We constantly read about the lives of others through books, magazines, social media and countless online blogs. While living vicariously through these experiences is certainly an enjoyable pastime, it is also important to have something of your own that makes you happy. Since my big move from North Carolina to Los Angeles a few months ago, I have been struggling to decide what I want to do with my life. As an extremely goal-oriented, hard-working person, this is not an ordeal that I am used to. In the past weeks, time seems to have sped up. I find myself shocked day after day at my lack of drive or inspiration, asking questions like: What day is it? How is it already time for bed? What did I do today besides watch old movies and flip through the new issue of Nylon on my lunch break?
It hasn’t always been this way. Growing up, I knew exactly what I wanted to do — become the next Vampire Slayer. Each week when Buffy came on, I would stand in front of the television with a sharp stick I found on the playground (appropriately named Miss Pointy), and karate-kick the air around me as I trained myself for a future of fighting the spread of darkness. When I discovered (much to my dismay), that the noble destiny of the Chosen One was not in the cards for me, I was forced to reach into the depths of my soul and come up with a new plan for myself. At the bold age of seven, I decided that I was going to move to California — far away from everything I had known, and become a brilliant actress. Alas, somewhere along the way, much like many other soul-searchers in their late teens and early twenties, I stumbled across a crisis of identity and began to doubt myself, as well as my plans for the future. The only thing I knew for certain is that I was meant to do something great.
In college, the possibilities were endless. After changing my major from theater to film to studio art to psychology to communications to journalism (and so on), I somehow found my way to creative writing. More specifically, I found my way to a focus in poetry. Like many other students of the creative arts, I dreaded the inevitable question when you met someone new of: “What’s your major?” The answer always provoked the even more frustrating follow-up response of: “Oh. Well what do you plan to do with that?”
But at the time, of course, I had my whole future ahead of me — why worry now? Although the picture in my mind of what my future looked like changed from day to day, I didn’t have time to think about much other than working multiple part-time jobs and getting my schoolwork done on time. Besides, I had gotten myself into college and was making it on my own — the hard part was over. I had plenty of time to think about the rest later.
While I don’t regret the way I spent my college days (ok, well I don’t regret most of the things that I did in college), I do find myself wondering lately, how in the world I ended up working at a bookstore in Los Angeles with a few years of poetry studies under my belt and not much else. Don’t get me wrong, I love poetry. I wouldn’t have been accepted into the program and worked my way into being poetry editor of a local creative magazine if I didn’t. However, I am not a poet. Poetic at times, perhaps, and certainly an avid reader of the form — but definitely not a poet.
So here I am, an entire country away from my home state, wondering how to begin the next chapter of my life. While most of my peers have set out across the globe to various jobs, internships and MFA programs to work towards their goals, I find myself struggling to figure out what my goal even is these days. While I enjoy working for the book chain at which I have been a faithful employee for the past three years, customer service is simply not my calling. Nor is business or medicine or law or anything else that one might consider practical. So where does this leave me?
In a city overflowing with artists, writers, musicians, designers, performers and every other creative sort from across the world, it isn’t easy to find your niche. Paired with an immense sense of self-doubt and ever-changing personal interests, the possibilities can be overwhelming. I love film. I love music. I love books, photography, art and, of course, writing. But in a city such as mine, these are overwhelmingly common interests. Without goals, connections or ambition, it is all too easy to get lost. So where does one begin?
As cheesy as it sounds, soul-searching is never easy. Figuring out the way you want to spend the rest of your life is hard work. For me (and I know I am not alone), that idea changes all the time. I am finally living and working in Los Angeles, California like I always dreamed, but the hard part is only just beginning. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, learning what makes you happy is something you have to do for yourself. Starting today, I will find a way to reconnect with that self-assured little girl who knew exactly what she wanted to be, and I won’t let anything discourage her again. While I may not end up saving the world from vampires or various other supernatural villains, I know that I will figure out what I am meant to do and make it happen — whatever that may be.
You can read more from Lee Nance on her blog.