shadow

The One.

We’re all looking for it. We’re worrying that we might never find it.

Your soul mate. The one that will make you feel alive with purpose. The one that will bring meaning to your life and complete you. The one that you just know in your heart is right.

I’m talking, of course, about your dream.

That thing that just fits you; that you can be happy doing forever. We’re all told to ‘follow our dreams’ but what if you’re not sure exactly what your dream is?

When I was growing up I thought I knew what my dream was. I wanted to ride on the U.S. Equestrian Team and compete all over the world.

I could see my life: riding gorgeous horses all day, rubbing shoulders with royals and celebrities. I would rescue a horse out of a terrible situation and nurse him back to health. It would turn out that he was a world-class jumper. His adoration for me and tremendous ability would carry us to victory after victory.

That never happened.

To be honest, my passion for riding had waned quite a bit after managing an equestrian center during college. I was a little burned out.

I had just graduated with a business degree. Yawn. I couldn’t have cared less about business. I loved psychology. My biggest regret in life is not sticking with my original psychology major.

I had gotten into an argument with my psych professor and decided he was an asshole. Instead of reasonably keeping my head down until I had gotten through the class, I marched heatedly down to the registrar’s office and switched to a business major because I had loved the teacher I had for Intro to Business. (Yet another reason why everyone should travel before going to school.)

Even though I did end up learning a lot, the only part of business I ever found interesting was the psychology aspect.

I bounced around a bit from one aimless job to another. I waited tables, I tended bar, I had a brief foray in retail, I tried (and hated) sales. I moved to Las Vegas, and then to Indiana.

In Indiana I got a job at a veterinary hospital. Okay, this was it. I loved animals. I would go back to school and get my degree as a vet tech. Maybe even a veterinarian.

I could see my life: I would work long hours saving animals but it would all be worth it. I would volunteer at the local shelter and single-handedly reduce the number of stray dogs & cats. I would have a house full of animals & become the crazy cat lady I always knew I could be.

That never happened.

So I decided to go back to school to get that psychology degree. Yes, this was it.

I could see my life laid out in front of me. I would get a job working for the FBI, profiling serial killers. It would be like the X Files, dashing from one daring chase to the next. I would fall in love with my partner and together we would save the world. Eventually I would retire and become a professor, inspiring young minds.

Yeah, that never happened either.

Then I decided to run a marathon. Okay, this wasn’t exactly a career choice, but it would be a big accomplishment. I got up to 5 miles and remembered that I hate running.

Then I got hired out from behind a bar into a loosely defined “marketing” job. At first it seemed pretty perfect for me. I didn’t really have a job description so I sort of just created my own. And I decided to learn graphic design.

Never set a girl loose with company credit card and a thirst for knowledge. I bought myself Adobe Creative Suite & signed up for online classes. I redesigned all the company’s marketing materials – flyers, brochures, exhibit signs, business cards. Then I decided that the e-newsletter looked pathetic, so I learned how to code an email. Then I started to tackle the website. I was a designing fool.

(You guessed it…) Okay, this was it. I was a designer. I would go to art school and take more classes, get certified, and live happily ever after.

I could see my life: I would dye a purple streak in my hair, get some more tattoos. Maybe even a pair of artsy glasses. I would get a loft in a trendy part of town and hang out with hipsters, drinking craft beer.

Then the company I was working for got bought out by a corporate giant and I knew my days there were numbered. Strangely, it didn’t really bother me. After all, did I really want to be a corporate designer?

When the axe fell, I was barely phased. Mentally, I had already moved on.

I indulged my itchy feet and moved to Chicago. There is nothing I love more than moving to a new city and starting fresh.

I remembered how much I used to love writing, so I decided to write a novel. I got 4 chapters in and decided that I would go back to school and get a degree in creative writing. In fact, I would get a job at a university so I could get a discount on tuition. I had it all figured out. This was it.

I could see my life: drinking coffee in the morning, wine in the afternoon. I would have a cat on my lap, pounding away on my keyboard. I would write the next Harry Potter/Twilight/50 Shades of Gray. My book would be a New York Bestseller. They’d turn it into a movie, of which I would be an executive producer. After all, I’d always wanted to work on a movie set.

Shocker – this hasn’t happened either.

I started to get depressed. I was 32 years old and no closer to accomplishing any of the lives I had envisioned for myself. I had never followed through on a single thing.

What I really loved was learning new things. Moving to new places. Once I started to get good at something I lost interest, because for me the joy lies in the challenge of learning.

I will be forever envious of the people who seem to be born knowing what they want out of life. My childhood best friend always wanted to be a wife and a mother. Even at 10 years old she couldn’t wait to have kids someday.

But…what about the rest of us? Are we doomed to wander forever, bouncing around, never having that one thing? Always having a vague dream but not knowing exactly what it is?

Then I had an epiphany. So what? No really, so freaking what?

Maybe you’re like me. Maybe you don’t know what your one thing is. Maybe you don’t have one – maybe you have a whole bunch of dreams that don’t always seem to fit together.

