Rewind to 1997 when I was just a little munchkin sitting in my first grade class at a private Christian school. Our teacher asked us what we wanted to do when we grew up. While I don’t remember what the other children specifically said — I know they rattled off a list of things, “I want to be a firefighter, a ninja, a real estate agent, a Jedi, and a dentist!” Each child had a misty, dreamy look in his eyes as he imagined all the possibilities.
As for me, there was only one. I’ve always known I wanted to be an attorney, and an animal rescuer on the side as a hobby. My family fed into this dream, always complimenting what a great lawyer I’d be someday — it didn’t help that my family has quite a few attorneys in it. I’d argue with my grandma about my bedtime, she’d smile and tell me I made a good case for myself, but for now I was just a little pipsqueak who needed to pipe down and get to bed. I was always the kid who knew what she wanted to do and used to smirk at the clueless dreamers. I even got a head start on my animal rescuing hobby by becoming a vegetarian at the age of 10. If I couldn’t save all the flea ridden animals of the world, I could at least refrain from eating them?
Fast forward to a random day this past month when suddenly I was one of those first graders who rattled off a long list of what they wanted to do. I called my dad sobbing. At first it started off with questions like, do I want to do Constitutional law? Specialize in terrorism and genocide? Try to be a D.A.? Then it started spiraling into… do I want to work for the CIA, join the Peace Corp, be a political journalist? The only difference between myself and my first grade classmates during the phone call with my dad was the fact that my eyes weren’t misty with dreams and inspiration — they were bloodshot and swollen with fear.
The fear stemmed from the fact that while I could deal with having interests in different types of law after all — I’d have three years of law school to figure that out, can talk forever about my favorite Constitutional amendments, and recently let out a shriek of joy after being accepted into a rigorous legal writing course — one main passion of mine does not really interact with the legal realm at all.
That is, working with children.
As much as I joke about the daily mishaps that happen at camp, I truly do enjoy working there for the sole reason that the children are incredible.
It all makes sense though — why, as a child, would I ever think, “hey — you know, when I grow out of this age of being under 4 feet tall, obsessed with Barney, and eating Easy Mac cheese powder by itself, I definitely want to work with kids like myself… who are under 4 feet tall, are obsessed with Barney, and eat Easy Mac cheese powder by itself!” That type of insight does not exist in children. It didn’t for me, anyway.
Sometimes I wonder, did I completely miss that key phase in life where you wonder what you want to do with it? Did committing to a career before I had even lost my first baby tooth wire my brain to think this way for good? It feels like everyone goes through phases — most of us go through a rebellious phase, most of us go through an awkward phase, most of us go through a phase where we gain our independence. I hit all of these phases clearly, but did I miss a key one where we gain the ability to be content with not knowing what we want to do?
The problem is, I am interested in so many things. At times it feels like too many things.
I even have this problem of bouncing between obscure interests like they’re going out of style — ultimate frisbee, being raw vegan, becoming a polyphasic sleeper, dog training, and scrapbooking! This aspect of myself has never bothered me.
Not knowing exactly what I want to do with my life, however, does.
I’ve consulted a lot of people and a few songs about this manner, and I feel like it’s given me some peace. I’ve also come to my own conclusion, and maybe this conclusion can apply to you as well. I can now say that I’ve survived my quarter life crisis.
One of my happiest friends, who is facing a similar situation, told me that life is like a portrait — we are looking dead in the center of it, not knowing where to paint next, also not knowing that it will all come together beautifully in the end. It’s so cliche, but it makes so much sense.
Another friend knew something was going haywire in my spastic little brain the second I began to act even slightly upset. She reassured me that I don’t have to decide right away, there are ways of working with children and the law, and that there’s always the possibility of shadowing people who have made this combination work for them. So if you’re stuck between two seemingly unrelated things, I can assure you that there is some way you can make them work — or at least find someone who has.
Then the Wear Sunscreen Song (click here for the lyrics),
Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life…the most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives, some of the most interesting 40 year olds I know still don’t.
In the end, it’s much better to be interested and excited about too many things, than interested in nothing at all.
I’ve encountered two paths and it’s somewhat difficult to cope with as I study for my LSAT. Every hour committed to studying is another step down a path I am just now starting to question. Mentally, the other path is an explosion of excitement and uncertainty. I’ll probably continue on my route to law school, and then face the explosion later. Maybe all law school will do will buy me three more years of decision time — I’ve always had a bad habit of procrastinating anyways.
So now I’ll admit… I want to be an attorney, work with children, well traveled, a spy …and a Jedi.