blog ..Full Moon Dreamboard: More Than One Thing =-.

  12. Sarah

    What a great topic! I spent a few years going through a process very different than yours: I think there were a total of five serious ideas about what the Thing might be that I pursued. I’m still pursuing two, and have juuuust — like, in the last two weeks — grasped how they are facets of the same core Thing! That sound you hear is the echo of the chorus of angels from that experience.

    Some of my stuck around identifying AND pursuing my thing:
    There’s no money in that.
    I’m not good enough at that.
    And I am definitely not good enough at that for people to pay me.
    And extra-definitely not enough for them to pay me a living wage and I’ll have to work two jobs forever and die working in a gutter aaaaaaaah!
    ZOMG my Thing requires creative skills, vulnerability, ack!
    ZOMG my Thing requires talking about my life, vulnerability, ack!
    What if people throw whole closets full of shoes at me?

    I am looking forward to hearing your ideas!
    .-= Sarah´s last blog ..Three things to do with fear =-.

  13. Victoria Post author

    You guys are the best!

    I’m so thankful that so many of you were willing to share both here in the comments and on the form.

    I was also surprised that I could relate to so much of what you said. And by “relate,” I mean, I experienced it personally in my own adventure of going from not knowing where to start to pursuing my Thing full time.

    So, I just want you to know that I get it, and you’re not alone. But most importantly, there is nothing wrong with you!

    Anyway…you guys have really helped to confirm that a lot of us struggle with the same Thing-Finding Stuff.

    And so, it is with humble gratitude that I present my follow up post and class announcement, The Shmorian Thing-Finding Methodology.

  14. Jesse

    Here goes… Even after graduating from college, I avoided finding a ‘career’. Instead I found jobs I enjoyed. While the jobs were fun, they didn’t address the “what am I going to do for the rest of my life” question. Having kids was life-altering. Duh. Still needed to mesh being a mom with something – for me. A close friend suggested that I write about my marriage and ultimate divorce and all that. It ended up being cathartic for me, and proves to be helpful for others. I’m not making a dime. I know I should be. I’ll get to that.

    I can’t wait to get out of bed and write and hopefully shine a light for others struggling in the same kind of relationship.

    Here’s the weird part… Somewhere before I started my blog, I’d been reading that whatever girls are passionate about when they are 11 years old, they end up pursuing throughout their adult years. Five months into my blog, I remembered that when I was 11, and in 6th grade, I had approached my teacher about writing a column for our little school paper. I wanted to write an advice column – think Dear Abby. A did that for a year and was absolutely consumed by helping others with their stuff.

    I didn’t get paid then, either! ;)
    .-= Jesse´s last blog ..Annie’s Dad =-.

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