Sunday, March 2, 2008

On Purpose

My impending graduation and the process of interviewing with TFA and the master's program have forced me to reflect on what I'm doing with my life. I'd like to think I gave good answers to those sorts of questions in the interviews, but in reality I'm not so sure where I'm headed. I've found a few things I'm rather good at doing, at least a couple of which are of benefit to others and could ultimately lead to jobs that pay enough to survive, but right now my sense of purpose in life is waning.

There are some people who find careers that are absolutely perfect fits, whose purpose in life matches up extremely well with what others will pay them to do. A couple of weeks ago my dad asked me if I had ever met Dr. Suchandsuch who used to be on the physics faculty at my school. I expressed a bit of amusement at the idea that I could have somehow escaped meeting him; even though he retired in 1999, he still comes in to work five days a week so I see him in the hallways and at department events all the time. This guy enjoyed his job so much that his dream retirement consists of doing most of the same things he did while he was working for pay, minus some of the duller administrative aspects and department politics.

Many people find themselves in careers that they aren't so passionate about but still take some satisfaction in. I think my father falls into this category. He's a mechanical engineer and finds his job slightly boring. Engineering is still the best possible field for a car-obsessed math and science geek, and he's found a low-stress job he's good at that leaves him plenty of time to read and pursue other interests (mathematics, philosophy, and history, lately with a focus on Mediaeval Europe, in addition to all things automotive) during the hours he isn't at work.

Then there are those who are almost completely adrift, like my brother. He's a sophomore who hates college. He has no idea what he wants to do with his life, and after over a year and a half as an undeclared major who has been taking physics, programming, and math classes, the only thing he's sure of is that he doesn't want to do physics or programming and couldn't make a career of math. He is very bright, but is perpetually in danger of losing his scholarship because he doesn't keep up with the work and doesn't see the point of doing so if it isn't leading to anything anyway. My parents are encouraging him to defer his scholarship for a year, find some menial job, live at home and pay rent, and, they hope, discover some motivation to finish school, if only to escape the menial jobs.

I've watched people I care about hit that problem where they don't see where they could possibly be going in life, and I've experienced it myself. It's still a struggle to accept not having a long-term plan and press on anyway. I have to keep trying to find productive things to do in the meantime and hope that I'll eventually find a niche in the world.

1 comment:

plonkee said...

I think that we need to move away from thinking that there's only one answer. It's hardest to really enjoy/love your job, your social life, your relationships and your family all at the same time. But you can certainly like one or more all the time, and like most of them most of the time.