We're back with a real brain buster: what do you want to do with your one wild and precocious life
This is a great and important essay. We spend most of our lives "working". From a young age we go to kid-jobs (day-care) and spend a 9-5 dealing with other kids and strange adults. Then we go to school for 13 or so years, and have to do (home)work. Then we are told we need to get jobs. Then we are told to go to college for anywhere from 4-8 years and get a degree or two, so that we can get BETTER jobs.
Rarely in this process is there ever an intervention point that asks us if we are working to live or living to work.
I am in the process of my life kind of falling apart right now, so I know all about having a plan for the future and that plan not really working out as desired. Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face, as Mike Tyson said, and it's very easy to force yourself to stick to the plan because it's THE PLAN. Even though the river of life is pulling us with a strong current downstream, we are holding on for dear life to this branch because the branch was the plan. We don't know what's down stream and we don't want to go downstream anyway, downstream is for losers. We aren't losers, we had a plan.
The only plan that gets you anywhere in life is to do the best you can with the circumstances that you are presented with. I am not going to live the life I dreamed for myself 10 years ago, but I am going to live my life. There's no shame or disappointment in that. We just have to keep going and doing our best.
So for Katie, there's no shame in changing majors. There's no shame in leaving school and living on a ranch for a year while you figure it out, either. A lot of time there's pressure to accomplish something in a specific timeframe or there's regret about the sunk costs of thinking that the plan was going straight when it really hooks left. If we're driving and the road is closed because of a massive sinkhole, what can we do but take a detour? Find the path that makes you happy! Don't force yourself to cross the sinkhole. Give yourself permission to take your time and really think about what you want out of life and what path will get you there. Give yourself permission to take the time it takes to figure that out properly. Sidestep the rat race, take control of your life. Live intentionally--on purpose--and don't spend so much time racing rats. That's a weird hobby, why do we do that. Who invented that phrase, and was it from experience?
My philosophy is NOT to live every day as if it was your last; live every day as if it was your ONLY day. You have been deployed to earth for 24 hours. You don't get to decide where you are, or how much money you have, or what obligations you will have. What do you do? What can anyone do? Do your best.
Thanks eelex, this does make me feel better about it all and I really like that passage, might make it my wallpaper or something just to remind myself, also I hate those stupid troll guys, so glad I murdered them
“yes mama, that’s digornos, why would it be anything else. I have betrayed everyone I have ever loved.” One of the best lines I’ve ever read. And I’ve read Hemingway.
I think when I was in my 20's some of my angst about figuring out What To Do With My One Precious and Wild Life was the scope of the whole thing. I thought that every life I could end up living was wildly different from the other. Now that I'm in my late 30's, I no longer believe that to be the case. Choosing a different major, living in a different place, having a different career...I still would have been me. And I think I would have gravitated to very similar choices given who I am.
I think Trick A is to make a choice. What interests you most? Pursue that. Trick B is just as important but I think fewer people acutally do it: change. If you don't like what you picked, be willing to pick a new thing. That might involve a divorce, or maybe going back to school later in life, or maybe taking advantage of early pandemic office closures to move cross-country and get a totally new job. (Ask me how I know.)
You aren't closing all doors by picking one to open. You can go back. And the fact that you've already done that, by deciding to change majors, seems like a good sign.
Hello to all! I took my 1 hr break that I really don’t use it entirely. I got this notification on my email from this post, something that I subscribed from without a purpose, maybe because the levels of dopamine on my brain were low bu that time. However, I took the chance to read the entire K question and answer and I laugh like never before. You’ve made my day. Now, I should consider paying for the subscription... I like how you write, as if you were born in south america or wherever. I’m new here, I can’t leave without leaving a comment. My favorite part, the bad joke about the crickets. Chirs tu you!
Man, I’m loving you’re writing. I’m new here though, so I gotta ask: When or how did you find the courage (or just decide) to spell words the way you want? Do you think people need some awards or recognition before pulling it off or it being accepted? Or do you believe that as long as it’s true to your voice and style, it doesn’t matter what your creds are?
