I like to think. A lot. I like to just sit and pontificate about the ways of the world, and I get an idea, ping it out to my close family and friends to test how it tracks with their reality. I also like to think about my place in the world, which so often feels awkward and strange… where do I fit in?
For example, when I was growing up, and even now to many degrees, I didn’t (don’t) feel like I belong with say family members. They aren’t interested in tthe same things I am interested in, so it’s really hard to hold down a conversation beyond, “How’s the weather?” And, really, the weather can only take you so far.
Some say you should consider your strengths as one way to measure your place in this world, and I suppose I’ve done that since … well … as far as I can remember. In one regard, I followed my interests (my bliss) to lead me from one job to another. At the time, I couldn’t knit together the story. Thanks to neat tools like Vizify, I am closer (see the graphic above).
What I find curious tonight are the strengths or interests that have piqued my attention at various points in my life… For example… When I was in 5th grade, I knew the environment was important to me. I knew I liked to get riled up in support of the underdog. When I was in 8th grade, a friend and I started recycling in our junior high that would outlast our attendance at the school. When I was in 10th grade, I knew my thoughts aligned with “hippy” thoughts. When I was in 11th grade, I attended Project Close Up, getting me closer to politics and decision makers. When I was in 12th grade, I helped lead our church Youth Advisory Group where we did neat things like raise money for Habitat for Humanity. That same year, I knew I wanted to attend Michigan State University and study Political Theory & Constitutional Democracy through their James Madison College, a residential college on campus.
When I was a freshman in college, I knew I wanted to advocate for the environment and education – but I didn’t know if I wanted to be a lobbyist. I also knew that I could barely afford to go to school despite the loans received. And, I couldn’t fathom doing an unpaid internship for an entire semester. Talk about daunting. That, combined with other young adult woes led me to my first adult-type rut. So, despite understanding that I wanted to focus on educating people about the environment while understanding politics, I couldn’t paint the whole picture – and I froze. I couldn’t see the jobs I would hold, unlike some I knew growing up who knew since they were five years old they wanted to be doctors. I couldn’t see how I could finish school without having funds, and I certainly couldn’t see having all those funds lined up.
So, how could I do it? I have all this passion, but what am I supposed to do with it? What am I really interested in? What am I really good at? And, how can I get the education and experience lined up, while living responsibility within a budget? (I didn’t even know a 20 something should have a budget when I was 20. Oh, the heartache that would have saved had I considered that important tidbit.)
The years that followed allowed me to focus and articulate my educational, environmental, and political desires. What I find interesting is how this map of the last 15 years showcases the journey I’ve been on. The irony that, while in the middle of the journey, I felt lost and unfocused. But, I was following my interests, and always linking it back to education, the environment, and societal change (vs. strict politics). I’ve tried to gain skills on how to run organizations, climbing as fast as I can to the top where the big picture is more evident. And with all that … now, I’ve been doing the same thing for upwards of 5 consistent years – a feat I never would have imagined when I was 20, still job hopping and trying to study.
I still can’t clearly “see” what I’m supposed to be doing in 20 years. I can’t clearly see a particular role I should be playing. Right now, amidst current career confusion or dissatisfaction, I take comfort knowing I have been on a purposeful path. And, I am ever more thankful that path is graphed.