Do you mourn the career you won't have?

What should you do when you want to do everything? If you're fascinated by everything, and you've been called dabbler, dilettante, undisciplined, indecisive etc., this forum is for you.

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Do you mourn the career you won't have?

Postby lora_g » Sat Apr 16, 2016 5:28 pm

I first read Refuse to Choose a few months ago, and it was a huge relief to find out that there wasn't anything wrong with me, and after two unsuccessful stints with career counselors, not "finding my one true passion" wasn't my fault.

But lately I've felt down. I see friends who have been able to find a passion in the sciences or the arts, made a career of it by my age, and I'm jealous and sad.

It's difficult to work in a field (Technology) surrounded by people who believe that This Thing is the Greatest and the Only Thing you could ever want to do. I see technology as sometimes good (enables communication & sharing of knowledge!) and just as often bad (enables cyber-bullying, and widens the divide between rich and poor). I often wondered if there is something wrong with me, or am I surrounded by a bunch of people who are faking enthusiasm because anything less is socially unacceptable?

I am, by most counts, successful, even if I am not passionate about what I do. Last year, I switched from a full-time position in a technology firm with prestige and the possibility for advancement to freelance work. I think 6 months is about my limit with getting frustrated by a job or the people there, so I've been trying to keep my contract work 6 months or less. But I am still bored. There's no way to "move up" in the freelance world, so I'm sometimes taking work that I'm overqualified for, being very well paid for it, but very bored by it. I thought freelancing would free up time to pursue my interests, but really, all I do with any spare time now is household chores. I don't feel enabled by my "good enough" job; I feel trapped.

Has anyone else struggled with losing the idea of the one thing you meant to do? How did you get over it?
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Re: Do you mourn the career you won't have?

Postby SquarePeg » Sat Apr 16, 2016 7:01 pm

I did freelance work (job shopping) in the summers between spring and fall semesters in college. The work was boring, but it paid well. And knowing it was only temporary made it tolerable.

Chores are such life-sucking things, aren't they? I always say, "I bet Leonardo da Vinci didn't have to fuss with laundry." Do you make enough to "out source" them? Can you afford to hire a pet sitter or maid or landscaper? Consider how much these chores cost you in terms of time.
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Re: Do you mourn the career you won't have?

Postby lora_g » Sat Apr 16, 2016 10:55 pm

SquarePeg wrote:Consider how much these chores cost you in terms of time.

Thanks, SquarePeg. Time isn't a big concern for me. I went from 60-80 hour weeks to working normal human hours (~40). I've lost my motivation; knowing that my projects won't lead to anything has made me less interested in them. I thought I was trying out all these new things until something finally stuck.

And now, I'm at the realization that nothing will stick. Instead of feeling freed from the expectation of the "one thing you are supposed to do," I feel like I lost my purpose. I aways assumed I would find that thing, eventually, and be successful. I'm generally pretty good at things I set my mind to (until I get bored, that is.) But what now? Settle for boring contract gigs, so I can pursue projects that I won't finish, that won't ever become a career?

Just hoping other people here have had success dealing with the loss of that idea that you would find the thing you were "meant to do." Anyone?
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Re: Do you mourn the career you won't have?

Postby BarbaraSher » Sun Apr 17, 2016 11:47 am

I'm doing what I was meant to do, lora_g. And I've been doing it for over 45 years. And I'm a Scanner. Every time I answer a post on this bulletin board (like yours), or write something for Hanging Out, or train coaches or show people how to become speakers and writers because they have realized they have something to say, I feel like I'm doing something profoundly meaningful. I use the abilities I have - talking and writing mostly - and I dabble in all the things I love that make my free time happy, and show me what's beautiful and interesting and fun.

I didn't wait for some big passion to come along. I just did what I was good at, what skills I had a natural ability at doing, and found that I cared enormously about the work I was doing. (If you want to know what that work is, specifically, go over to TEDx Prague: Isolation is the Dreamkiller. http://goo.gl/OcYgpl It describes the work I did and it will show you what kinds of things I cared about. It's even funny.)