And to answer one question: Is your work the source of meaning and pleasure in your life? And if not, how the heck did you pull that off?
If by work we mean paid work. No, no it’s not.
If by work we mean the “physical or mental effort or activity directed toward the production or accomplishment of something,” which is my writing. Then yes. But it’s also the source of depressive episodes, panic attacks, flipping people off for no reason, and an unwavering and possibly fabricated hope that some form of success will fix it all.
“til we reach water or enemies.” 🤟🏽☠️ 🏽
Also give Robert an awooooo from me
when i was very young, maybe 4, i wanted to either become a bat scientist (don't know what the technical word for this job is) or work at a local smoothie shop in my hometown called the juice shop. i did not end up pursuing either, though i have considered giving up on any and all creative endeavors and just settling for the juice shop (it's still around and it smells amazing in there!)
What advice do you have for Katie about how to figure out what one might do with a life?
Katie, or really anyone in her shoes, should focus on finding the overlap between her strengths and her passions. For example, she might be passionate about writing TPS reports, but lousy at finding buggy lines of code that'll create a Y2K disaster. If that's the case, she shouldn't look for a job at Initech, or really anywhere in the computer programmer field. But maybe she's really good at picking flair and she has a passion for serving people combo platters. If that's the case, Chotskie's might be a good fit, and maybe starting there will open the larger world of hospitality.
What was the first job you were SURE you wanted to be?
Writer. I wrote some jokes, sold some jokes, and figured this was the way. It's not the most lucrative way, and there are a lot of things that are pretty shitty about a writing career, but it suits me.
Is your work the source of meaning and pleasure in your life? And if not, how the heck did you pull that off?
It's not *the* source, but it is *a* source for meaning and pleasure. Well, more meaning than pleasure, although I suppose doing something you find meaningful is pleasurable. The thing is, I like to diversify, so I wouldn't try to look for all of my meaning and pleasure in the same place. Since I work about 10 hours a day, five days a week and maybe one or two hours on the weekend, and there are 168 hours in the week, I estimate that I'm working about 1/3 of the time. So I try to get about 1/3 of my meaning and pleasure from work. It's not easy to find the balance, but if I'm honest with myself I can see when I'm way out of balance, and when that happens, I try to make a change for the better.
Have you ever been fooled by a apiZza that some asshole said was delivery and it turned out to be DiGornos?
DUDE! I'm currently in litigation over this very thing! My lawyer says we may have to go to the Pizza Supreme Court. I'll keep you posted!
What else?? Anything and everything, come out and say it babe!
I think Katie has more time than she thinks. She's still in college. My advice is to take classes from interesting professors, go to their office hours, ask good questions, build a relationship with them, then ask them what she should do with all this education. Also, she should start a retirement account ASAP. The bigger that grows, the easier it'll be for Katie to change careers in the middle of her life, because let's face it, career changes are common. Look at me. I've been a writer for two decades, but I've written everything from op-eds to ransom notes, which means I have experience in many different sectors of the economy.
Live everything. Live the questions now.
Beautiful quote and great tatt btw. A very unexpected response to this piece was me crying because I felt it so much. Since I'm in that state of not knowing what to choose or where to go.
My advice is just try anything that your heart calls out to you to do. Don't like it, pivot! Of course we have some limiting beliefs and practical constraints sometimes but then we can get creative with these and do something about them. Just have to keep on going on.
Hi Alex --
Coming off a Substack break and downloaded a bunch of Newsletters (like yours that I enjoy). This was wonderful. I read and listen to a lot of neuroscience which means I'm qualified to be a neuroscientist!!! I'm living and enjoying a different end of life as our children are grown and the nest is empty. My POV is from the time we are young, those around us guide us to do one thing that will tick all the boxes. They do this often rooted out of fear as fear resides at the very core of our brains -- it remains that first stop out fo the neighborhood for every thought akin to living on a cul-de-sac and reaching that left or right moment. We can be fooled by this because certainty leads to a settled mind -- alas it also means a rigid mind that might become unsettled as new evidence emerges. I think this gelatinous blob that sits on top of our necks is best when its on and active. It sees patterns and rejoices when it begins to see something new. I believe also this brain of ours is use-it-or-lose-it. Each time we remain open to what is new or what is next a whole new section of our mind blooms in creativity -- find out what's next and enjoy how it changes you a bit -- you get full credit for today's comment -- it comes from reading something different, not arguing with it internally in our heads as it flies in and tests the water. Your writing is a joy.