Guess what?? You are perfectly okay. In fact, you’re lucky. You may never be a billionaire, but I guarantee your passion for learning and trying new things will lead you to a rich life, full of discovery and adventure.

“Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t.”

As soon as I let myself off the hook for not having it all figured out by the time I was 30, I did something totally out of character for me. I followed through on something I had always wanted to do – travel.

I took my severance check from my corporate job and bought a plane ticket. I didn’t really think about it, or plan it out. I had no idea what the future would look like. I just knew that travel would change me, and it has.

Travel has taught me that my one thing is simply having the freedom to do…more than one thing.

Maybe I’ll be a designer/freelance writer/world traveler. Maybe I will publish that novel. Maybe I will get to work on a movie set someday. I can almost guarantee that I’ll end up with at least 3 cats and a horse.

Maybe all of my dreams will come true and maybe none of them will. (Okay, I probably won’t be chasing down extraterrestrials anytime soon.) All I know is that I want a life where I am free to learn new things, go new places, and meet new people.

So if you’re one of those people who never seems to finish anything, cut yourself some slack. The point isn’t always to finish; it’s to learn & grow. Stop looking so hard for that one thing.

Travel, adventure, learn, discover, explore. You don’t have to have forever figured out.

All you have to do is live.


This post is part of the #SundayTraveler series. See the rest of the lineup and link your travel post at Pack Me To or any of the other fantabulous hosts listed below.

Author

Mandie

Mandie is a writer, rebel & web design junkie. In her spare time she enjoys drinking wine, traveling & working on her perpetually unfinished novel. She was a nerd before it was cool.

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Comments

  1. Esther    

    Great post. Th most important thing is just DO. So many people don’t do what they love because they are afraid, they think about ‘what if’ waaaaay too long. I’d rather change my path a couple of times and learn fro my mistakes than to be on a path I don’t belong to. In the middle of the economical crisis I decided to give up my fabulous paying corporate job (’cause with the paycheck came the burnout) and so many people looking at me like I was mad. I can tell you, I haven’t regretted my step since. As a travel writer I’ve had many possibilities since then, I am working with amazing clients and my days are my own again. Finally.
    Found you through SundayTraveler!!

    1. Mandie    

      Thanks, Esther!! I too have NO regrets about leaving corporate marketing. True, I’m still establishing myself as a freelancer and the money is going out faster than it’s coming in, but it’s so worth it! I no longer have anxiety attacks or trouble sleeping, and I feel like my life is my OWN again. Always fabulous to meet someone else who escaped the corporate burnout. 🙂

  2. Emma    

    Wise words! Who knows you might not find your true path in life until much much later anyway! As for me, as long as we are travelling and seeing places, I am pretty much content! 😀

    1. Mandie    

      Or maybe your true path is actually many paths…as a traveler, I love that my path is winding and full of surprises 🙂

  3. Corinne    

    Powerful words and advice….maybe you should really be a life coach! LOL….Good read!

    1. Mandie    

      Actually my ultimate career goal is to lead “adventure therapy” trips for woman looking to get over a hurdle or break through a barrier in their life. So thanks for the words of encouragement! 🙂

  4. Bailee    

    Love this post! It’s like you took the words right out of my mouth.

    I totally feel ya, I’ve spent a lot of time wondering what that “one thing” is for me and I’m starting to learn to be okay with the fact that I might not have one. Or maybe I just have a lot of them! I guess I’m starting to figure, as long as I’m enjoying what I’m doing at the time, who cares if it’s my “thing” or not?

    Well said, girl. 🙂

    1. Mandie    

      Bailee, I thought about you when I was writing this! I think we put way too much emphasis on finding our “thing” when maybe we should just celebrate the fact that we have so many different passions! After all, it makes life way more interesting haha

  5. Katie    

    This sounds so much like me it’s not even funny. I feel so much better knowing I’m not alone! 🙂 What it comes down to is – I LOVE being outside of my comfort zone, learning and adapting. I thrive on it, so travel is really the only thing that fulfills me.

    1. Mandie    

      Seriously, if I could be a “professional learner of new things” for the rest of my life, I think I’d be happy 🙂

  6. SJ @ Chasing the Donkey    

    You are such a great writer, I was smiling along the whole way. Wishing you much love and luck!! Big thanks for joining us for #SundayTraveler

    1. Mandie    

      Awww, thanks SJ! 🙂 That means a lot coming from someone who’s blog was so inspirational to me that I changed my itinerary from Italy to Croatia!

  7. Heather @ TravelingSaurus    

    Definitely can relate to this post–also tried the horse thing–after college–and promptly returned to grad school!! I’m trying the running thing now…one marathon down, so it’s not a total failure, but still 🙂 Great advice on just going and living!

