Taking stock, aged 31 years and 51 weeks

Next week I turn 32. 10 years ago I was a year away from graduating and had no idea what I’d be doing in ten years time. I had no concept of what life at 32 would look like and that’s true when I try and imagine life at 42. In career terms this is because I’m following a meandering path that sometimes has the audacity to take me round in a circle. When I was little, I frequently changed my mind about what I wanted to be when I grew up and now that I’ve grown up, I’m no different!

I have spent years frustrated at this lack of direction. I looked at my friends who had always wanted to be doctors or lawyers with a certain amount of envy. Life was mapped out and seemed so simple. I, on the other hand, had no idea where I was going or where I even wanted to go. Blessed with very supportive parents, I could go anywhere, do anything, be anything, but those choices overwhelmed me. I wanted to make use of the excellent education I’d been given but couldn’t figure out how.

My only certainty since leaving school has been that I want to use my language skills. I went to university to study French and Spanish so I could speak them fluently but as I soon discovered, that is not how you become fluent. Seeking immersive experiences (more on this in a later post) became a constant. It was just so much easier to improve my language skills when I had no choice but to use them.

14 years after leaving school and I still have no clear career path and I’m still trying to find my way. I’m now at an age where I look at the LinkedIn profiles of those several years younger than me and find myself lacking. And this coupled with my lack of direction can make me feel like I’ve failed. I feel as if I should have sorted this out by now. After all, many of my friends are married and helping their own children figure this life out. I’m carefree but also anchorless.

However, of late I’m trying to embrace my wandering nature and my self-termed jack of many trades, master of none. I would far rather give something a go, find out it’s not for me and move on than stay still, secure but unhappy. Plus, in 14 years, thanks to my quest to never let my language skills die, I have had so many adventures and done jobs that I never would have considered before they were offered to me, never mind as an 18 year old standing at the starting line of adulthood.

Student, English teacher, translator, interpreter, paralegal, events organiser and tour guide are just some of the hats I’ve worn. Listed like that it sounds like a lot but it’s not really. Think how much there is to learn in this world. My Twitter feed is a constant stream of interesting articles to read, wise words to follow and captivating pictures to peruse. I could spend hours clicking on links and reading, and yet, my knowledge would still be miniscule.

My perceived lack of knowledge has often held me back, not least in starting to write. As with many people who would like to start a blog, I have been stuck in the quicksand of self-doubt and self-criticism. However, being awake until 3am this morning, writing notes about what I could write but wasn’t, has given me a new sense of resolve and courage.

It doesn’t matter that I’m a generalist not a specialist. In fact, many would say it’s a huge strength. It means that I can appeal to a wider audience and in turn learn more.

When I was studying for my Masters in Interpreting, one of my professors told us that an expert is someone who knows a lot about one thing; an interpreter is someone who knows a lot about a lot. Given my bouncy ball mentality, I’d say that I’m on a trajectory of knowing a little about a fair number of things which I think is just fine. If I continue as I am, then perhaps, when I take stock aged 81 years and 51 weeks, I’ll be able to say I know a lot about a lot but, for the time being, what’s the rush?