Most people find this same thing in themselves, but it's often so ordinary to them that they can't see it. Good doctors are driven to save lives. Good lawyers really care about injustice and work to create justice. Good teachers really want kids to love learning. But almost everyone is pushed to do something, even if they never study it in school, something that matters to them. It's usually about making something right that seems to be wrong. Some people want to show other people that they actually are creative. Some people want to show other people how to be beautiful or have good marriages or learn to travel alone or to make warm, safe homes, or to be all they can be. Some people want to rescue animals because they have a special sense about animals and it troubles them that they suffer. Some people understand and love nature more than the rest of us and they are driven to protect it.

Are you saying you have none of that, about anything?
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Re: Do you mourn the career you won't have?

Postby lora_g » Sun Apr 17, 2016 2:20 pm

Thank you, Barbara. If I have a calling, I haven't found it yet. I have lots of hobbies - edible gardening, building furniture, drawing, reading, I love animals/pets, but those are things I like to do for myself & by myself.

What I do now is best described process design for building software (the title "Project Manager" is a bit dry) - a client tells my company a problem they are having, and I can build the software project plan on how to create something that will fix the problem. The process design part I like : how to tackle a problem, who needs to be on the team, what the team's methodology should be, what the software features should be, a timeline and a budget for the project. But that's 10-20% of the job. The rest is the day-to-day management of the team, or what I like to call "just do your job!" work. I don't enjoy managing people, solving their personal problems or managing the competing egos on a team. I find this part of the job exhausting, thankless and unrewarding.

I guess I had hoped I would own my own business someday.. but doing what? I have no idea. Or dozens of ideas - but I know I like creating the ideas more than the reality of running a business. I know I am good at planning and design (puzzle-solving, in a way), but I've not found a way to separate that from jobs that require you to also implement & manage those plans & designs...
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Re: Do you mourn the career you won't have?

Postby BarbaraSher » Sun Apr 17, 2016 2:35 pm

I'm not talking about a 'calling.' I'm talking about something you're driven to do. Not even something that necessarily makes you happy, it's just that you have no tolerance for something and have to do something about it.

Ask your friends. They usually know. You might not see it because it's so obvious.
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Re: Do you mourn the career you won't have?

Postby BarbaraSher » Sun Apr 17, 2016 2:37 pm

Incidentally, it's usually something you've cared about, and tried to do something about since you were very young.
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Re: Do you mourn the career you won't have?

Postby BarbaraSher » Sun Apr 17, 2016 2:40 pm

And you would do it whether it was a job or not.
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Re: Do you mourn the career you won't have?

Postby elizagard » Sun Apr 24, 2016 7:35 pm

I don't know. Technically, I've retired sooner than I expected, but I'm really not sure what to do with myself. I've thought about going back to school for a masters degree and yet another career (after two different careers and many various jobs before that). I've explored information architecture, city and regional planning, landscape architecture, neuroscience, journalism, art, and an MFA or certificate in prose or fiction. I'm curious about many things, but passionate about none. I like the math skills for the GRE in some cases, and that makes me sad, because I had been quite good at math until about 14. I mourn that, because it seems to late to ever catch up now and it limits my options. Part of me just wants to take random classes exploring everything that I didn't get to do when I was younger. Part of me feels that I should devote my life to service and helping other people or social needs. None of me feels excited about any of it. All of me feels a bit lost and untethered.

I do have temporary passions. Last year, I was very focused on Duolingo and learning various languages before a trip to Europe. This year, I'm interested in diet, nutrition, and exercise because I need to lose weight (16 pounds down so far). I'm reading a lot of cookbooks.
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Re: Do you mourn the career you won't have?

Postby BarbaraSher » Mon Apr 25, 2016 9:40 am

lora_g wrote:I know I like creating the ideas more than the reality of running a business. I know I am good at planning and design (puzzle-solving, in a way), but I've not found a way to separate that from jobs that require you to also implement & manage those plans & designs...


Not really. Not if you have a partner. Or a job on the side so you can hire a bookkeeper. Very few creative people run their businesses alone.

Isolation is the dreamkiller, lora, once again.
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Re: Do you mourn the career you won't have?

Postby lora_g » Sat Apr 30, 2016 9:21 am

I'm not talking about a 'calling.' I'm talking about something you're driven to do. Not even something that necessarily makes you happy, it's just that you have no tolerance for something and have to do something about it.

Ask your friends. They usually know. You might not see it because it's so obvious.


So, I took your advice and asked friends, and family, and everyone had a different answer. My closest high school friend always assumed I would be a writer. My father thought I would go into politics. My sister thought I would be a translator or a dog trainer. I'm sure at one point, all of these things appealed to me, but not for very long, and not now.

