Zen Girl

Centering into the journey.

To career or not to career.


In the West, most of us aren’t consumed with thoughts about where our next meal will come from or if we will make it through the night with nowhere to sleep.   Much of our discontent comes from the question that arises when all of your basic survival needs are being met–what am I doing/going to do with myself?

Most of us fall into one of the following options:

A.) You don’t know what you want to do with your life, but you feel like you must find it, that you are behind in the game, behind in life, and that joy is just waiting for you, just as soon as you can figure out where it is you belong.

B.) You have a career, that one thing you’ve dedicated your life to doing.  You’ve settled into life; gotten to that place of comfort and financial success that so many dream of–the American dream. Despite what it looks like on the outside however, your very soul is, at worst miserable, and at best, restless.

C.) You are one of few lucky bastards who are fruitfully enjoying the one or many things you are truly passionate about.  You are achieving not only inner fulfillment, but you are meeting your financial and lifestyle needs by way of your passions.

D.) You have no career but hold passions for many areas in life, and are content and fulfilled by simply learning and living the journey.

This is written to those in category A, to explain to you that B is the most commonly sought after but most insane option, and that we must look to C or even better D for true happiness.

Dear A‘s,

Maybe it’s so hard to find that one thing we want to dedicate our lives to simply because we are being told we need to look for it. We are told this at a very young age, at an age where it’s absolutely absurd that this should even be a worry.  By the time we are teenagers in high school, we are already taking career aptitude tests, looking at colleges, and being forced to brainstorm what exactly it is we are going to be doing with the rest of our lives.  Talk about the ultimate slap in the face to living in the moment!  But really look at this idea.  Really let it sink in.  What are the reasons for this? Why do we feel we must commit ourselves to doing one thing forever?  Why is it that school, job, career, and retirement is the norm? We are told to learn a trade, get a job in that trade, and work for our entire young lives so that when we are too old to do anything we can finally do all the things we’ve worked so hard to do. But where did this idea come from?  I see no more reason for it than to feed the economic system (You know…the one that doesn’t work and never will? Yeah, that one).

These ideas have especially been instilled in my parents generation.   Some of this generation is just nearing the age of retirement, after decades of slaving away, making others wealthy. (And when you work for others rather than for your passions and for the world, that’s exactly what you are doing–spending a lifetime making others wealthy)  Much of my parents generation have worked hard enough for so many years that they’ve become desensitized to what life is all about.  They stopped enjoying the beauty of simply living because all they are living for is to get to that next step, they are working toward not working.  But then what?

When you’ve finally gotten to that point after decades of sacrificing freedom and happiness, then what?  You’re either too old to do all the things you never had time to do, or you use the extra money to buy gadgets and things that fill the ever-present hole in your self. Some may argue that we do these things for the comfort of our children, we have to give them the life we never had.  But why didn’t we have a great life?  Because we are slaving away to give our future kids one!  Shouldn’t kids be instilled with the idea that enjoying life is more important?  EnJOYing life?  Shouldn’t kids be able to look at their parents and say, wow, I can’t wait to live my life.  Look at all the fun and freedom my parents had and all the great things they did.  Look at the opportunities they had to be themselves and follow their passions and make a difference in their world.  Shouldn’t we give them a love for the world so that they have a reason to want to save it? Instead of de-sensitizing them into following a career that they may not even like, to gain material possessions that will never end up making them happy, shouldn’t we instill in them the idea that life itself is happiness?

In my opinion, by the time we get old, we should be able to look back on all the things we did with our lives and feel a sense of contentment because we know we truly lived for ourselves.  We should know that we filled our lives richly with amazing connections, great adventures, and lessons learned. We should know we loved others unconditionally and gave them kindness and understanding, that we made a difference to the immediate world around us?

Instead, we live in bubbles of the past and future.  We dwell on the past and worry about the future.  And that’s really what it comes down to.  We work towards an end goal, and our minds are never in the present, they always are looking ahead to the happiness that may or may not be waiting for us, when in reality happiness is actually right there next to us.  See it? It’s waiting for us to grab it by the hand, take it along for the ride.

