A few weeks ago, I was going through a bit of a mental slump.
Four years of law school and two summer clerkships later, I wasn’t convinced that I wanted to spend the rest of my life in the legal profession. My fifth and final year of my undergraduate studies was fast approaching and I had come to a point in my degree where I had become an ‘expert exam taker’ but had learnt very little else of practical value in my classes. I no longer wanted to prove that I could learn and understand content, and to demonstrate my intelligence in 3-hours slots (although exams were always very good to me).
And despite thinking about it for months and months, I didn’t have any strong preferences as to what I wanted to do after my studies. I’m generally asked about my future plans every 2 – 3 days, and I’m waiting for the moment that someone catches on to the fact that I’ve been giving everyone different answers, none of which are actually untrue: business, academia, law, health, journalism, public policy, entrepreneurship, education – yes, I’ve been considering all of them.
As someone who likes to have certainty in and control over her life, I’m dying for the day that I have things sorted. I thought that Paris might have helped me figure things out but like every other trip that I’ve taken in the past, I come back and take up exactly where I had left things. I probably have escapist tendencies, but they only ever delay and never actually solve problems.
I was reading about Ang Lee today, who very recently won the Academy Award for Best Director for his film Life of Pi. Lee had won the same award for Best Director in 2005 with Brokeback Mountain. He is pretty much the man. What I didn’t realise was that despite his huge success in Hollywood, his background was not always so rosy. Lee was actually unemployed for six years after graduation, during which he was a full time stay-at-home dad.
That’s not to say that I’m now going to include “six years as a full-time house-wife” as part of my post-graduation plans, but certainly it pulls back against some of the shroud that surrounds success. It’s always comforting to know that people don’t always get there, or get it right, on their first go – although that would be nice.
I know that I want to do something with my life, but that something is still elusive. I know I want to get somewhere, but I can’t know what would be the best path to take right now without having the luxury of looking back in retrospect.
I think that this is a common sentiment shared by a lot of people, across all ages and across all areas: not knowing where you’re going and how you’re going to get there. This is probably what explains the swarms of inspirational quotes and messages that pop up online. I find inspirational quotes quite nice in the sense that for a few moments, you get the feeling that you’re going somewhere. But reality calls very quickly: you’re still sitting on your bum in front of your laptop screen, and nothing has changed.
The question is always – how do we stay motivated and focused?
A friend shared a phrase with me yesterday which I found quite enlightening. He said that if “things always work out in the end”, then it means that if things aren’t working out, at least you know that it’s not the end. My spin on this was that sometimes we just need to suck it up and get on with it, because at least we can do something to change the situation.
Things are always going to be confusing and frustrating and crap. Going to Europe, or anywhere else for that matter, is not going to yield me a eureka! moment (although I’ll probably keep foolishly believing this to be the case – Rome, anyone?).
In the words of Sheryl Sandberg, keep your foot on the gas pedal. And if ever in doubt, read the world news.
(p.s. we came 2nd in the competition!)