When I first landed my current job, I felt more excited about work than I had in my entire life. I felt that I had actually landed my dream job– the one I had been working for that would bring me ultimate satisfaction and pride in myself. The one that I would walk away from at the end of the day feeling fulfilled because I had changed others’ lives for the better.
What brings me such fulfillment? I’m an academic advisor for undecided students. That may sound pretty lame, but to me it’s all about helping students find their passions so that they can become the people they were destined to be. What is more fulfilling than taking the hand of a lost soul and shining a light down the right path? I spent two grueling years in graduate school working fifty hour weeks and soaking up debt so that I could land this exact job. Yet, here I am only a year later, feeling as though something is missing.
When I first started college, I was one of those lost souls– the undecided students. I knew that English was my favorite subject, and I enjoyed reading, writing, and editing. But what does one do with a major in English? I felt that all I could do was become a starving writer, and who wants that at 18 years old? (Clearly, there are plenty of jobs that come with an English degree, but my 18-year-old self couldn’t comprehend what those might be.)
On I went. I navigated my first semester of college in the same disconnected, fruitless way that most of my students do. I took some gen ed’s that sounded intriguing, but I felt lost in a lot of different ways. I didn’t understand who I was or what I was doing; all I could do was stress about who I was supposed to become. How was I supposed to make a decision that would change my entire life?
Despite my lack of direction, I did have one minor revelation during my first semester of college: I was really good at psychology. When the rest of the class was failing, my professor e-mailed me to ask how I was doing so well. What? I didn’t even go to class. I just read the book, and I liked it. (Reading textbooks is so passe for students these days. Shouldn’t professors be depositing information straight into students’ heads? Why should they need to read? Ugh.)
I went forward with another purposeless semester and decided to claim psychology as a major, solely due to the feeling that I could not wait any longer to make a decision, and I didn’t have any other ideas. Was I happy with this decision? I never actually decided.
When I made my way into the field of academic advising, I felt that I had found my calling in helping students find their own. This really does feel amazing when it works out. Students are often set on certain paths because their parents or friends told them it would be a good idea, and they’d never considered anything else. They just need someone to show them how different life can be.
The truth is I feel like a fraud. How can I tell students to follow their passions without consideration of their future careers when I refused to take that exact advice when I was a student? I completely forsook my passions and skills, and for what? I do have an excellent job that I love most of the time, but I’m missing out on the part of me that’s really me. I’m a listener and an advice-giver, but I’m also an introspective literary nerd.
I’ve become the office grammar-checker because I cannot handle reading anything with more than one error. I’ve become the voice of reason because I’m not afraid to give my opinion, but I also believe in civilized conversations and debates. (Why aren’t people able to disagree without losing their shit?) I’ve also become the social leader because I’m always down for a drink or three, and if I’m going to spend 40 hours a week with these people, I may as well get to know them for who they really are.
My job is great, so why do I feel like something is missing? Is it because I went down the wrong path? Is it stupid to feel this way after just one year in a professional career? Maybe the only issue here is that I’m a millennial who’s never satisfied. I always want more for myself, and I want to be sure that my job is my true passion. Is that sort of thinking a problem with our generation, or is it really the solution?