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.