Stop Being the Person You Think You Are

How's your life going? Do dark nights of the soul outweigh the good days? Have you spent more time than you care to acknowledge wishing for something — anything — other than what you have?

Get over it.

It's not that simple, obviously. But in order to move in the direction you desire, you need to stop being stuck in the place where you are right now. Specifically, you need to stop being the person you think you are.

That may be the person you were told to be, or the person you were told you should be but could never quite achieve. We fixate on being what our parents want, what our partners want, what society wants. Never mind whether it's what we want.

A particularly disturbing example is each year's crop of new grads. I'm betting a whole bunch of them took out tens of thousands in student loans because they were told — directly or indirectly — that college is What One Does.

As soon as they hit high school the adults in their lives — parents, teachers, guidance counselors — told them to view all choices (classes, clubs, volunteer work) in terms of how those decisions would affect their college portfolios.

They didn't go to college because they knew what they wanted to study, or because they had specific plans on the kinds of work they wanted to do. They went because they were expected to go.

Understand: I'm not anti-college. I'm anti-blind-behavior.

Afraid to speak up

How many of those students would have been better served by a “gap year,” or a stint in trade school or the military? Or a year of full-time work with an eye toward banking every dime for that eventual college or trade school, or a shot at entrepreneurship?

How many new moms secretly want to go back to work but are afraid to say so? There's a lot of pressure to stay home, especially if you're considered to be someone who doesn't “have” to work. Conversely, how many working women wish they could be home but worry about giving up their positions even for a little while, lest they derail the careers they love (and potentially jeopardize their retirements)?

How many people realize they're in the wrong careers but are too scared to change? A high-school classmate who was great at math (but who loved writing more) became an engineer because her father and teachers thought she should.

After a few years she quit and went back to study journalism. Great: Two sets of student loans! If she'd been encouraged to have a say in her own education, she might have opted for j-school at the beginning.

Yes, I know that's a dying industry. But it wasn't always. She could have had a great couple of decades (just as I did) and then reinvented herself (ditto).

What's expected of us

Having spent more years than I'd like to admit on autopilot, I'm frustrated when I see people stuck in what they think is expected of them. Or, worse, stuck in what they think are their only options. For far too long I felt stymied by what I felt I had to do vs. what I wanted to do.

A lot of what I thought I had to do was for other people. It's what I call the Curse of the Mom. We spend so much time taking care of everyone else's needs that we think we're not allowed to have any of our own.

There's probably a corresponding Curse of the Dad, or more specifically the Curse of the Man. You guys face conflicting messages, too: Be strong, but be sensitive. Be there for your kids, but earn a lot of money in case your wife wants to stay home. (And if you want to stay home, prepare damned well for that particular uphill battle.) While I still believe that the world is a male-dominated playground, plenty of guys would love to jump off the “real man” merry-go-round.

How to get started?

How can any of us stop circling on someone else's idea of what we should be? Preparing for change will look different to everyone, but could include one or more of the following:

  • Career counseling
  • Life coach
  • Vision mapping
  • Continuing education
  • Hiring a Certified Financial Planner (to see if what you want is even remotely possible)

It sounds a bit glib to say, “If your life isn't working, change it.” I know from personal experience that it's not that simple, and that it may take several tries — and several years — to see much progress.

But to paraphrase J.D., nobody cares about your life more than you do. In fact, some of the people in your life have a vested interest in your not changing:

  • The supervisor who's relied on (and maybe even exploited) you will not be thrilled if you ask for a different career path within the company.
  • The spouse who's accustomed to you being at home to take care of everything might drag his or her heels when you suggest a return to the workplace.
  • The parents who pushed you to go to college might react fairly viscerally if you bring up the possibility of HVAC training.

It's tough to go against all that conditioning. Ultimately, you have to decide how much of your life will be defined by other people's expectations.

Change is growth

Note: I am not suggesting drastic, self-centered measures. Other people may have skin in the game, especially if your actions directly affect them. But saying, “This isn't what I want, and I would like your help in exploring possibilities” is not the same as announcing, “Guess what, honey, I quit my job and bought a boat so we can sail around the world and home-school the kids!”

You might very well decide to postpone major changes. For example, if one more year at home would mean all your kids are in full-time school you might stick it out another 12 months. If another two years in a dull job would set you up financially, you might decide to put your head down and soldier on.

