“I don’t know what I’m doing with my life.”
Most of us have used this phrase at least once in our lives. Most of us have beaten ourselves over for ‘not knowing what to do with our lives’ as well. “How can I not know what to do five years from now?” Think about the question, and think about how most of the ‘how can I not knows’ revolve around this mentally constructed enclosure we’ve built for ourselves.
Truth is, even that person who you think knows what he is doing with his life, probably doesn’t. At least not the entirety of it.
And that’s where you start. You can’t possibly ever know what you want to do with your life. At least not for sure. Not now, and sure as hell not five years from now. When I was in eleventh grade, I knew what I wanted to ‘do with my life’. (Or at least I thought I did). I knew I wanted to study medicine and become a doctor. Guess what I’m studying now? Linguistics. How similar are they? About as similar as a donut and banana.
But you know what? I don’t regret it one bit. I love linguistics and there’s nothing I would change about the fact that I’m studying it now. But if you had asked me 3 years ago if I wanted to study linguistics after high school, I would probably say no. Do you know when I figured out I wanted to study linguistics? During that one year when I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my life.
And now let me come to my title. Not knowing what you want to do can be the best thing to happen to you. How, you ask?
Three years ago, I thought I hit a dead end. My high school results had come out, and it was NOTHING close to what I needed to apply for medical school. In fact, it was nothing close to apply for any science school. I had had a long cherished dream of trying out for schools in America, but my grades were not good enough for a scholarship there either. So I instead ended up trying out for a public university in Bangladesh, and wound up studying Geography. Six months into the degree, I realized I had hit an even bigger dead end: I did NOT like Geography and I couldn’t see myself studying it for the next 3.5 years. I dropped out, and for six months, I was alone in a city far away from home, I did not have a job, and I wasn’t enrolled in any university. But it was only when I did not know what I was doing that I realized that I could do anything I wanted. I could have a clean slate; I could start over.
And that’s what I did. I had loved language classes in school, which is why I thought Linguistics was worth a shot. It’s been three years since, and if you had asked me back then, I would have told you I don’t know what I’m doing. But that ‘not knowing’ was what gave me the liberty to try out something new, and I ended up loving it.
Funny thing is, if you ask me now, I will still tell you that I don’t know what I’m doing with my life. How can I? I don’t even know what I’m having for dinner tonight. And “what I want to do with my life” is a burden I don’t ever want to burden myself with. It limits you. It makes you want to live within that enclosure of “this is what it HAS to be like” and you end up staying in that enclosure.
What can you do to get out of that enclosure?
Learn to accept that sometimes, not knowing what you want is the only thing that can help you figure out what you do want. It is only when you’ve tried out a number of things that you know what works for you- and what doesn’t.
Accept that you can never figure out the whole picture. You can figure out some bits and pixels, but never the whole thing. If you keep pursuing things you genuinely enjoy, the rest tends to work out.. eventually.
Deal with the fact that life is uncertain. You have no idea what’s going to happen in the next minute, how can you possibly know what’s going to happen in a lifetime? Bad stuff happens. Good stuff happens. And they don’t always happen in an equal way. Take uncertainty by its horns and make an overpriced exotic showpiece out of it.
And most importantly, try out everything you want to try out in order to figure out what it is you want to do for the finite amount of your time on this planet. You only get a lifetime to do them all, so you might as well, right?
Originally published at medium.com