I have always been jealous of people who do one thing well.
They have a one-word answer to the question, “What do you do?” It seems so easy for them – “I’m a…photographer, or doctor, or nurse, or teacher, or accountant, or seamstress, or therapist, or artist.” They sound so sure of themselves and settled in their careers. For me, this simple cocktail question makes me trip over my words and over-explain.
For the longest time, I have tried to fit myself into an “I’m a…” answer without success. I have done a lot of interesting jobs in my life, usually a couple at a time, and so choosing one has always felt inaccurate. I am interested in too many things to pin down a straight career path, but not being able to give myself a one word identifier has always felt really, really uncomfortable.
Until recently, when I picked up Margaret Lobenstine’s book, “The Renaissance Soul.” It seems that there are a lot of other people like me. People who feel bad about not being good at one thing. People who beat themselves up for being a “jack of all trades, master of none.” People who have done many things in their lives which have made them happy, have a lot more interests they want to pursue, but feel they should grow up, settle down and pick one thing.
Does this sound familiar to you?
I realized that women in their forties and fifties are particularly likely to be in this uncomfortable place. We find ourselves moving away from being a primary caregiver to children and wanting to move back into the workforce – but not knowing which direction to turn. Our experiences raising children have made us pretty darn good at a lot of things – from organizing projects, schedules, and people, managing money, to decorating, editing papers, photography, volunteering, and fixing things. We can’t or don’t want to go back to the work we did before kids, but the job of raising a family doesn’t translate into a clear career direction.
Many times, we have put our own preferences and needs aside for the sake of other people and we don’t even know what we like to do anymore.
Even if you have picked one thing to be good at – for practical reasons more than passion – and have been working outside the home for years, maybe you have unfulfilled interests and find yourself wanting a vague “more” from life. Maybe you feel like you are not being your whole self.
Margaret Lobenstine offers some great strategies for identifying and harnessing the power of our unique set of skills and managing them in a way that feels good and is productive. Maybe her thoughts will help you make sense of your varied interests and help you figure out your next step.
Its hard to beat the job of creating, birthing, and raising the next generation, don’t you think? For me, it continues to be a wild ride, but I can see the next phase on the horizon. I know my kids will be off to college before I know it and I want to be excited about my future. Doing work that feels like fun in the next phase of my life seems like a just reward for my hard work. When I relax and allow myself to be all that I am and embrace all of my interests, it is easier to see the direction I should go.
I also look forward to hearing from you about where you are on this journey. We have a lot we can learn from each other.
What do you think? Are you able to say “what you do” with one word? Have you been wondering what the next phase of your life will look like?