The struggle of realising you’ve chosen the wrong path – again

Today I finally did it. I opened up Gmail and started writing that dreaded email to my professor, telling her that I’ve decided to drop out. I had to make several pauses and look at the words I was typing down. I’ve managed to take the wrong path in life – again. How did this happen? Just a few months ago I was overly excited about this programme. I sat in front of this very same professor during the admission interview and went on and on about how I really wanted to become an archivist. I was leaving the room so excited that she had to pull me back down to Earth and remind me that not everyone will be accepted, no matter how much they want it. But I had no doubt I would be accepted. I aced the interview, like I almost always do. A few weeks later I got accepted and I was so incredibly proud of myself. I told everyone about it. Finally I had found my thing and I was gonna become something! An archivist! “What’s that?” people asked. “Well I’m gonna sit in an office or an archive and sort documents, kind of…”. It sounds so strange to me now. Archiving? What the hell was I thinking?

I was thinking that what I need is a somewhat easy job that pays me enough to not have to worry about money, and where I wouldn’t have to rely on my creativity too much. I would lie if I told you that the decision to drop out was easy, despite the fact that underneath I knew all along. Just scrolling down this blog and reading about how I came up with the idea of applying to this University programme makes it pretty obvious that I had doubts long before I even applied, but I chose to ignore them. The first few weeks of school I had panic attacks on my way there, every single day, but I chose to supress them. I told myself that it was because I had just stopped taking my medication, that it was a lot of new things to take in and a new environment. But as the weeks went by I realised that it’s not about that. I like the atmosphere at school. I like my professors. I like my classmates. I loved the conversations we had outside of the classroom about stress, purpose and life in general, but I had no interest in the subjects taught in class, except for the political and philosophical aspects of it.

“[…] one day you wake up and realise that you are angry and sad and frustrated over a job you didn’t even want in the first place.”

An archive is a cultural institution alongside museums and libraries that have been the same for a very long time. The idea that I could make a change and develop this cultural institution into something more interesting and sustainable is what kept me going. But after some time I realised that the idea that I alone could be a breath of fresh air in this institution and somehow manage to change things up is extremely far-fetched. Especially since it’s an administrative job where every decision goes through someone higher up the ladder that most of the time has no real understanding of the work you’re doing, which leads to frustration and ultimately resentment. Then one day you wake up and realise that you are angry and sad and frustrated over a job you didn’t even want in the first place. And it’s not that I don’t think I could do it, it’s the realisation that I don’t want to.

I feel extremely priviledged and self-centered when I tell people about my decision. Like I think I’m better than everyone else for wanting to pursuit something bigger. Well I’m here to tell you that I’m not. I do think that I’m capable of more than sorting and handling documents, but in no way do I think I’m better than my classmates or people who do other kinds of honest work. We’re all good at different things, and we’re all interested in different things. But the bottom line is that if we want to help people, which I believe should be the core of every profession, we need to pick a profession we are excited about. I am certain that my classmates will become great at what they do because they enjoy the history, the books and the aspect of helping people find the information they need.

“Nobody remembers the teachers that were, at most, okay at teaching.”

Not everyone can love their job, but I never want to become so unhappy with what I do that it affects other people negatively. For example I’ve had teachers in the past that so clearly weren’t happy with their job that it affected the students, making us less motivated. Sure, you can pick a profession you’re not particularly passionated about and be mediocre at it, but how is that helping anyone? Nobody remembers the teachers that were, at most, okay at teaching. We remember the good ones, the ones that inspired us to become better, the ones who saw our needs and had them met. We notice the bus drivers who greets every single passenger with a smile and a hello. We remember the doctors who make us feel taken care of. We smile at the enthusiastic tour guide, the barista who made a smiley face in your coffee and the shop owner who was so passionate about what they were selling that it rubbed off on you.

I haven’t quite figured out what it is I’m passionate about yet, but now I know it’s not archiving. At least that’s something.

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The struggle of wanting more – while being exhausted

Photo by: Victor Norgren

When I was a kid, “The Little Mermaid” was my favorite movie. It spoke to me. And it stuck with me. The feeling of being different, of not settling, of wanting to explore and do more. One of my high school teachers once told me “You seem to be a strong person. You run your own race”. It’s one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me. But in many ways the “wanting more” has made my life miserable.

