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.
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.)