Non-Career Advice.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Non-Career Advice is a series that asks people - young, old, and in a range of occupations - for words of wisdom unrelated to work, career-building, dollars, or getting ahead.

I woke up hours before my alarm on the morning before my 29th birthday. This was partly due to the fact that it was August, a time of year when my bedroom floods with sunlight at five AM. More likely, though, it was because my mind was ajitter with worried thoughts. I'd started a game with myself that involved matching facts about my life with the words "…and I'm almost thirty," and, no less than five minutes in, I'd morphed from a reasonable, thinking human being to an exhausted heap of frayed, frazzled nerves.

I live month-to-month… and I'm almost thirty. I have roommates… and I'm almost thirty. I don't have a plan - for anything, really… and I'm almost thirty.


On top of it all, I felt that while I had a plethora of resources to help me on how to work faster, make more money, network, and participate in social media more efficiently, I was too overwhelmed to use them. Anytime I read an article on how to be more productive at work, I'd feel discouraged, and unsatisfied, and like I needed a nap.

A few weeks later, as I eased into life as an almost-thirty-year-old, I found myself seated opposite a family friend and recent college graduate who'd just moved to New York. We discussed adjusting to the not-knowing of being in one's twenties while eating bagels and bright purple borscht and smoked salmon that cost so much it made my heart jump — and as I talked, something happened that I'd never experienced before. I felt old (or at least older) — and completely (or at least mostly) okay with it. As someone just entering the last year of her twenties, I felt like I had things to say and advice to offer a friend still in the early stages of hers.  

None of it — not a single bit — had anything to do with work. I had nothing to say about increasing numbers, or hits, or likes. None of it resembled the kind of advice I've noticed is so commonly offered to those just beginning life on their own.

It made me think: I'd like to start a series that asks people in a range of occupations to share something they've learned as they've grown into adulthood that has nothing to do with work, or the narrow definition of success that so many of us have grown accustomed to measuring ourselves against. My favorite part of writing is sharing stories and connecting with others — and as my blog has shifted over time to focus on growing up, I want to ask others: what would you have told your younger self knowing what you know now?

I'll start. Here are three things I wish I'd known:

1) There are many different kinds of achievements in life, and they're all worth recognizing. Chances are, when I look back at my twenties, my most significant achievements aren't going to be work-related. If anything, my biggest strides have been emotional ones, and it's taken me a while to realize that this is a type of success that's just as valid as having my name published in a magazine, or being able to raise my rates, or working full-time as a freelancer. 

I recently interviewed husband-and-wife team Elizabeth Beer and Brian Janusiak, whose store, Project No. 8, is so named because it's literally the eighth project they've collaborated on. When I asked them what the other seven were, they included things like "having children" alongside various work-related milestones — and our conversation was just as much about books and family and travel as it was about career. Everything — all of it — was important.

2) Daydreaming is productive. My parents told me this when, at twenty-one, I found myself back at home in California after my first move to New York didn't work out. I wasn't sure what my next step should be, and they encouraged me to give it careful thought — but not to force it. It's important to take time to daydream, my dad said. 

I ended up farm-hopping overseas for a month — alone, mostly —  and for a time, I spent my nights in a little trailer, dreaming about what life might look like when I got home. In some ways, this felt irresponsible and indulgent — but, these days, I don't believe in any single definition of productivity. Read, explore, travel, laugh, daydream, fall in love — these aren't distractions, or frivolities, or ways of procrastinating, or things you should feel guilty about making time for. (As my friend Lily told me when I complained about being unable to focus amid life's assorted diversions: what else are you supposed to be focused on?)

3) Life doesn't have to look any certain way - all that matters is that it looks like you. I came across a book at a record shop recently that showed photos of a family living out of an Airstream trailer,  camping as they traveled, reading bedtime stories to their children by firelight. It occurred to me then that life doesn't need to look the way I always assumed it should. It's why I started posting about projects like this man's travel for trade, or this woman's quest to live minimally — they're reminders that life is malleable, that the world is vast, and that life's possibilities extend as far as your creativity, and imagination, and sense of adventure allow. 

Work is a part of life — one that can be exhilarating and inspiring and joyful, to be sure — but it's not all of life. Success, achievement, and the notion of getting ahead can mean any number of things depending on how you look at them. 

I want to talk about this because there was a point at which I felt that if I wasn't doing well in my work, I wasn't doing well in life. And to worry about that at length, I think, would be entirely — and very regrettably — unproductive.

Looking forward to hearing from others as this series progresses. Thanks so much for reading, as always - and happy daydreaming.

34 comments:

Rachel Weaver said...

I like this so very much. A lot.

Betsy said...

What a beautiful series, and a fantastic start.

No. 3 rang especially true for me. I cringe at the wasted time young Me spent trying to conform my life to a cookie cutter version of happiness and success.

Traci said...

I especially like your second point about daydreaming. So much yes to that! Not a lot of people make such a stand.

Anonymous said...

love, love, love.

Sarah Noel said...

So glad this is happening.

kwakie said...

Thank you so much for this! Your blog is one of my very favorites and one of the few I actually follow consistently, and I'm always so moved by your posts. As a 28-going-on-29 (and still figuring out what to do with my life) year old, they're always so encouraging and comforting! And your writing, of course, is beautiful :) I so can resonate with a lot of things you said here and was reminded of this quote by Alan Keightly, that impacted me a lot:

“Once in a while it really hits people that they don’t have to experience the world in the way they have been told to.”

I encourage you to keep being yourself, doing what you're doing and fighting to stay true to who you are! :D I still dream of moving to NY (and haven't given up trying just yet :) and am so inspired by the way you live your life!

christine

Paw said...

i love this post and the new "column." Just saw a relevant nurse's quote, the last two sentences of which read, "How much do I make? All I know is, I make a difference." Work related perhaps but certainly not about "making a living."