But while you fulfill these obligations you can also take steps to realize your eventual dreams. Take classes. Apply for small-business loans. Price equipment. Network within your chosen profession. Research the best ways to set your plans in motion.

Change is hard. Change can hurt. But change is growth, and change is necessary.

Prepare as best as you can for the inevitable resistance. But keep this thought in the forefront: Other people's ideas of who you are have kept you where you don't want to be. Only you can decide how much of your life will be given up to someone else's expectations.

More about...Career, Planning, Side Hustles

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Savvy Scot
Savvy Scot
7 years ago

Throughout childhood and student days it is easy to be ambitious and keep an open mind. I have been working fulltime a year and already find myself going towards autopilot. Personally I use goals and ‘vision maps’ to avoid becoming board and stale. That and my side project/hustle – savvyscot

Steph
Steph
7 years ago
Reply to  Savvy Scot

Ooooh… I like the sound of “vision maps”.

Angie
Angie
7 years ago
Reply to  Savvy Scot

This comment really resonated with me… I have the job I want.I enjoy it, but like you say it all feels a little stale.

Alex
Alex
7 years ago

Wow. This article really speaks to how I’m feeling these days — the conflict between continuing my unstimulating job (for the sake of a solid paycheck) and changing course to pursue something I’m actually passionate about. Thanks, Donna!

Sam
Sam
7 years ago

I agree with this in part, but the idea that a career, a job, a life is always going to match up with your dream is, in my mind, naive. But, I do agree that if your career is not going the way you want or thought it would, it does make sense to see if you can find satisfaction on the side (without giving up your paycheck and employer sponsored insurance and retirement plan) or get guidance from a life or career coach. I had a friend who really wasn’t happy in her profession (the same profession I am… Read more »

Julie
Julie
7 years ago
Reply to  Sam

I agree. Sometimes it is obvious that a career isn’t the proper fit for someone. But you might need to make sure that you aren’t searching for an ideal that doesn’t exist. Job satisfaction can be similar to materialism…always looking for something new when you get bored with what you have. Perhaps there are occasions when you need to teach yourself to be content and stay put.

Paula
Paula
7 years ago

Thank you Donna;
Great post, well said!

William @ Drop Dead Money
William @ Drop Dead Money
7 years ago

It’s good to question whether we live the life we live for ourselves or for others’ expectations. But sometimes it’s not as bad as it may seem. Imperfect though it may be, the life we have might just be better than that of 99% of the world’s population. A lot of it has to do with not knowing how a particular job, career, home city, major, or life interest will turn out. The longer you’re in it, the more expensive (in money and other terms) it is to make a change. I used to be gung ho in my younger… Read more »

Anne
Anne
7 years ago

I very much agree with William. There are some good points in this blog, but some people never settle, they chasedreams all their lives and defend it in the name of the pursuit of happiness. Donna’s friend who spent decades in engineering before turning to journalism shouldn’t be pitied. It was obviously where she wanted to be at that time. Her happiness and Donna’s happiness are two different things. I think Donna’s insinuation that those were wasted decades is way off course. Perhaps the woman was raising a family at that time and liked the benefits/pay she received during those… Read more »

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
7 years ago
Reply to  Anne

I’m afraid you mis-read the piece. She spent several years — not decades — in the engineering field before quitting. (She did not marry or have kids, either.) I’m glad that you don’t feel constrained personally, but “society” still DOES have an impact on many people. Here’s one example: Check out an at-home-mom message board sometime and read the flamin’ flames sent out toward women who don’t “have” to work and how utterly selfish they are are being by not staying home 24-7. Then imagine versions of those comments from one’s own spouse, family, friends and co-workers. That’s a whole… Read more »

Anne
Anne
7 years ago
Reply to  Donna Freedman

I’m sorry but this really sounds as if anybody who is unhappy in their life choices, or whose choices are not validated, gets to blame it on pressure from someone else.

And your high school friend is your age, and it sounds like she just now turned to journalism. That indicated to me that she had spent decades in engineering.

