I have no idea what I want, and I am THRILLED!!

I am lost, completely lost. I am not depressed, or indulged in self-pity, I am merely acknowledging my state of mind. The reason for this acknowledgment is that I need to accept my current state in life in order to move onto a new one.

Over the course of my life, I have achieved several goals. These goals were short-to-medium-termed and pre-defined. I have really never failed at anything that I had set my heart to. As a teenager, I wanted to be a doctor. The idea of looking good with a stethoscope around my neck and be a well-educated humanitarian was very alluring. In the 9th grade, however, I realized that I cannot stand the study of biology. As any other moderately smart kid in India would do, I started studying for the IIT entrance exam — JEE (Joint Entrance Exam). I dedicated myself, like thousands of others, to the study of maths, physics and chemistry. I was so focused on qualifying the exam that it never occurred to me that even if I did pass, I would have to choose a college and a discipline for the next four years. It never occurred to me that my rank in the exam would determine what I would do for the rest of my life. For e.g, as a 17 year old, I did not realize that after qualifying the exam, I may become a civil engineer and actually build roads and bridges, or become a mining engineer (which I did) and be expected to dig gigantic holes in the Earth.

All I wanted to be was an IITian, and at the end of 4 years of engineering, all I did not want to be was a mining engineer. “Hmm…”, I thought, “ I was always interested in Physics”, and having invested all these years in the study of geoscience, “maybe I could get an advanced degree in GeoPhysics. What a nice spin to something I did not really plan on!” So, I got a PhD in Geophysics and in the 5 years it took me to get a PhD, I discovered that I loved teaching. It was a nice coincidence to end up loving the very job prospect you are most likely to have.

I was all set for the academic life but life itself had other plans. Due to an unforeseeable chain of events, I ended up working for a data science consultancy, and as a result, in banking. Being the smart cookie that I am, I quickly adopted to the work, which was moderately difficult data analysis. While this was not my “dream job” it made my life easy in many regards. It was good money and had finally enabled me to allocate to the city where my long-term boyfriend lived. They also sponsored my H1B work visa which directly led to me getting married after 7 years of long-distance courtship.

Having achieved this personal-life goal, I feel its time for a career change. But when I look back at my trajectory, I am not certain what career I want to build. Up until this point, I did not realize that qualifying an exam, and earning a degree are only the “means” and cannot be the “end point” of achievement. Moreover, life has course-corrected me so many times that even having achieved these, I feel like I have no real idea of what I want from life.

Do I want to keep climbing the ladder as a data scientist? Should I take my experience to a more “creative” field instead of banking? Should I pursue academia again? In other words, I am lost.

It is at this point that I am writing this essay. I choose to spin it differently though. I choose not to go down the path of self-doubt. I am the primary earner in my family and have always been the child “who had her shit together”. But this is not a heavy weight that I carry. This is my sense of self. In an unpredictable life, I did the best I could in any situation and it was my sense of self that allowed me to do so. Has it brought me to this point where my career choices are unclear? Yes. But it has also given me a debt-free life, a wonderful assortment of friends and my soulmate.

With education, marriage and financial security in my bag, its time to open myself to the possibility of something different and creative. If you are dissatisfied with your career, then don’t despair. Take it as a challenge. Treat it like a puzzle. I believe, you have all the pieces. You just have to put it together in the right order.

I have seen that most articles on medium are written by people who offer advice on how to conquer that personal Everest. I cannot offer advice on how to reach it, but I can offer you company on the way up. If you find yourself in the same boat as me, then say with me,

I have no idea what I want and I am thrilled!!