Brianne said...

I've been thinking a lot about these things, too! These are great thoughts--the second made me think for a bit on just how much I daydream (so much!)--and I love the idea that it might be productive for me. I'm really excited to see what comes next in this series.

Kathy said...

I love this so much. One thing I've learned, in a similar vein to #3, is that it takes a long time for a person to become themselves, and that you are always "becoming". There's something about the rat race of life that always made me think or feel like once I had achieved a certain goal or reached a certain age, that that was it - there was no changing. I've found and am finding that isn't the case at all, and I've loved that about getting older.

Looking forward to more non-career advice!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so, so much for this! I am turning 27 in a few months and I was thinking that although I haven't made a lot of progress recently in an outward fashion I have made lightyears of emotional progress in the past six months or so; and that it isn't easy to justify this as an expression of growth but it is equally valid. I am really looking forward to your interviews! <3

Kelly said...

YES.

Shoko said...

Thank you all for your kind words and for sharing your thoughts! I'm so glad to hear you're looking forward to this as much as I am!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your words. Sometimes I think I'm the only one who is lost in the gray area of what everyone thinks life should be and how life actually is. It's so inspiring to find a fellow "almost-30-year-old" who so happily and beautifully embraces the uncertainty of being a grown up and rejoices in the beauty of being an unconventional adult.

theshellhammer said...

I remember sitting across from you in a coffee shop a year ago, talking about random and beautiful things in life. You gave me quite clear advice on a whole plethora of aspects, but you may not have known. And here is more, great advice. Thank you for sharing. x

burntfeather said...

This is so perfect - I love all of your blog and the treasures you post but this definitely hits a nerve - a really nice perspective and a reminder to myself not to be harsh on myself when I'm not being work productive :P

sherry said...

Beautiful post. Well said.

S U N N Y said...

I love this. I'm almost 28, I'm finishing grad school and often feel "late to the game" in terms of work/success --so #1 really hits home. I've had some amazing extended travels, but its tough when that's not something the work-world necessarily appreciates. I'm getting better at recognizing those experiences as success and elebrating those times instead of criticizing myself. Thank you!

girlseeksplace said...

All of this. If I ever come to NYC, will you eat over-priced bagels with me?

I read an article on Levo League recently about how you know you're coming out of your quarter life crisis and phase 5 is doing what's right for you without worrying about how it might effect others. It's about applying for that great job even though you told your current boss you'd be around for at least two years. It's about being brave and taking the leap to build a life of your own even though you have no idea it's going to work out.

And roommates - I live with an 18 year old freshman because the dorms at our university are at 150% capacity. Talk about not ready. She didn't even know how to use the stove.

I regularly feel late to the party. I'm not married. I don't have a kid. I don't own a house. I'm not as independent or prepared as I like to tell myself I am. I make all these grand plans but I'm watching as one failure after another occurs for me. It's utterly terrifying. I'm as terrified at 32 as I was at 20. I have more wisdom, sure, but I don't fit in anywhere.

Shoko said...

Thank you all so much. I'm so encouraged by your comments, and love hearing your stories.

And Brianna, yes! I'd love that!

Trish said...

Lovely post and can't wait to read more in the series!

max said...

this is the best.

--- said...

Shoko, this and so many more reasons is exactly why I adore your writing. It's true, honest and so heartbreakingly accurate to every single feeling we all have but never have the courage to say out loud. Brava, lady. I absolutely cannot wait to read this series.

...and I'm thirty.

Shoko said...

Rincy, a strong and wise one, too! :)

auste said...

I know a few early-20-somethings I'd like to pass this along to... My life is nothing like I'd imagined when I was 20 or even 25. My twenties were spent living in six different cities in 4 different countries - the absolute best experiences of my life. I didn't think I'd be the type to get married and have a baby before I turned 30... but on the verge of 32, with another baby on the way (and no real career path to speak of), i'm still daydreaming and still hoping to embark on new adventures... I'll just have a couple little rascals in tow. This, all of it, including all of the uncertainties and "bad" decisions, is life. You're ever-inspiring, Shoko, even to an old lady with babies like me:)

Mandy Koster said...

You are such an inspiration! I am at the same stage in my life, and I AM 30.. Daydreaming is what keeps us going. Keep up the good work.

X Mandy

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to say thank you! This was beautiful.

Annie J said...

Medicine words. I really appreciated and needed to read this. Thank you--looking forward to this series!

Shoko said...

Thank you so much for all of your wonderful comments. I can't wait to continue the series!

Laura said...

This is so beautiful and timely for me. Thank you!

Tiffany said...

this article made me tear a little bit while in the library trying to put my thoughts together and finally get back to a really long to-do list. i had fallen back in writing for my blog, reading my favorite blogs, a bit of homework, applications and i have actually been thinking about my birthday lately too. your three bits of advice are so beautiful, sweet and pretty wise. thank you for sahring them!
and it is true that at some point you begin to feel older and like it! it is a great feeling!

Mandy Koster said...

Ah, wow (blushing big time here!!!), thanks so much for your reply on my blog Shoko! You are a true inspiration!

Have a lovely weekend!

X

Morgan said...

I love this post - so refreshing to read. And I can't wait to continue to read the upcoming pieces of advice. Thank you! And hat tip to Meg Biram for linking to the series.

Shoko said...

Thank you all so much again!

Mandy, it is absolutely my pleasure — thank you for reading!

Morgan, many thanks also! Will check out Meg Biram now!

Carly Haase said...

This is SO good.

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
 

sho & tell © All rights reserved · Theme by Blog Milk · Blogger