Josetann
Josetann
7 years ago
Reply to  Donna Freedman

“Or imagine being a guy who wants to be home with his kids…. His masculinity, responsibility and sanity will be questioned and derided, fairly ruthlessly.” Ooh, ooh, that’s me! I was “called out” for taking advantage of my wife on a travel nurse forum (I posted there because I dealt with the agencies, setting up contracts, etc.), though a few emailed me privately asking for pointers so their husbands could do the same thing. Wife’s side of the family thinks I’m a freeloader. My dad…well we don’t talk anymore, partly due to him saying I should “man up and get… Read more »

phoenix1920
phoenix1920
7 years ago
Reply to  Donna Freedman

I understand your point, but I’m not sure there is a “society.” Use of the term in quotes makes it sound like “society” is talking with one voice, pointing people in one direction. To me, what I see is such an increase in vitriol to anybody who makes a different decision than the commentor made. Women who go to work are told they are not “raising their children.” Women who stay at home I’m sure have seen negative things against them, including statements criticizing their decision to stay home in case their dh leaves them. I haven’t seen many subjects… Read more »

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
7 years ago
Reply to  Donna Freedman

@Josetann: One way I know is that I spent far too many years in a bad marriage, afraid to stick up for myself, in part because of social pressure.
Ultimately I got out. Not everyone does.

LeRainDrop
LeRainDrop
7 years ago
Reply to  Anne

Even if you disagree that there are uniform messages coming from all of “society,” I would think you could at least recognize that individuals experience pressures from smaller communities they are a part of (e.g., family, high school friends, counselors). Maybe people in your neighborhood pressure kids to join gangs. Or maybe it seems everyone in school is getting married and having kids right away. Or maybe your family is all of a bunch of doctors, so there’s pressure to join in. It’s not that everyone perpetuates or succumbs to these frameworks, but just that we need to recognize the… Read more »

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
7 years ago
Reply to  LeRainDrop

Yes. That.

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
7 years ago
Reply to  Anne

This is in response to your second comment, which included the phrase “…it sounds like she just now turned to journalism.” Again, you mis-read the post, which says that after a few years in engineering she quit.
Some people who are not happy DO blame pressure from others, and there’s some validity in that. What I’m suggesting is that you take that awareness to the next level: How much more of your life is going to be dictated by other people’s expectations of how you should be living it?

Josetann
Josetann
7 years ago
Reply to  Donna Freedman

“How much more of your life is going to be dictated by other people’s expectations of how you should be living it?” I’d say the number is 0.1%, outside of our core family (i.e. myself, spouse, and kids). Let’s say I was truly 50/50 on a major decision, such as whether to stay put at our home in Tennessee or go off to Australia for a bit. I’m completely on the fence. Certain family members tell us that we should not, under any circumstances, go to Australia. Ok, then we’ll stay home. But if our desire to go vs stay… Read more »

Paul
Paul
7 years ago

I have a brother much like your friend. He was good in math and our parents thought engineering would be a good career for him. So he got a BS in Mechanical Engineering and an MS in Industrial Engineering. He worked for the Army Corps of Engineers for maybe six or eight years until he couldn’t take it anymore and quit. Since then he has done many different jobs, none of which required a college degree. He will be 64 in November and seems very happy with his choices. He is not very communicative, but I suspect he has saved… Read more »

Jadzia
Jadzia
7 years ago

I always love Donna’s articles, and this one is no exception. But it’s the first time she made me cry! I am SO stuck in my life that it seems there is no way out. With five kids, I long to stay home with them and be a full-time mom, but it’s impossibly out of reach with a husband who has been refusing even to look for a job for more than six years now. : ( He knows how unhappy I am (because I can also tick the “chose the absolutely wrong career” box on Donna’s list as well),… Read more »

Student Loans Worked Out
Student Loans Worked Out
7 years ago
Reply to  Jadzia

How can a husband refuse to look for a job, if one needs to put food on the table? I do not understand this.

Ely
Ely
7 years ago

how can a husband refuse to look for a job, and expect to stay married? what are you teaching your kids???

Rosa
Rosa
7 years ago
Reply to  Jadzia

no judgement, no advice, just sympathy. You’ll get there, just keep going.

Brenda
Brenda
7 years ago
Reply to  Jadzia

In the traditional sense, the man works and the woman stays home. In today’s reality, that has shifted. I know of a few families where Mom goes to work and Dad stays home with the kids. They are making that conscious decision and everyone is happy. Honestly, my opinion is that if it works for that family, then so be it.

