In elementary school we were asked what we wanted to be when we grew up. In high-school we met with guidance counselors and mapped out our plan for the future — the plan to become the thing that we wanted to be. In college we picked the classes and electives that would give us our best chance at success at that thing (or, in some cases, we just picked the ones that gave us more time to play beer pong). Our crappy first jobs were placeholders, a temporary hurdle in the path to the thing.

For most of my professional life, I’ve been in search of the thing. Through countless jobs, various companies and multitudes of projects — I’ve been searching. Sure I’ve had jobs and by definition even a career. But I’ve been in constant search of the thing, that one entity that I can hang my hat on and call my own. The thing that flips the switch for “real-life” to begin. That entity that signifies that I’m all “grown up” and here’s what I’ve become.

Looking back now, I know now my life began when it began. All that time when I was too busy focusing on finding the thing and how good it would be when I finally found it, I was never thinking about — or enjoying — the moments I was living in. I’ve realized that this journey is all part of the story now, and that my life won’t be any better or any more real if I finally find the thing. In fact, and a much more likely scenario, is that there isn’t just one specific thing to find — but a combination of things learned through trial, error, failure and experience.

I think there’s something sad about thinking that the life you’re living right now is a place holder, something to tide you over until your real life begins. — Jon Westenberg

Personally, I’ve come to terms with the idea that finding the thing is not as important as what it once was. In the beginning, it’s easy to think things are going to be black and white. And for a rare few, maybe they are. But real life for me is a whole lotta grey. It’s messy, bumpy and hard. But, and perhaps more importantly, real-life is now my thing (and it can be wonderful).

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Originally published at on July 27, 2016.

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