A refrain I hear often is “I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.” Usually that statement is followed by judgment like, “I’m (fill in age), I should know by now what I want to do.” (Insert exasperated sigh.)
First let me acknowledge that there are people, rare and special people, who figure out THE THING and follow a straight career path of increasing passion, responsibility and expertise. My husband is one of those people. He had an epiphany while visiting an exhibit about the Japanese American internment during World War 2, found his passion and never looked back. God bless that man.
Then there are the rest of us (dare I say most of us) who look more like this: Had a paper route at 12. Graduated to fast food. Moved to office work, volunteered, travelled, got a graduate degree. Became a community mediator. Worked for a big company and stayed forever. Or quit and started own business as a coach. Does this sound like you? (Or me?)
You are on what I proudly call the Curvy Road.
When my children and I want to follow the garage sale signs or (don’t tell them this), I’m lost, I announce that we’re on the Curvy Road. We’ll get there, just not in the way we expect.
The “find your passion” movement has left many of you feeling like a failure because you can’t identify your THING. I’ve played in that useless sandbox, too.
I’m going to say something at the risk of the coaching gods coming down and ripping my credentials out of my tight little fists: Some of us don’t have A THING. (Waiting for the lightning bolt.)
You are not a failure if you haven’t found your passion. You are a Curvy Roadster!
Here are three ways to think about your life and career on the Curvy Road.
1. Know that each step of the way you made the best decision for who you were and what you wanted at the time. You change. What you want changes. And you have been brave to recognize when it is time to mix it up.
2. On the curvy road, there frequently is a common thread that runs through everything you’ve done since you were 12. Look back over your career choices from a ten thousand foot view. What do your choices have in common? Perhaps your thread is the environment. Or service to others. Or involvement in deeply creative endeavors. Mine is relationships and community.
3. Enjoy what you're doing now. And then enjoy the next now and the next. If you do not have a singular, all-consuming passion, you can still love what you do, 10 times and counting. It's a huge relief to stop beating yourself up for not having a passion and just sink your teeth into being the best whatever you are now.
And when I’ve shared with my husband how envious I am of his career path, he says that sometimes he wished he had stepped off to explore, to see what else was out there. And when he's lucky, he joins us on the curvy road.