Our whole lives, we’re told we need to have a plan in order to be successful. We get the best grades we can in high school so we can get into a good college. We work our butts off to get a killer internship so that we can land our dream job. Some people are lucky and end up exactly where they want to be. Their careers are fulfilling, their love lives are a real life version of a Nicholas Sparks novel, and they are truly and deeply happy in every aspect. However, for the vast majority of us, life just isn’t that simple. The truth is, most people are just faking it in some way or another. I know this because I was one of them.
After graduation, I landed my dream job. I was doing work that was meaningful, my bank account had more in it than I ever thought I would see, and my relationships with friends and family were thriving. So far, the plan that I laid out for myself was working and I couldn’t be prouder. Then reality set in after about two weeks with the company. I realized that this position was nothing like what I thought it would be, and the success I initially felt dwindled away once I had a full workload. I was drowning with no lifeboat in sight and my dream job turned out to be a complete and utter nightmare.
Slowly but surely, that nightmare infected every other aspect of my life until I was so depressed that it put a strain not only on my personal relationships but my relationship with everything else I loved as well. I wasn’t writing or playing my guitar anymore. I felt guilty every time I watched a show on Netflix because I couldn’t stop thinking about the steaming pile of work that I had ahead of me. I couldn’t sleep at night because I was so panicked about tasks that I didn’t have time to complete. My job turned me into a person I never wanted to become. A cold, empty corporate slave.
I never thought that at 22, with my whole life ahead of me, I would feel so stuck.
After I got sick of waking up every morning with my stomach in knots and crying myself to sleep every night, I started to use a new mantra: F*ck it. F*ck this plan, forget this job, and forget feeling like a failure. So I quit my job and made a new plan. To take life as it comes, see the beauty in every opportunity, and be happy with wherever I am.
Two weeks later I was hired as a client services coordinator (fancy word for receptionist) with a different company. I now have less than half the work I did at my old job with the exact same pay. Turns out, my paycheck only looked so big because I was a broke college grad. I was actually being grossly underpaid for the amount of work I was doing. This new position might not be everything I always wanted, but apparently I don’t know what is because my dream job turned out to totally suck. And you know what? I’m much happier and I’ve learned more about myself from having a plan that failed than I would have if everything worked out exactly the way I wanted it to.
If I had continued to put on a fake smile and go into work every day, I would have never discovered that the type of work I thought I wanted to do wasn’t a good fit. I know now that the problem wasn’t that there was anything wrong with me or my abilities to perform the job. The problem was that I was so wrapped up in having my life mapped out that I took the first job offered to me out of college without taking the time to assess whether or not it aligned with my skills and passions. But this soul-sucking experience taught me a very valuable lesson. Just because a position looks good on paper doesn’t mean that it’s the right one for you or that you are the right person to fill it. And even more importantly, it taught me that there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Life isn’t always about knowing what’s coming next. That’s impossible and quite frankly it’s silly that we even try. Nevertheless, it’s human nature. For me, the need to control my future is something that I battle with every day. But the more I sit back and have faith that if I keep pressing on I’ll end up exactly where I’m meant to be, the more peace and fulfillment I feel.
And inner peace is something that no paycheck or fancy title can ever buy.