And that’s all life is.  All of it.  It’s a ride…really. It is. Don’t believe me?

Before I fully understood that I hold no value to spend time searching for that “one thing”, I was struggling with the notion of finding something for myself.  I just couldn’t understand why nothing fit quite right, why I couldn’t settle in, and why it was so damn important to begin with.  Here’s what I wrote during that time of confusion:

Who’s to say that we can’t do multiple things, be multiple people in one lifetime?  This doesn’t mean that myself, or someone like me lacks self-identification.  Who they are inside, the way they love and treat others and themselves–that’s already defining them as a person.  We have this wonderful and oftentimes overlooked freedom to be anyone and anything we want..we truly can be anything we put our minds to, but in most cases, doing what is inherently appealing to us at a given time in our lives is looked down upon–destroyed by outside and inside sources, by the words of our peers and elders (when are you going to…settle down?)  destroyed by mainstream society and by our own thought process,  by financial setbacks, or simply the fear of not knowing the future.  Are those of us that lack a commitment to certain endeavors really missing something?  Is it lack or commitment, or simply lack of seeing the value in that commitment?    Are they simply “free?”  What is the appeal in the ability to pick one career and stick to it?  And why it is that the inherent boredom that in most cases WILL set in is oftentimes considered a lack of commitment or even laziness?  We are hardwired to be consistently learning and growing, so what happens when the knowledge of our chosen field has been completely soaked up and a certain glazed feeling sets in?  There is staleness to life–the excitement for more of it has all but disappeared.

I’m not saying that there aren’t those out there who find that ONE thing that gets their bones tingling, that fulfills them completely and calms their soul.  You may very well strive for and end up in option C.  I don’t, however, see why this has to be turned into a career that sucks all the joy out of life.  Do it because you love the act of doing, not because it will bring you any sort of outcome.  If it so happens that you are one of the few who get to do what they love and are also financially sustained by it, than that is a wonderful thing.  I believe this can happen for anyone.  This will happen if all the garbage-worthy ideas of what we should do are indeed thrown out, and we look at what’s left, not at what we should do but what we are doing–what we are to the very core.  When we focus and hone in on this, our true selves can flourish.  It’s amazingly beneficial to look at the love of doing, and not getting.

Do whatever it is in life that brings you joy and fulfillment. But never stop striving for joy and fulfillment in the everyday, in the very act of being alive. (option D)  And when you do this, give your extra surplus of happiness away, spread it out into the world.  Make it stick to people like duct tape, or better yet super glue.

All we have is the ride–better make it a great one.

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6 thoughts on “To career or not to career.

  1. Michelle M on said:

    I enjoyed reading this article but I honestly can’t agree 100%. I am one of those in category B (the dreaded career of accounting to be exact). And yes I can say it does not nourish my soul on a daily basis but it does put food on the table (expensive grass fed beef no less), pay the mortgage to a home I dearly love, and pays for me to pursue things I enjoy such as yoga & DIY home projects. If I were to take your advice and live in the moment and not think about the future how could I afford to pay all the bills? Not to mention have good health insurance to take care of my family? I think your ideals sound great in theory but not so much in reality. I honestly think that if I quit my boring day job today to just do the things that interested me that day that I would create more stress in my life than what I deal with now. Having a lucrative career that may not be the most exciting does provide security and an income to do the things I want to do. I am curious how you fund your life full of adventure & travel?

    • Thank you for your comment! I completely understand where you are coming from. I think our attachment to that level of comfort, to having a lot of money is exactly what causes so many problems. That desire to own property and pursue expensive pleasures before thoughts of spiritual fulfillment and giving back to the world is somewhat backwards to me. (though I of course have thoughts of financial freedom and all of the things I would love to have). You say that you wouldn’t quit your job because it would cause more stress than you already have. I wonder, what’s causing these stresses? The security and income, from what I have seen, never seems to be enough. I don’t believe that it can be a true, permanent source of happiness. That has to come from within.