Mrs PoP @ Planting Our Pennies
Mrs PoP @ Planting Our Pennies
7 years ago

“nobody cares about your life more than you do” Not sure I entirely agree with this statement. When you find the right person to share your life with, they may care more about your happiness than you do. I was miserable for a long time following a path that parents, teachers, academic advisors, etc wanted for me. I went a long way down that path before Mr. PoP helped me realize that I was allowed to say no and do what I wanted. I didn’t have to get a PhD if I didn’t want to become an academic and it… Read more »

TB at BlueCollarWorkman
TB at BlueCollarWorkman
7 years ago

I did what I wanted…always. I didn’t listen to a think my parents told me, my family, or my guidance counselor. I joined a gang, I got expelled from 2 different highschools, I spent some time in jail (which was deserved), and I got a girl pregnant. I did what I wanted to do. I agree that a lot of people get pushed around and end up in things that they don’t like or want because they think it’s right or are convinced so…but there should be a balance there. You should listen to other people sometimes. If I had,… Read more »

Dogs or Dollars
Dogs or Dollars
7 years ago

A great way to start my Monday morning. Thank you, Donna.

Josetann
Josetann
7 years ago

I’ve been rebelling against the status quo since…hrm…probably as long as I can remember. I do occasionally try to fit in, but it seems I always end up sabotaging those efforts. I agree 100% with today’s article. Don’t do something just because everyone else is. Put some thought into it first. If you decide to go with the flow…at least make sure it’s YOUR decision. This carries over into many other parts of your life. Don’t buy a new car because your friends are doing it…put some real thought into it. Do you really need a car? If no…just how… Read more »

SLCCOM
SLCCOM
7 years ago
Reply to  Josetann

An associate’s degree will get you nowhere in nursing. You now must have a bachelor’s in nursing.

Josetann
Josetann
7 years ago
Reply to  SLCCOM

“An associate’s degree will get you nowhere in nursing. You now must have a bachelor’s in nursing.” Define “nowhere”. Ok, it may take you to the middle of nowhere, if you like Alaska (twelve months in Fairbanks, five in Anchorage). Is Australia also nowhere, because they recognized my wife’s US nursing credentials (side-note…they may now require a bachelor’s degree, I have no idea…but they didn’t two years ago). There’s still Associate’s Degree programs for RNs, so it’s got to be an option for SOMEBODY out there. True, some hospitals are now requiring a bachelor’s degree, and even more require a… Read more »

SLCCOM
SLCCOM
7 years ago
Reply to  Josetann

Let me clarify. If you ever want to earn significant money, have any kind of responsibility, any kind of control over your work life, and any kind of professional respect, you need to have at least a Bachelor’s degree in nursing. The profession is ratcheting up the requirements for licensing, and so are the hiring institutions. You can enter the profession, sort of, without a higher degree. For now. Some places, and usually not the desirable places to work. However, it is unlikely that you can stay in it long-term unless you stay in school — at least through a… Read more »

Josetann
Josetann
7 years ago
Reply to  Josetann

Ugh, I don’t know why I’m allowing myself to get drug into this, but…. “It is not possible to be a Registered Nurse with just an associate’s degree. Period.” Go to http://www.google.com. Type in “registered nurse associate’s degree” without the quotes. Spend some time on the results, and come back and tell me it’s not possible to be a Registered Nurse with just an associate’s degree. “Let me clarify. If you ever want to earn significant money,” How’s $50/hr plus $1,000 every three months for travel expenses, plus $1,000/mo car rental reimbursement, plus housing, plus all utilities? No, it’s not… Read more »

Mike @ Wealthy Turtle
Mike @ Wealthy Turtle
7 years ago

It is not always easy to balance responsibilities and needs with what you want, and you have to carefully consider all the variables before jumping in head first and making a rash decision. I work a full-time job that I don’t hate, but it isn’t the most fulfilling way to spend my days either. I spend much of my evening and weekends writing and building up my blog as a secondary source of income. I would love to quit the day job and have the freedom to work from home and spend more time with my wife and kids, but… Read more »

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
7 years ago

Agreed. That’s why I specifically said that I wasn’t suggesting drastic, self-centered measures. Although I don’t think people should completely ignore their own needs, current responsibilities must obviously be factored in.
Good luck with your writing.

Nicole
Nicole
7 years ago

hm… I like who and where I am

Does that mean I followed this advice already or that I’m not yet ready for it?

