My house is filled with artwork right now.
Madeline, my eldest child, is working on her portfolio to apply to art school. In fact, she’s away this weekend looking at the school at Chicago Institute of Art. She’s seventeen. She’s talented. And she’s driven as all hell.
My daughters have dreams they are actually pursuing. Madeline wants to be a visual artist. Ava wants to be an actress. And my husband and I cannot push back. We are both working in the industry we dreamt of working in. Why should we ever tell our kids that can’t be anything they want to be?
One thing I want to tell them is whatever you are imagining your future to be, it might be a little different than you imagined. Life often forces a remix.
When my husband was a young performer, he wished he would one day see his name in Playbill, (the iconic magazine you are handed in Broadway theaters). Now he is in every Playbill, listed as “Jim Cairl, Director, Online Advertising and Operations” because he works there.
I wanted to be a published writer. And technically, that is true. But the day I finish a novel or a play or when I can make a living doing this, is still to come. Instead I’ve worked mainly promoting other talented people and their writing. I don’t mind it one bit. One of my articles was just used to advertise a Broadway show.
We are the lucky ones. I talk to many of my friends and ask them, “Are you doing what you love?”. The pause is long, the answer is often, “well, no” or it’s worse, “I don’t really know what I love anymore”.
Stop. Right there. Life is short. It’s worth figuring out.
Ask yourself the following questions:
1) What do I love most about what I’m doing currently? — You go to work every day. What’s the parts of of your job that you enjoy most? Maybe you love dealing with customers but hate dealing with numbers. Perhaps you prefer to check things off a list and feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day. Not everyone has the dream job, but maybe you’d be happier in account service than operations. Making a huge sift could seem impossible, but smaller shifts can make a world of difference.
2) What do I enjoy outside of work? — I don’t write for a living, but it makes me so happy I find a way to tie it into the rest of my life. My jobs change, my passion doesn’t. I have two friends who work in different industries but love theater. Neither one ever wants to work on Broadway because “it would ruin it” for them. That said, both are finding a way to link their passions and professions to the stage. Maybe you’d be a great board member for a non-profit or perhaps you want to volunteer for organizations related to a world you love. There are many ways to feed your happiness that don’t necessarily lead to a weekly paycheck. Can you accept a payment in self-equity, rather than more cash in your 401K?
3) What’s your ultimate dream and how might you actually get there?– I have a friend who was into home-brewing beer. He did it for years. Then he started competing on the weekends, he started winning competitions and making friends. Ten years later, (two years of which he’s spent forming a business plan), he is opening a brewery this summer. His partner, someone he met doing this beer competitions, is ready to share his vision. They have miles to go, but it all had to start somewhere.
As I contemplate where my path may lead and if my dreams will ever come true, I am clear on one thing. I am never giving up. I’ll sit here every Sunday morning and stare at a computer and the words will come. I think about the book tour, the satisfaction I will feel when and if I ever hold a book in my hands with my name on the spine.
The next time you get stuck, try and have your own fantasy. Then imagine, for just a minute, you make it a reality.