    1. Mandie    

      OMG, I’m so jealous that you’ve done a whole marathon. My bf is about to do his first half, and even though I’m pretending to be sad about not being able to do it with him, I’m secretly glad because I can’t imagine how a human being can possibly run that far. LOL

  8. Kristina    

    Excellent post, Mandie! I appreciated your openness about your journey and I totally agree with you about people traveling before going to school. Wish I had gone that route first.

    1. Mandie    

      Me too! I’ve learned more about who I am and what I want out of life from traveling than I ever did in school. Education is a GREAT thing, but I wish I’d have waited until I could really appreciate it, instead of just going to college because “that’s what you do after high school.”

  9. Amy Lynne Hayes    

    This post spoke to me on so many levels!! I turned 30 last year, and have “experimented” with my career more times than I wish to recount. Nothing was ever “the one,” as you say. And, like you, the only thing that really tapped into a never-ending sense of passion for me was travel. I did my stint working with horses as well, although I was a dressage rider lol.

    1. Mandie    

      You rode dressage? I did eventing but dressage was always my weakest link. 🙂 Since I started traveling & writing, I feel like I’ve finally tapped into a passion I haven’t had since I was riding.

  10. Tiana    

    THANK YOU for this post. I too am forever answering “I don’t know” to the ultimate question of what i’m going to do with my life. I spend a lot of time beating myself up for not having it all figured out yet. It’s so nice to be reminded that I really don’t have to!

    1. Mandie    

      Oh, I beat myself up all the time too, so this was as much for me s for anyone else. 🙂 I always think “if I’m supposed to be something, shouldn’t I have known that since I was little?” But…maybe some of us are just meant to be adventurers!

  11. Christa Thompson    

    JUICY!!!!!!!!! I completely get you. My problem wasn’t finding my path, but finding where the hell I want to get my mail!!! I’m still torn. Every time I go somewhere, I just want to move there hahaha! I’m in Florida for a while though. My son’s father won’t let me move out of the state with him… I can’t wait to be able to make that leap though.

    1. Mandie    

      Haha, Christa, if I could figure out where my mail should be sent I’d be golden! I’m averaging a move to a new state every 2 years. Pretty sure my forwards have forwards at this point.

  12. Mariah-Food, Booze, & Baggage    

    Love this post!! I’m currently struggling to find my “path” in life and what I should be doing that doesn’t make half my life suck 🙂 I love the honesty in this post…thanks for sharing!

  13. Anna | slightly astray    

    Wow… I love this post and I can relate to it so much!! I too, have always started something, and never finished because none of it seemed right to me. Nothing seemed like what I was born to do, and I’d loose interest after a while. Even now, I get totally depressed sometimes about trying to be a blogger, but I’m determined not to give up on it too. But your words makes me see that it’s OK to not having a thing, and the most important is that we’re traveling and learning! Thanks for this!

  14. Lauren    

    I can definitely relate to this post. I’m still not fully certain what I’m meant to do with my life and I’m 32 as well! I do have a steady job that I have a love/hate relationship with, and I’ve been working at it for 7 years or so. I don’t feel like I define myself by my job or career, I define myself more by what my interests are. My job is just to earn money to live, and my hobbies and things I enjoy by not earning money are my passions! I find that I leap from interest to interest as well and find success with it, until I get bored and go on to the next thing. Although I usually tend to keep those other things in my life, too. I could really relate to this post so thank you for sharing it!

  15. Adelina // Pack Me To    

    What a fantastic post Mandie! I can definitely relate. Right now I’m in a job similar to the where you redesigned everything. It started off great and now I’m not sure. We’ll see 🙂 I’m starting to wonder what the next thing is. I got a business degree too and I liked a lot of my classes (except for stupid accounting grrr), but the psych portions of organization behaviour and marketing were so intriguing.

    1. Mandie    

      Thanks, Adelina! I’m such a nerd I took an EXTRA accounting class. I would have probably loved my marketing job for longer had it not been for the company I worked for, but who knows? Maybe I would have gotten restless and moved on either way. The only thing I have been sure of my entire life is that I’m not cut out to work for someone else. I don’t think I can go back to being an employee at this point.

  16. Julie Callahan    

    Great post… And you now know a 56 year old who hasn’t figured out her life…. Oy vey….

    1. Mandie    

      That just makes you EXTRA interesting! 😉

  17. Wesley Travels    

    Love this post! It’s like you took the words right out of my mouth.

    1. Mandie    

      Thanks, Wesley! Always happy to hear that I’m not the only free spirit around. 🙂

  18. Pamela    

    Awesome! Thank you for the assurance that most of us never really figured out what we want no matter how old we are. I wish most people will realise this. At a certain point of time, they expect you to know what you want to do. Life is about learning and growing. Not everyone wants to follow through social norms nor have a specific directions because goals change all the time.

    1. Mandie    

      This might be the most important lesson than travel has taught me: It is 100% okay to take the less-traveled path (or many, many paths). They all lead to to new adventures. 🙂

  19. Wesley Travels    

    Love the post it´s like you just took the words out of my mouth.

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