Ben @ AffordingReality
Ben @ AffordingReality
7 years ago

Amen. I wish I had read this and bought it at 17. I attended a military school I hated, in a program that wasn’t what I wanted to do. After a year, I found the nerve to walk away and spend some time working blue collar jobs before finishing an engineering degree and doing what *I* wanted to do, not my guidance counselor or my parents. With college expenses where they are, and the salaries available to some certificate and 2-year program graduates, it makes no sense to blindly march into a 4-year college and major in what your Mom… Read more »

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
7 years ago

Last year a friend’s son went to college, reluctantly, for all of two weeks before getting up the courage to tell his parents, “I was never good in high school, either, and I don’t want to be here. Can you still get your money back?” His parents, who both have college degrees, stipulated that he could still live at home if he kept working (he had a job at a pizza joint) and investigated other career options. The young man is now in a training program with the plumbers and pipefitters union. Currently he makes more than his parents even… Read more »

soledad
soledad
7 years ago
Reply to  Donna Freedman

Good for him and good for his parents that the kid felt he could say this is not right after those 2 weeks.

Audrey
Audrey
7 years ago

This article is very timely for me, and that first paragraph is kind of a slap to the face. The rest of the article not so much since I love my job and am in a fairly good spot financially. My problems may not involve personal finance, but I can’t just sit on my ass and expect them to resolve themselves. Nor will daydreaming about a better life work. Time to get my life in gear and on track!

phoenix1920
phoenix1920
7 years ago

The problem isn’t as much that we’re listening to what others think we should do–the problem is that few jobs, if any, have the ability for one to “try on” a job before we do it. We’re not born with a sense of what would really make us happy, career-wise or otherwise. Careers are like shoes–you need to try them on to see if they really fit. I can’t tell you how many people think they should be teachers because of summers off, etc, only to graduate with the education, get out there, do it for 3-4 years and realize… Read more »

Megan
Megan
7 years ago
Reply to  phoenix1920

“the problem is that few jobs, if any, have the ability for one to “try on” a job before we do it” This times a million. When I was in high school, I thought I wanted to be a doctor. Thankfully, my high school was near a hospital, and had a program set up where students could shadow doctors in a variety of fields. I got paired up with a doctor in an area of expertise that I wanted to pursue, and wound up hating it once I saw what a “real” day was like. I hated it, and I… Read more »

Atlantalee
Atlantalee
7 years ago

Interesting that you call it “the Curse of the Mom” and then go on to say “Curse of the Dad” and “Curse of the Man,” but make no mention of “the Curse of the Woman.” Since I’m not a mom, I can’t speak about the pressure parents feel to work or stay at home, but I can speak about the pressure many women feel to have children (a decision which SERIOUSLY affects finances). It comes from all directions (family, friends, society), and I find it odd that PF bloggers rarely address this pressure.

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
7 years ago
Reply to  Atlantalee

Good point. I suppose that I think of the Curse of the Mom as interchangeable with the Curse of the Woman, given the fierce pressure for women either to procreate or to justify their reasons for not doing so.
As though the decision to have kids were anybody else’s business.
And yes, having kids DOES affect a woman’s financial security — whether or not she continues to work. Books have been written about that subject. You notice, however, that none of them ever solve the problem. 🙁

Dan
Dan
7 years ago

You made some great points. I think part of the problem is that true clarity is hard to come by and that no one knows for certain how a decision will turn out. The people who give us advice are trying to give us their understanding of what decisions might be best. We would be wise to listen to the voices of others and yet actively listen to our own inner voice. Yes, blind behavior is not the best but the reality is that we all operate to some degree blindly with regard to our decisions. A decision-making paradigm is… Read more »

Jason Clayton | frugal habits
Jason Clayton | frugal habits
7 years ago

Love this article… How many people (myself included) go through life and don’t achieve certain dreams because of this fear. It certainly is an emotion, one has to purposely push aside and choose not to entertain, as it is usually irrational and not based on facts or truth. Conquering this fear is the first step to personal greatness, IMO. The last statement “Other people’s ideas of who you are have kept you where you don’t want to be.” is very spot on, but sometimes it is our own ideas that keep us from what we can be. We can achieve… Read more »

Kent @ The Financial Philosopher
Kent @ The Financial Philosopher
7 years ago

Most people unknowingly dress themselves up in social conventions and speak from the voice of ego or of other people. Growing up in a place where “the American Dream” is primarily based upon the idea that “more is better” makes authenticity difficult to achieve. “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson “Paradoxically, what keeps the so-called consumer society going is the fact that trying to find yourself through things doesn’t work: The ego satisfaction is short-lived and so you keep looking for more, keep… Read more »

fantasma
fantasma
7 years ago

#Real Talk this is the MOSTEST BESTEST article on this website…ever (so far)! Exactly what I needed will and hang at work. A great kick in the pants!