      You are right that we need money to do the things we want. I’m definitely not saying to drop everything you are doing to live in the moment without a thought of the future. I don’t have children and I can’t begin to understand what you go through to take care of them. What I am saying is that if a career is not bringing you full happiness, if it causes your life stress or you feel restless and bored, why keep it? Why not keep the accounting job WHILE you work toward your passions, until they become fruitful for you? That’s what I’m doing. I have a job that I don’t mind, but I’m constantly working toward writing becoming my main source of income, and trying to better myself on a daily basis. No, I can’t afford ANY luxuries at the moment. I have no car, no means to travel. But don’t worry, adventure is easy to find. 🙂 And I strive to find pleasure in the everyday, because I know acquiring the things I want will never bring lasting happiness. It DOES take money to secure travel and some of the things I would love to do, but I know that that is where I want to end up, so I am spending my time working toward that goal, while also enjoying every second of getting there.

      I believe that if we are being true to ourselves by doing what we love, striving for a simple life and seeing the value in living before the value in things are the first steps to a better world. When we do this, the things we NEED will come to us, and the means for the extra stuff will come to us also. All of the rest (house, property, expensive things) hold no meaning for me. This is very opinion based from my own perspective on what is important to me, so I understand if what I am saying doesn’t make any sense. I know I’m just another young idealist to many people, so I expect to hear this “you are not being realistic” argument quite often. But without big dreams–where would we be? 😀

      But hey, I say that if you are able to find contentment with your current job, it is in line with your ideals and values, and you still have the time and opportunity to do all of the things that bring you fulfillment, then fantastic! You don’t need my advise anyways. 🙂 I appreciate you reading this, and giving feedback. Thank you so much!

  2. Nice piece of writing here, and I can see where you’re coming from. I remember at school feeling completely crushed by the weight of B thinking…I didn’t know how I was going to fit in and I thought I was going to end up as a drifter. But back to your article. I think you need to find some way to reconcile ABC & D in a “we’re all in it together” sort of a way.
    It seems to me that part of the problem in the West is the heavy emphasis, and long history of B type thinking, and the lack of value given to A. It’s almost like living has no value unless there’s money to be made out of it. Even the language of A is called “ideallistic”. Imagine B being called ideallistic! So maybe the balance between A and B needs to be changed, a little bit more given to A, and a bit taken off B, so that each at least has the same credibility… that’ll take some doing, but that’s why we’re here right?

    Keep the writing coming.

    • Hi Al, thanks so much for your comment! I completely agree. If we could somehow combine ideas of ABC &D, and show those who are in B the value of having some more C & D thinking, or at the very least see how it could be beneficial, just as much, if not more than being financially secure. And to assure those in A that there are positives to all other options and that they need not feel so lost. The “we’re all in it together” idea is definitely key. Once we realize that, the process of change can begin.

  3. Chelsea on said:

    I am definitely in the D category. I am very susceptible to feelings of self doubt about it though. I make just a little over minimum wage and I’m 22. I never feel bad about this when left to my own devices, because like you said, I place no value on material possessions unless they are necessary for survival or knowledge(both of which come quite cheap)… but I steer clear of cable television (Netflix is the shit!) because I can feel it starting to work on me when I start watching it. It shows people what success looks like, what they should strive for, and what “losers” look like. That stuff latches onto my subconscious after a while. I prefer to create my own worth, and if others downplay it, they are obviously not feeling too hot about theirs. 🙂 Glad to read someone who thinks like me, I don’t encounter them often.

    • YAY for category D! It’s a scary one. Don’t let silly ideas of what success is get to you! The way I look at it is people like you and I have a full-time career: we are fine-tuning our minds and hearts every day to be the best people we can, and that’s pretty damn sweet 🙂 So go us!

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