Figuring out what to do with your life

By on October 3, 2012 in Columns

We’ve all been there: sitting making uncomfortable small talk with your relatives while nibbling on some random pastry at a family reunion. Suddenly, your uncle or grandmother asks you, “So, what are your plans for the future?” Now, some of you might have it all figured out. If so, good for you. Others, like me, are not so sure.

When we were little, the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” was easy to answer. Astronaut, ballerina or policeman, the possibilities were endless. Now a days most people usually just squirm a bit and say something vague like “Oh, I don’t know. I don’t want to be stuck in an office I guess. I just would like to live comfortably and not have to worry about money, you know?” As we grow out of our chubby baby cheeks, we also grow out of our baby dream jobs.

Growing up, you don’t really have to make any big decisions. Not being sure what you want to do is fine, you’ve got years to decide! Then suddenly those years start to dwindle and big life-altering choices start to sneak up on you. First you have to pick a high school. Then a programme. Are you taking högskoleprovet? How about the SATs? Where do you want to study after graduation? How about taking a year abroad? Before you know it even the smallest decisions, like deciding what to wear in the morning, start giving you prickles of anxiety.

You could always wing it. Live in the moment, see where life takes you and all that. If that works for you then sure, why not? However, that feels a bit like leaving the fate of the rest of your life up to chance, and sometimes chance doesn’t play nice. No, having at least a vague idea of what you want to do seems like the smartest way to go about things. The problem is of course that contrary to book summaries and essay topics, your fate in life can’t be googled.

How are we supposed to figure out what we want to do when it’s so hard to know what different jobs actually entail? For example, deciding to be a lawyer after watching Legally Blonde may not be the most well informed decision you could make. It seems like the way to find your path in life is to expose yourself to as many experiences as possible. Meet new people, visit new places and learn new things about yourself. It took one well timed conversation for me to decide that KG was the school for me. Maybe it’ll be one well timed conversation that tells you that your goal in life should be to become the best juggler Sweden has ever seen, or Canada’s most famous orchid grower, or even China’s best dumpling chef. Start answering your family members’ questions about your future with a confident smile and an “I’m not sure yet” and then get out there and thrive in the many options life has to offer you!

However, various studies have shown that most people are dissatisfied with their jobs. So don’t worry, even if you do figure out what to do with your life, you’ll probably get it wrong anyway.