RA too
RA too
7 years ago

Best. Post. Ever.

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
7 years ago
Reply to  RA too

Probably not, but thanks for your kind comment.

getagrip
getagrip
7 years ago

College is nothing more than an opportunity. If your mommy and daddy told you to go to college in the first place, and told you the major to take, then suck it up and recognize that that was YOUR DECISION! No, you do not get to shove that decision off! You do not get to lie to yourself that you didn’t know there were other paths you ignored. You do not get to lay blame on your parents or society by claiming you were too lazy, fearful, confused, desperate, naive, or whatever victim label you want to put on your… Read more »

Anne
Anne
7 years ago
Reply to  getagrip

Couldn’t agree more.

Dave Bernard
Dave Bernard
7 years ago

George Elliot said “Its never too late to be who you might have been”. Follows your thoughts and makes it clear that we should not accept who we are when we can be who we would like to be. It is a matter of taking the first step and then the second, etc. It is not always easy but boy is it worth it in the end! Enjoy the journey.

Ro
Ro
7 years ago

Very nice article. Thanks for the quality.

Kaytee
Kaytee
7 years ago

One of these days I’m going to write and submit a reader story on when having a gap year between high school and college fails.

steph
steph
7 years ago

How do you find a good career counseler or life coach? I feel like all of these people look like schisters and anyone can call themselves a life coach? Is there a certification to look for? Look on yelp?

Jacq
Jacq
7 years ago
Reply to  steph

If I was looking for a career counselor, I would first read one of Nicholas Lore’s several books on careers. Pathfinder was very good but his latest was even better. He also runs or has someone run an assessment service.

ImJuniperNow
ImJuniperNow
7 years ago

First, THANK YOU for letting the world know that you don’t have to go to college. No job is less important than another, whether you have a BS, graduated from a trade school or fell into the family business. Second, I won’t comment on my own life, because I fully acknowledge that I am a hamster on a never-ending wheel and I could get off any time I wanted. But there’s always just one more dollar to be made, one more file to finish. I just wanted to inject what I know about a high school sophomore. The kid is… Read more »

Janice
Janice
7 years ago

From someone who always did what she wanted…hmmm…like anything else, there’s an upside and a downside. And, at 65+ years old, I worked during a time of lots of opportunities, big money and now, what….so the upshot of it was for me that I had a lot of fun, didn’t suffer having to find myself, but now I’m like many other seniors, not enough retirement and an uncertain future, short as it may be compared to younger people. And why is that? Well, I think it’s because I didn’t suck it up, get a decent job in a big corporation… Read more »

Mj in Oregon
Mj in Oregon
7 years ago

What a timely article! My 2012 high school graduate daughter left, just this week, to be a nanny in Australia. Initially I struggled so much with her not going directly to college. But I’ve come to realize this is the perfect way for her to spend the next year, learning about herself and the world around her. Thanks for the affirmation.

amber
amber
7 years ago
Reply to  Mj in Oregon

I did the gap year abroad as well (not as a nanny though) and have to say it was the best thing I could have done at that time in my life. I was able to come back with a better appreciation of the place I had left as well as for the world around me. I was much more poised and “ready” to focus on college. You should make sure to encourage your daughter to get some time off from her duties in order to travel around and explore. She might think it is too expensive to do now,… Read more »

Kevin Mzansi
Kevin Mzansi
7 years ago

Reminds me of my college career: Engineering, then Actuarial Science. Only discovering now that what the labour market wants is not necessarily what will make you happy or you are good at…

Just because you can do something does not necessarily mean you should!

Peg
Peg
7 years ago

Donna, you are such an inspiration to me! Another great post!!! I forward your posts to people all the time because of the great-and relevant-content. I met a woman just this weekend, single with grandkids and only a few years older than me, who is selling her house and everything in it to move to Spain in January. She said she’s scared to death but more excited than she’s ever been. Realized it was time for her to do with her life what she wanted, not what every one else wanted for her.

