Because I spend a lot of time with high school students (there is no way to make that sound less creepy. I tried several variations), I am often reminded how many years stand between me and my high school career. The turning of the calendar signifies so much more than a new year. I find myself reflecting more than looking ahead. What opportunities did I miss this year? Am I where I thought I’d be by this age? Will I ever know what I want to be when I grow up?
I consider it both an asset and a flaw that I tend to overthink…well, everything. When faced with a decision or an obstacle, I quickly weigh every outcome, how others will react, and how I’ll describe my actions to some future person who has the misfortune to ask what I’ve been up to lately. This is a good thing because I tend to move forward with an efficient sense of confidence when a decision has been made. The same overthinking, however, can also cripple me. If I’m not sure what I’m doing will lead to a positive outcome, I will wait patiently for someone to notice that I’m standing with a vacant expression on my face to say, “Sir, are you OK? Should I call someone for you?” I’ll snap out of it, but only because this kind stranger called me sir, and when did everyone start doing that?!
I lived in a state of indecision for years. I worked in an office because I made decent money and liked most of the people there. Was it the career I hoped to have? No. Did I know what career I wanted? No. So stick around a few more years? Why not.
In 2016, a series of what I now know were fortunate events forced me to snap out of my malaise. If I ever hoped to be fulfilled in what I did every day, I needed to make a change. So I quit.
This is the part at which I feel I should say things like, “I did it because I realized that I’m worth it,” and, “Happiness is something you work hard for every day.” Those things are probably (hopefully?) true. But they didn’t affect my decision to uproot my professional life and pursue my passions. More than anything else, I was spurred to action by the people around me.
For a couple years now, I’ve noticed the social media feeds of friends filling up with messages of self-empowerment, healthier living, and taking control of their lives. And, damnit, I was jealous. And I knew it was petty to be jealous, so I pushed those feelings away and went on with my life.
Until I didn’t.
With the support of my fiancé, I let the jealousy morph into motivation. I summoned the courage to put into words the unhappiness I felt. And when I finally said it out loud, I realized how long I’d been coasting.
Then, with even more support from my fiancé, and even more encouragement from friends, I identified what my passion was and I started to pursue it. I’m three audiobooks and two podcasts into living my dreams, and I don’t have any plans to slow down now. With the emotional cobwebs swept from my personality, I feel like I’m enjoying the full spectrum of the human experience again. I laugh more. I’m playful. I make a point to reach out to friends to just enjoy their company. I still overthink things, but I don’t lose sleep over them anymore. I know that everything I do is either advancing my personal and professional goals, or it’s not. And that simple truth should freeze me in my tracks because I can’t possibly know whether every decision is the right one. But I’m not standing still anymore.
At least not metaphorically. I still occasionally need some time to think, and everyone should just let me mutter quietly to myself. And if you care for me at all, you won’t call me sir.