Several weeks ago a very brave woman in her mid-thirties stood up in my church and shared her testimony as a single person who wishes she were married. The audience, as you might expect from a moderately conservative Baptist church, was married couples attempting to keep their offspring from crawling in the rows, with limited success. (At least one skittered past me that day). There were few other singles in the church, but those that were, were mainly in the pews filled with college students.
But her words hit me deeply as she talked about the longing to get married, the frustration with the time it was taking to find the right person with which to settle down.
I’m almost as far from single as one could get, barring those few who met in high school or before. I met my husband when I was 19 and he was 17, and though it most certainly wasn’t love at first sight, by the time I turned 24 there really wasn’t much question that we would be getting married. This year, though only our 4th anniversary, marks our 10th year of friendship.
How then can I, who’s never made an online dating profile, never been on a blind date relate to anyone who’s single?
Because I, friends, have been unlucky – not in love – but in careers.
I like to say of my resume – great life, terrible paper trail. I stand by each of my experiences as necessary to growth – but, like a string of exes, they’ve each taught me what I didn’t want.
Like many others who I’ve talked to, both in love and careers, early on I received little advice beyond admonitions to lighten up and it would happen, or to follow what basically amounted to ‘common sense’ in both the job search or in the quest of relationships.
“Get good grades!”
“Only date Christians!”
“College is for everyone”
“You’re still young, you’ll find some[one/thing].”
“Just get out and meet a lot of people.”
But these cliches aren’t really that helpful when you’re home at night and start wondering –
What’s wrong with me?
Why haven’t I found my passion yet?
Or – worse – why hasn’t my passion amounted to a job that supports me/ creates wealth?
Am I smart?
What am I doing wrong?
What is wrong with me!?
And you attempt to answer that last sentence with any amount of gleaned wisdom from thoughtful well written blog posts by your peers – who are successful – and have managed to secure positions that they deserve and earned.
Am I just unlucky? Should I have just tried harder? Did I end up on the wrong path so long ago that there’s no finding my way now?
In those bleak hours, that happen, not every night, but unfortunately every now and again, I must review advice and comfort from what I’ve learned.
1. There is no one right path/ Mr. Right. It’s hard when you’ve tried a string of actions that hasn’t repaid your investment, or when you are surrounded by stories that champion the people who knew when they were 17 what they wanted to be. A culture that celebrates child geniuses and profiles CEOs under 40. That shows success can be had anywhere and success means money, fame, and power.
Hunt out the other stories, and don’t believe lies that tell you there is only one right way to do things and you’ll know it when you see it. You might not.
2. It is not now or never. If you do not find the perfect job (or date) today that does not mean that you will be forever stuck in your parent’s house, or in a basement for the rest of your life. It only feels like it. Any psychologist worth their salt will tell you to banish dichotomous thinking whenever you can – it isn’t all or nothing!
3. You are loved. Really. And as someone who is loved, you should continue to be purposeful. Vision is important – but, vision, I think, can be continually shifting – constantly being refined by life experience and wisdom from respected others. If your vision looks different than it did when you were in high school. That’s fine. Sure, you may be no Donald Miller, but then, who is? As the late great Kurt Vonnegut said – You wouldn’t have written Beethoven’s 9th Symphony anyway.
HOWEVER – it is possible to live purposefully without a clear, well-defined end vision. I wrote a little bit about what to do when you feel “in between times” and I stand by my suggestions. Make friends, invest in community, volunteer, support causes, learn. If you can’t see where you will be in 40 years, that is okay – why don’t we just try for 1 okay?
4. There is more advice and help out there than cliches. There are plenty of ways to glean self knowledge and to continue to search for and find ways to express your passion while waiting for vision to blossom. Don’t assume that it will come to you in a dream – and – forgive your parents or guidance counselors who gave you bad/no advice. You’re a grown up now.
However, sometimes cliches make the best endings – So get out there and Try Try again.
Or at least eat some discount chocolate.
If you liked this post about my career woes you might also like: Career Advice for my Younger Self.
And you should probably share this post with your friends 😉