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
7 years ago
Reply to  Peg

Thanks for your kind comment. Buena suerte to your friend.
My own move isn’t quite that drastic, but…In two weeks I am loading a U-Haul and moving back up to Alaska. After 11 years away, it should be, uh, an interesting readjustment. My blood has done got thin down here in the tropics.

Peg
Peg
7 years ago
Reply to  Donna Freedman

Even though we didn’t do anything as drastic as our friend-or you!-we moved 1000 miles in May, from Wyoming to Phoenix! Am proud to say we survived the hottest summer either of us have had to endure.

It’s true that the first step is always the hardest.

zoomba
zoomba
7 years ago

Loved this article. Back in the 70’s when I got out of high school, I absolutely bought into the idea that I had to go to college. Never mind that I wasn’t sure what I wanted to major in. I went into college thinking it was a type of job training—it turned out to be more like life training. Leaving home for the first time, and exposed to a wide range of people and experiences, left me a much better, open-minded, and well-rounded person, with greatly expanded horizons. I never worked in the field I studied, but having a degree… Read more »

Denise D.
Denise D.
7 years ago

While I believe we’re each worthy of finding happiness and balance in our lives, I also think we often have an inaccurate set of assumptions about what will help us find those things. I like the idea of encouraging someone to work with a career counselor or life coach, because often what we think is our dream job or life turns out to be a false start, and coaches can help us sort through these experiences. I also know people for whom working with a therapist is helpful. Sometimes, what’s needed isn’t a drastic change but a different thinking pattern.… Read more »

Adam
Adam
7 years ago

In the words of Don Draper, “What is happiness? It’s the moment right before we want more happiness.”

While I agree with some of this article, I know far too many people who avoid hard work in the name of “following their dream.”

W at Off-Road Finance
W at Off-Road Finance
7 years ago

Part of the problem is that many people do not know what career they’d like to be in at the time they have to make the decision. Engineering from the inside looks very different than engineering as viewed from school. Ditto any other profession. If you get into a high paying profession via inexpensive education (eg. engineering via a state school) you’ll be in a good position to move if/when you discover you don’t love it. If you get into a low paying profession via expensive education (eg. Harvard psych degree) then you’re in for trouble. Sometimes it’s OK to… Read more »

Katie
Katie
7 years ago

Good article. Sometimes I look around and think “how did I get here?” Not that I don’t enjoy my life by any means, but how did I go from a ‘student’ to a full time engineer with a mortgage and a baby on the way in 4 short weeks? But, then I remember how I did get here – the decisions I, my husband, or the both of us together made. We made the best decisions we could with the information currently in front of us. That’s how we’ll keep going in the future, hopefully with the points in this… Read more »

cajh
cajh
7 years ago
Reply to  Katie

Love the quote. Thanks!

Waverly
Waverly
7 years ago

Another thing we don’t seem to talk about as a society is that it’s okay to have a job that’s just a job, not a grand passion. We’re always told “do what you love and never work again!” and other sorts of stuff that’s just completely unrealistic. Sometimes I think to myself, hmmm, if I really followed my passion to the point of turning it into a career, that would end up with me in a huge amount of student loan debt, for a master’s degree that would net me not very much money. So it’s better to just stay… Read more »

Adam
Adam
7 years ago
Reply to  Waverly

I could not agree more Waverly!

I don’t know very many people who are truly able to marry their passion with their career.

If you’re not lucky to be one of those people – it is OK.

Peg
Peg
7 years ago
Reply to  Adam

Waverly, you nailed it with this comment!

lmoot
lmoot
7 years ago
Reply to  Waverly

I agree not everyone’s passions are going to be fruitful as a career. I’m working hard at a decent paying, but un-inspiring job in a phase of my life I refer to as “paying the dues”. Once I save enough from those dues, then I can focus on my passions without having to rely on them necessarily supporting me. Let’s just say there’s definitely a thoughtful way of pursuing your passions as a career and a less thoughtful way. People who skip forward without a backup plan are taking big risks. I would be very sad if I told myself… Read more »

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
7 years ago
Reply to  Waverly

A line from a TV film:
“I’m a mailman. That’s not what I *am* — it’s what I *do*.”
I agree that we are more than just our professions.

Christa
Christa
7 years ago

For quite a while, I wished I had taken a year off of school and discovered a little more about myself before heading to college. I would have loved to travel and eventual write travel articles. I was angry for a while that the path was too “free” for others to support…and seemingly too difficult with some medical issues to consider.