Postscript -- The path and the turns so far have made this life worthwhile. I hope there are many more ahead -- mostly because its better than the option
thank you for sharing.
i also studied psychology, "the science of how people act when you put them into weirdly specific situations called experiments."
a fun and accurate description!
here are my answers to your questions (thanks for asking!):
i would ask these questions:
1) what have you enjoyed doing in your life, katie? when have you felt most fulfilled? when have you experienced meaning and joy? are there particular subjects that you have loved learning about? sometimes the best path forward involves looking at where you've already been. perhaps the answer has been inside you the whole time. OR
2) maybe the answer is inside someone else! so the next question is: are there people that you see in life who are living lives that look the way you might like to live? people who look like they are enjoying themselves and/or experiencing a life of meaning? doing work that you think is important and/or interesting? is there anyone in your life like this, or anyone in history?
3) what do you want to do with your life? answer quick! (did this one work?)
Is your work the source of meaning and pleasure in your life?
thank you babe! i love you!
Katie, my advice is bookmark this piece and read it often. Also, reread Scoot's comment often. Solid wisdom from two distinct voices in here. I'm gonna dogear this bad-boy myself. I'm 43 and still don't know WTF I'm doing with my life. 😂
As a kid I wanted to be a veterinarian. Then I studied musical theater in college. So... that threw some differently shaped forks in my road. I love writing and will do it forever. A keynote speaker at a writer's conference once ended her speech with the sentence, "If you love it, pursue it, no matter the outcome." That stuck with me. Try it on for size, and just know that whatever you choose to do now will help you with whatever you choose to do later. Experience is cumulative, and you get to keep all the points you earn when you level up.
1. Are you a Star Trek fan? Shakespeare fan? Either way I don't know how to advise on where to go. But if you're a fan of the former or the latter, I recommend "The Undiscovered Country." You don't need to read either. It's how Bill refers to the future. Why? Because the future is literally something you can't know. You can set off to find a way to get to India thinking the world is half the size it actually is and run out of food halfway there only to discover a continent you didn't even know existed. You might even think you've reached your goal at first. Then you have a choice, get back on the ship and stick it out for India, or see if where you ended up is worth taking a look at. There isn't a "right" answer. The future is an undiscovered country that can be guessed at but there's no true book or map to it, even if there are some interesting and convincing predictions and fictions about it. Plans are guidelines not roads. Drawn in pencil. When you start inking/painting them in you might find out the picture looks better a different way. You are the explorer and artist if the whole thing. You might start a dozen stories you never finish.... How many more of these do I got...? Do they still make people learn about Ithaca? Do I dare make a Breaking Bad reference...? If questions are like locked rooms "[you're] the one who knocks." (does that actually work?)
2. The farthest thing I would ever consider pursuing at this point. A pastor. It's a long story that I don't have the words for.
4. No. But... I have been tricked into eating gluten free crust...
5. I have no problem with North or South, but I have to use a device to figure out West and East, left and right, or port and starboard. I don't however have the same issue with Dexter or Sinister. Is that odd?
I have a lot of respect for comedians. They're stand up people. They don't often pass up a chance to improv.
have a kid!
then you'll have no time to angst anymore and you'll love them so much that everything else about living is irrelevant!
i spent my late teens and 20s getting all the degrees, trying all the cool fields where your work is also your ~fulfilling life calling~ (museum curation, family therapy, interior design, to name a few), collecting dope mentors across the country and across disciplines.... annnnnd turns out i just wanna raise my children at home here at 32. oops.