A grown-up kneels down next to a four-year-old child and asks, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The child’s eyes get wide with possibilities. Their face lights up with the notion that they could pick anything and make it happen. There are no limits.
That same child starts to get older. All of a sudden they are eighteen. They sit down at a holiday meal with their family and are asked, “What are you going to be when you grow up?” Or, “What are you planning on studying?” And now the question has so much gravity and permanence. And the answer has so much weight and is often met with judgment. And already this young adult is limiting themselves. Sometimes by what they’ve been told in the last eighteen years that they can accomplish due to their identity, or what’s socially acceptable, or what grades they’ve achieved in school.
They are being asked to make a decision about what they want the rest of their lives to look like before they’ve even lived perhaps a quarter of it.
I was not one of those young adults that felt limited. I was sure I knew what I wanted to do. From the time I was seven until the time I was twenty-two the answer to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” never changed. I had a plan and a focus and I was determined to make that happen. And then I graduated college and I moved home and I started working in what I thought was my dream career and discovered I didn’t like it. So, I took a day job right after my twenty-first birthday. At said day job that happened to be in the family business, I met an intern whom I almost instantaneously fell in love with. We both had started in this business without much thought. It was just supposed to be our career until we figured out where we were going in life and then we met, fell in love, and joined forces in business. We became really successful. I became really unhappy.
Not in my relationship, but at my job. I dreaded waking up in the morning and seeing emails that I didn’t want to answer or returning calls I didn’t want to make. For about four years my chest was tight and I struggled to breathe. Work was my life. It was all I really did. And I didn’t enjoy my job, which meant for about eight to ten hours per day (at a minimum) I was stressed, tired, frustrated, and anxious. And so I started asking myself the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” But this time, I felt more limited. I was afraid of starting over and I was only in my twenties. How could I leave the security that I had? How could I leave a line of work where I am already successful at twenty-five?
When I started to mention to people that I was supremely unhappy in my line of work and wanted to do something else I was met with mixed responses. Everything from, “That’s awesome that you want to find what brings you joy!” to “Why would you leave a job where you’re comfortable and making good money. That’s irresponsible.” I recognize that I have the privilege to leave a job where I was doing well and having success and that not everyone will have that possibility. I also spent four and a half years putting a plan in place so that I would be financially able to quit the job that made me unhappy and for those four and a half years I dedicated myself wholeheartedly to something that made me anxious daily.
Last week I quit my job in pursuit of what brings me joy. It’s nerve-wracking and freeing all at the same time. And I have also never been happier in my life.
You can start over any time too. Don’t let the world’s definitions and labels for you decide for you. Maybe it takes years to put a plan in place because as you grow up there are more considerations to make…like being able to pay bills or support a family. But it is never too late to start over. In your line of work, in your relationships, in anything. It’s overwhelming and exhausting at times, but all I know is when Domi and I would come home at night I used to cry and whine about what I had to do all day. I used to anxiously check my emails late into the night setting off another wave of panic and sleeplessness. Now when Domi comes home from work we sit down at the dinner table and I cannot for the life of me stop talking about everything I’ve done during the day and how excited I am and what a thrill the day was.
There comes a time when it’s no longer societally acceptable to change the answer to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Might I suggest just making a slight tweak? Perhaps it is better to ask ourselves and our people, “What do you want to be?” or “Who do you want to be?” And take the whole “when you grow up” part out of the equation. We are beings that are changing and fluctuating daily and we have the opportunity to redefine ourselves every single day if we want to. We can take the box we’ve been sometimes shoved into and throw the lid off with glee in pursuit of joy, newness, and the unknown.
You are worth listening to and redefining. You are worth finding your joy. You are worth everything you desire. The outside world will tell you not to start over because starting over isn’t “easy.” You will likely hear that it’s better to choose financial comfort over all else. You will be asked to sacrifice your happiness to be secure, but please, know that if you choose joy, everything else will fall in line somehow. You don’t need to make any rash decisions. You can make a plan and figure out how to get yourself out of an unhappy state. You don’t have to upset your entire life overnight, but do me a favor and understand your worth and that you deserve joy just as much as the next person. Not any more or any less.
And if you decide your life is no longer for you, climb out of the fear, shed the skin you’re wearing, and wrap yourself in your desires instead. And then if you change your mind the next day, know it is not a failure, but a new joy you’ve found and want to discover. Reinvention is a gift. Wear it proudly.
Sending much love, Friends. Here’s to change, newness and reinvention. All things that have scared me in the past that I am choosing to bask in, in the present. XOXO, CAMDW
PS this is what my mornings look like now: