Stories: Chapter 3, In Search of a What

So these questions of identity have sort of lead me to think about when I was little. Most career books or counselors ask us to go back and resurrect our fundamental passions and beliefs to try to regain that innocent connection to our true selves. The question is usually something like this: When you were little, what did you want to be? or What were your dreams?

When I was little– I remember everyone around me seemed to know what they wanted to be when they grew up, they had an idea of a vocation, or a relationship structure, or a place they imagined living. But not me. I was completely without any such goals. I was pretty immediate in the way I was living, except I did have a fear of failure and of disappointing others, so I know I was at least somewhat forward thinking in the sense of consequence if nothing else. But that aside, I had no idea about what I wanted to be.  I never thought about future relationships (married/have children), never thought about where I wanted to live (big house? cabin?)–  And not having any idea when everyone else seemed to at least know where they were aiming, really played into my feeling of “otherness”. As far back as I can remember, I felt “other”. I always wished for a singular standout talent or clear passion. Something undeniable. Something that would help me know what to do, what to aim for, how to map out where I was heading.

As an adult I have struggled with this too. Most of my school and work choices have been accidental or default or spurred by outside influences. This is not to say I have not learned a lot about myself, I sure have. I’ve learned great things, and hard things, things I want to keep and things I want to change. I’ve gotten a lot more self aware, and a lot more up to date with who I am. And my self stories have had to get updated too.

Just this past year and a half, with major job changes and infertility and successful IVF pregnancy and marriage and a baby and a financial crisis and a big move… a lot has shifted, and, with it, a lot of my identity stuff; a ton of my self stories are just not valid anymore.  Suddenly I was cast adrift from the stuff I knew- and a redefinition of my career/work life meant a redefinition of kate. At first, my confidence was so completely shot, I could barely answer when folks asked me what I was good at and what I wanted to do next. I didn’t know. And I everyone I spoke with (including me) felt that I should know.

As things calmed down and the crises passed, I was able to put together work, and move, and begin to find my way toward something closer to expressing more of myself. I’ve figured out a lot more about what I am good at, and want to use that awareness as I move forward. I now Identify with being creative. And it feels like a huge relief to recognize that as part of my self that needs tending and acknowledgement. I worked in engineering, that is part of me too. Scientific curiosity, geekiness, wonder.  But it turns out, I am probably just as much right brained as left, which explains a lot about how I like to work and what is important to me. These are also things I know more about now, and want to work towards expressing more fully in my job(s).

But I still have a dangling What hanging over my head.

I am still unclear about the specific What in the What I want to do question. But, because of what I now know of myself, I have no doubt that with a clear What I would figure out the How.

I am optimistic. I think I am finding my way toward something or somethings. I am not completely adrift, I do not feel aimless, or hopeless, or fearful about never figuring it out. Some pieces have been clarified, and I think, too, that there are probably more than one answer to my What question.  I’ve been paying attention. I’ve been picking up pieces that feel right, and taking note when something excites my curiosity. I’ve been collecting, but I am not sure how they all fit together yet. I feel as if I can now recognize important pieces more quickly, and allow myself to make choices based on my newly honed intuition.  But I still very much feel in progress in all of this.

If someone asked me right now, so What do you want to do? I would have to answer: something I feel good about, something I feel is of value and valued, something that matters at least to me, and something that I am good at or can become good at, something that uses both sides of my brain, something that fosters connection and curiosity rather than divisiveness, something that is energizing rather than draining at least most of the time, something that feels natural, and something I feel lucky to be able to do every day. I may not know the What, but I sure know how I want to feel about it.

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