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Now What? 

(July 2000)


Ever get the feeling you were destined for something else other than what you're doing right now? 

I get that feeling all the time

Don't get me wrong - I have a good job with a decent enough company. I work for a salary that's higher than the national average, and I've just hit 30, so I'm not doing too badly, all things considered.  I know this. 

So why do I feel so unfulfilled? 

I honestly wish I knew the answer to that question.  Maybe it's a function of turning 30 - it's supposed to be a watershed year in one's life, right?  The Big Three Oh, as they say.  I must admit - I've thought more about my life and what I'm doing with it in the last six months than I have in the last few years.  I mean, after thirty years of life, I'd like to think that one has made a difference somewhere.  If you haven't, then what's the point? 

Or maybe it has to do with my choice of career.  Business can be exciting as hell, but the minutiae of it can overpower its positive aspects.  Report writing, proposal drafting, making sure things "conform to the standard" - I've heard that all this is necessary, but I wonder.  And being holed up in an office under artificial light and dealing with artificial life all day every day can't be what God/Buddha/The Great Spirit/Your-Deity-Of-Choice had in mind when he/she/it put us here. 

Or maybe the notion that I'm 30, educated (?), employed and unmarried is really as unnatural as those who have tried to convince me that "it's time you get married" make it out to be.  Maybe fulfillment truly lies in finding and marrying that special someone to whom I can say those four words - 'rest of my life'.  Maybe I won't feel as empty sometimes if I were "settled".  It seems to be working for a good number of my friends!  Hell - a bunch of them are even breeding all over the place!  Maybe what I need to round out my life and realize my true potential as a human is a wife, and maybe even a couple of kids! 

Ummmm………nah - don't think so.  Not yet anyway.

That's the thing - I don't know.   And I truly wish I did.  It bothers me that I don't.  I mean, I've been an adult for twelve years now, and a real one for at least three or four years.  Shouldn't I have at least a clue about what I should be doing with my life?  And does the fact that everything I've done up to this point has led me to one inescapable conclusion - that I haven't found it yet - mean that something's wrong? 

Friends of mine have argued that one should just "find something, stick with it and learn to enjoy it."  Well, actually just one friend - but she's very smart, so I listen to her.  I know there's merit to this - but the notion of just finding something and sticking with it until you grow to like it….well, it sounds like settling to me. That's one thing I AM afraid of - settling (not 'settling down', mind you - just settling).  I guess that would work for people motivated by the gains from work, rather than the work itself, so it really doesn't matter much what the work is. 

I've also had friends of mine try to convince me that I should be grateful for blessings thus far - and I am, don't get me wrong.  I know that I've been extremely fortunate to have had both my degrees financed by third parties (free money is good!), and a series of jobs and experiences that many, many people will never have the opportunity to enjoy.  There are thousands who would kill to be in my shoes.  I try not to forget that. 

At the same time, I believe that it doesn't make sense to compare myself to others.  To quote the Desiderata, "if you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself."  Deep stuff.  

Yeah - people would be glad to be working at [insert company name here], but I can't do anything about that. And I'd love to be as rich as Bill Gates - but I can't to anything about that either. I think that the only real criteria for comparison should be where you feel you should be, what you think you could or should be doing. 

Which brings me back to my original point - the feeling that I'm supposed to be doing something other than what I'm doing now.  If my basis for comparison is where I could be…well, where I am now better not be the pinnacle of my life.  If I may be high-brow and cultured for a second -  that would suck.  

I was told today that I'm an over-achiever - but I don't feel like I've achieved much.  I went to school a lot, and have a couple of degrees to show for it - but if I die tomorrow, would that be what people remember me by?  "Here Lies Gary - The World Is Different Because He Had An MBA."  Somehow, I can't see that. 

Achievement is something that people do against the odds.  Achievement implies an accomplishment, a series of hurdles that, once overcome, you've done something unexpected and difficult.  Achievement requires balls.  Real cojones.  Is getting a degree an achievement?  I mean - once you don't flunk out of school, you're going to get the piece of paper (every student realizes this a tad too late - a few months before graduation when all the prime partying time has already gone).  You study, you go to class (and in my case, you drink a lot of rum and Guinness - not mixed though; that'll fuck you up hugely), and in a few years, some guy in a black robe tells you you've achieved something and hands you a piece of nice paper with your name on it - proof that you've achieved something. 

And what about working?  Is working for a company an achievement?  I mean - it's good, and getting paid is even better - but is landing a job an achievement?  Can I say that I've achieved something because I churn out reports and data on command?  Because I've reached a particular salary level, does this mean that I've arrived?  

For many, these are real achievements, and they are for me - to a point.  But as time goes on, it's becoming clearer and clearer to me that they're not enough.  That's the easy part - figuring out what's wrong. My issue is that I haven't yet figured out what's right.  I don't know if 'right' is staring my own business, or working in another job, or taking pictures all day.  And that worries me.

I know I sound a little random here (but hey - these are random thoughts!).  What it comes down to, I guess, is the feeling, the knowledge, that this can't be it.  I know I should be doing something different. Maybe I need to be working somewhere else.  Maybe I should be running a bookstore, or saving the rainforest, or hawking alcoholic beverages to an unsuspecting public.  

Don't ask me what it is - I don't know.  I know some who read this will think I'm nuts or silly - I don't care.  All I know is that I feel like I can do more, that I can be more - but that I don't know what that more is. 

And the fact that I'm writing this at work, when I should actually be working.....…..well, you come to your own conclusions about that.



Wise answers to my millionty-five questions?  

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Responses to "Now What?"


I think you are being a little hard on yourself.  As you said in your essay, many people would kill for the opportunities and experiences that you have had!!  Maybe what you are so disenchanted with is how conventional the things that you have done and accomplished so far have been.  You strike me as being more of a creative, maverick kind of guy who is beginning to feel the pressures to conform...don't give in!!  Damn the Man!!!


WOW! I thought I was the only one that felt that way. For almost a year now I've been trying to figure this adulthood stuff out. As a child I was taught that it was important to finish school, work, get married and have kids. Did that.  Know what?  There is more to life than what we were lead to believe.  Yes, one needs to work to provide for the basic needs of life (shelter, food, clothing-optional). However, you work a job, a job doesn't work you.


I can relate to the feeling of being destined for something other than what you're doing right now, because I've felt that way as well for the past eight or nine years. I truly believe that I have been just existing and not actually living my life the way that I am supposed to.  I guess you have the courage and assertiveness to not be afraid to leave behind the life that you've lived for such a long time.  I've tried the 'pick something, stick to it and learn to like it''s definitely not for me. I realise that I was just fooling myself and even if I didn't change that decision when I did, I would have eventually. I also like what you said about how some of us define achievements. Maybe about five years ago I would have believed that where I am right now and what I am doing was a major achievement.....but I don't now, because it doesn't fill me with the sense of purpose that I know I could have, given the right job. I don't know if the fact is that you're an over-achiever, or is it that most people are afraid to admit that they aren't satisfied with what this country has to offer and act on those feelings. I truly believe that people who choose not to settle, will be a lot happier in life than the average individual.....and even though it may take a little longer to fill that emptiness at least you won't be settling for anything less than what you truly deserve. There are already too many mediocre things in life to allow the things that make you happy at the end of the day to be one of those. You're right ...this can't be it.


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