I thought the whole point of identifying your inner "scanner-ness" was that there wasn't a single thing you're driven to do. I haven't found one, I've found dozens, and not all at once, and for a limited time.

But what I miss is the idea that I would have a career, not a notebook full of wishes and ideas. Just wondering if anyone else has navigated that sense of loss.
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Re: Do you mourn the career you won't have?

Postby SquarePeg » Sun May 01, 2016 6:45 pm

My answer to the subject question is "yes, I did."

I was very interested in music in my teens and early twenties. I had a great ear, could sight read (and sight sing) and I understood various styles of music. And I'm sure I could've had a successful career. But I was more drawn to computer programming and electronics, so I enrolled in school to follow that path. I was too busy to "keep up my chops" as they say. I recall that the last get together with my musician friends was very depressing. I haven't been in touch with any of them since then. It's really as if they died, and that I died to them.
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Re: Do you mourn the career you won't have?

Postby tanyadawn » Thu Jul 27, 2017 10:00 pm

Oh how thankful I am to have found this thread.

Last night I was grappling with a lot of the same feelings that lora_g mentioned in her original post. (Thank you for sharing, Lora! :D ) I've been grieving the loss of the girl I always thought I would be -- the girl I was taught I would be. A girl with the brains and talent to really "make something of herself," if only she could focus and pay attention instead of flitting from one thing to the next. Goodbye fulfilling career, hello never knowing what's going to come next. (Needless to say I'm still working on making friends with uncertainty.)

As Lora shared, I too felt great relief when I read Barbara's book last year and discovered that there isn't actually anything wrong with me -- that in fact being a Scanner is something to celebrate and respect. At the same time I also still find myself wishing that I could be the kind of person who takes pleasure in specialization and mastery.

Up until I found "Refuse To Choose," I didn't know there was any other way -- and it's going to take time to release those stories that have been weaving their way into the fabric of my identity for 35 years now. Especially given that so many of the loudest (and perhaps most valued?) voices of success in our world are still so obviously specialists.

Even so, I was inspired by Barbara's assertion that a fulfilling career could possibly be found in something a Scanner feels driven to do. So I started to look at the wrongs I've always tried to right and realized that I cannot tolerate when people are judged for being who they are, when they're hated on for expressing themselves and mocked simply for trying.

I've been toying with the idea of enrolling in a local program that teaches expressive arts facilitation, and almost immediately I was able to see the connection -- this facilitation certification would give me a container where I could offer people a safe place to be themselves, to be celebrated for expressing themselves and appreciated simply for trying.

I don't know if it'll go anywhere, I'm not clear enough on my durations yet to be sure, but I can feel the possibility, and the panic that I've heard Barbara talk about, that only sets in when you take a step toward something you actually want.

Thank you again to everyone who has shared here. Your courage is deeply appreciated.
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Re: Do you mourn the career you won't have?

Postby Elaine Glimme » Wed Aug 09, 2017 12:23 pm

HI, Tanyadawn, I hope you're still reading the posts here.

Your post made me hopeful. I hope you get to do what you wrote about. I'm a writer. (No, you probably haven't heard about me. Neither has anyone else, except for a few friends). But I have very strong feeling, and I'm scared to express them because I'm scared I'll be criticized, judged and disliked. The Boards here are a safe place for us to be ourselves, and I value my internet friends.

I hope you read this, and i hope you keep posting, and I hope you find what you're looking for. I suspect that what you want to be doesn't really exist yet. You'll be the first one. It sounds like sort of a therapist, priest, councilor, mother, really good friend. But not exactly any of them. If you read the old posts here, something may spark your interest, because we do support each other a lot.

Thanks for the post.
Elaine Glimme - author - "Temporary Address" and "The Molly Chronicles"
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Re: Do you mourn the career you won't have?

Postby SquarePeg » Fri Aug 11, 2017 6:02 pm

tanyadawn, I just saw your post because Elaine "bumped" the thread when she replied.
...the panic that I've heard Barbara talk about, that only sets in when you take a step toward something you actually want.
Most of us try to avoid anything that makes us fearful. But fear can be a good guide as you wrote. Not only can fear keep you safe from physical harm, it can also point you toward a path that can lead you out of your comfort zone and into something very rewarding.
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