To me, “more” doesn’t mean money, power or fame. It means doing something meaningful. Something that will have a positive impact on people. I have such a strong feeling that I should be doing something else. Right now, my life is all about survival. The only thing I think about is money, and how we can earn enough to get by every month. I’m making decisions based on what I think will give us a more stable future in terms of money. And it’s making me sick.

I don’t know enough about life to know if it really pays off to be a good person and work towards your dreams. But I do know that I don’t want to spend my life working a meaningless job, feeling shitty about myself every night and having anxiety 24/7. And that is why I’m in this position right now. That is why I’m on antidepressants, why I’m not employed and why we struggle to get by. And you know what? I am so grateful for everything I have at this moment. Right now I have love, I have a roof over my head, food on the table, lovely friends and family that care about me. What more could I possibly need right now that money can buy? Nothing.

But I need to find my purpose. I am and have always been an ambitious person. When I do something, I go all in, which is why I haven’t really done anything in the past year. I haven’t had the energy to go all in. I think that might be the problem with us who struggle with exhaustion – we constantly want to do more, and nothing is ever enough.

The University programme I talked about a couple of weeks ago is still on my mind. It’s not what I’ve dreamt of doing with my life. Quite frankly, most people would call this profession boring and old-fashioned. But being the ambitious person that I am, I already came up with my own ideas of how this profession could evolve into something global and groundbreaking. Because that’s who I am. I question the way things are. Which is not always welcome in the educational system, despite what you may think (but that’s a totally different story).

I’m not sure where this blog post is going, I just felt like I needed to get these things off my chest and to give you an update. I’m alive and doing pretty well in terms of my mental health. So now I’m slowly trying to stear my focus towards personal development instead of survival.

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How do you find your life purpose and choose a career?

I’ve been thinking a lot about my life purpose since the realisation that I chose the wrong path in terms of my career. A couple of weeks ago I got an idea of what I wanted to do instead, and it didn’t take me long to get things moving. I found a programme at the local University, asked around for internships and even managed to get an interview with two people who are working in that particular field. I wanted to know what I was getting myself into before I decide to apply for two more years of school. It all seemed great and I was super excited. But surprise surprise, I’m starting to doubt the whole thing now.

The applications aren’t open yet, so I haven’t made an official decision. I’m afraid that this is going to be another bad turn. When talking to the two professionals I got the sense that one of them wasn’t very happy with his job, and the reasons for it are reasons that I know will bug me as well. It’s an administrative job, often controlled by other decision-making people, and everything has to go through them. Me being a person who needs control and has an issue with authorities, might have a problem with such a business structure.

But I need money, I need to make a living, and this job would mean a steady income. That is, if I actually get a job after the studies. Cause you never know. The statistics are looking pretty okay at the moment, but a lot can change in two years. Including my mental state and feelings towards this line of work. The whole reason why I came up with the idea in the first place is because I was searching the internet for jobs that suit my introvert personality. I found this profession interesting and “easy” enough to work with my anxiety problems. But is that really the right way to go? Am I settling for less than I actually want out of life?

I’ve always wanted to have my own business. To do great things that people will acknowledge. I wanted to help and change people’s lives. I still do. But I’m not well and have no energy to attempt something greater right now. Or at least that’s what I tell myself. Maybe I’m just afraid of failure? Or stressed out about the whole money situation. Having your own business can be very rewarding on a personal level, but the money won’t exactly pile up the first couple of years. It’s tough, and you need to be mentally prepared to stick with it, even when business is bad. I guess the key is to start a business you’re really passionate about, and where you can see a sustainable future. I don’t know what kind of business that would be, and as excited as I was for that new path I started exploring, I think I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.

But then again, do we ever find what we are looking for? I think we’re all just lost souls searching for something we believe will make us happy. But happiness isn’t around the corner, it’s right here. Even if I don’t feel it all the time, I know it’s here. To me it’s not the happiness I seek, it’s the meaning. A greater belonging. A sense of fulfilment. One of my greatest fears is being basic. Wow, I’ve never actually thought of it that way… That’s exactly my problem.

I feel like this is beginning to sound like a therapy session, so I’m going to end it right here. Please comment if you have any thoughts on this. Are you also afraid of not living up to your full potential? Have you found the right path? How do you know what you are supposed to do with your life? Do you just focus on surviving and providing for your family? Is your career important to you?

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