But now, looking back, I’m happy with every stepping stone I crossed to get where I am. I think it’s possible to take a journey of self-discovery even while living life. Now I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
7 years ago
Reply to  Christa

It can be hard to see that when you’re in the thick of things:
https://www.getrichslowly.org/straying-off-the-path-or-changing-direction/

Niel Malan
Niel Malan
7 years ago

Would I be wrong if I said to never, ever see education expenses as a financial investment? It leads to so many evils.

Nina
Nina
7 years ago

I’m one of those parents who will encourage her kids to go to college and am already contributing a little bit to their college funds. Growing up, college was just what you do, but not for the reasons mentioned. College to me and my family has always been an opportunity to continue learning; it’s not a job-training experience. It didn’t matter to me what I majored in or whether it made a ton of money. All that mattered was that I was exposed to this love for knowledge, surrounded by academia, new experiences and learning to be on my own.… Read more »

Bella
Bella
7 years ago
Reply to  Nina

I think that you are missing the point – that a lot of people who ‘go to college to go to college’ do so under the mistaken belief that no it’s not a learning experience, it’s a gauruntee to be able to find a job that will pay off the student loans in a few years.
Yea, college is a great cultural experience – but is it one that you are willing to LOAN upwards of 100K for?

LeRainDrop
LeRainDrop
7 years ago

Incidentally, there is a Dear Abby post today that is in praise of people who work in the trades and discussing the labor shortage in those fields. Apparently, September 21st is “National Tradesmen Day.” http://www.uexpress.com/dearabby/

Jacq
Jacq
7 years ago

There’s an old Spanish proverb that comes to mind: “Take what you want and pay for it” says God. I think we forget that pretty much everything we want has a price and it must be paid for and sometimes that price is the judgment of other people. Seems like a fairly small price to pay in the big scheme of things. I like Randy Pausch’s take on it in The Last Lecture: “The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a… Read more »

Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager
Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager
7 years ago

I wish more people embraced trade schools. I think it is a great opportunity for non-school folks. Chances are they will be way more successful with some education/guidance there than a 4-year college drop out.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
7 years ago

One thing I found very hard to deal with as a teacher was the attitude that only kids who did well on tests and exams are “smart”. Everyone has different talents and learning styles, and many students are most successful in hands-on classes — and in hands-on careers.

Students are smart in many ways that they — and their parents! — don’t even realize.

Kia
Kia
7 years ago

This article is timely for me. Some great reminders. My favorite is “Other people’s ideas of who you are have kept you where you don’t want to be.”

Carla
Carla
7 years ago

This article could not have come at a better time. I like some of the suggestions such as having a life coach, but how does one find one? I guess Google is my friend.

I’ve been juggling with going back to school for years, but my priority was always my adult financial responsibilities. I never figured out how as an adult with adult responsibilities going to pay for it when I’m now not physically able to work full-time.

lmoot
lmoot
7 years ago

I’m so very glad that I learned early how to say “I don’t give a flying fig”. I’ve learned to trust my gut, and that I am the type of person to make good and prudent decisions. They may seem rash to some because they can be extreme, but there is not a major decision that I’ve made without it bubbling and boiling over in my head for some time, and I always have a plan to back it up. It seems people are reluctant to accept your way until they can see that it’s working out for you. My… Read more »

tentaculistic
tentaculistic
7 years ago

My favorite high school graduation present is the book “Shop Class as Soulcraft” – it is such a powerful book, and such a great counter-message for someone thinking about college.

David Raff CPA
David Raff CPA
7 years ago

I agree that people can take different paths for their careers and as long as they are heading in a direction and are not stagnant, No matter what your age, young or old, it’s amazing what doors can be opened.

Over the years that I have met with our CPA firm clients, the common theme for successful people seems to be those that are happy with what they do for a living. They may not have the highest taxable income, but their postiive outlook on life is evident in our conversations. That is how I would define success.

Kevin L Clay
Kevin L Clay
7 years ago

There are a lot of things I wish I learned when I was younger, but one of the things I really wished I had done was door to door salesman. I know it may sound strange, but I think about how much easier it would have been for me to get my business up and running if I wasn’t so afraid of being rejected. I believe if I was forced into a sales position as a youth where my income was based on a commission would have served me well now. Ah well, you live and learn. And I had… Read more »

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