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Today In Enormous Life Questions

Q. Dear Jordan,

I’m so embarrassed that this is the way I’m choosing to introduce myself to you, but hey: Desperate Times, meet Desperate Measures. It seems like most of your readers write to ask about weddings (fun!) and recipes (super fun!) and bras (kinda fun?), so my holy-shit-what-do-I-do-with-my-life email to someone I really don’t know seems kind of insane. But, Jordan? Holy shit, what do I do with my life?

I graduated from college last May with the ever-financially-rewarding degree in English and have, since then, been working in the office of the business my mom created. I’ve also applied to grad school – all Creative Writing programs that have less than 1% acceptance rates – and rekindled a terribly inconvenient relationship with my first love.

I really don’t know why I’m writing; I’m not the kind of person who contacts random lifestyle hosts/bloggers/new mothers for Major Life Advice, but I guess my reasoning was a bit of this: I’ve seen you build something – Ramshackle Glam – and I know from what you’ve written that you pursued lots of different avenues before settling into where you are now. So I guess I figured that maybe you’d be able to give me some advice?

I think the problem is that we’re all raised to believe we’re exceptional and that we can and should do exceptional things. I mean, how do you know what you are Meant To Do? Are you meant to do it if all the “doors of opportunity” in that direction are closing in your face? 

I know you’re a new mom, and if all you have time for is a “Get yourself together, girl,” I’ll not only perfectly understand, I’ll actually try to, like, you know, get myself together. 

Lots of love,

Meghan*

A. Ah, Meghan, I just woke up and read part of this email to Kendrick while having coffee, and he said, “Huh. That sounds like an email that you would have written three years ago.” To the word. Three years ago, I was working at a job I didn’t even come close to feeling was right for me (or enjoy), applying to grad schools just because I wasn’t sure what else to do, and wondering…you know, “Holy shit, what do I do with my life?” Crying about where things were headed all the time, because I felt like I had been given so many extraordinary opportunities…and then there I was, doing a whole lot of nothing at all.

It’s tough to give concrete advice here because the truth is that when it comes down to it part (not all) of the process of arriving at what you want to do depends on luck, chance, whatever you want to call it – especially when you haven’t set out upon a conventional road (get degree –> get job –> get promotion). But it’s so important to keep your eyes open to the opportunities life throws at you – don’t ignore those bits of luck or twists of fate when they come your way, because they will, especially if you keep pushing yourself to explore different directions. Be open-minded. What you are Meant To Do might be a thing you never even considered…but that thing might make you happier than anything you had ever imagined, so don’t ignore it when it shows up knocking.

I can say that I think going to school is an excellent idea. I did about 1/3 of a Master’s in Hospitality (I know; I was having a crisis, like I said), and while it was a very expensive moment of career confusion that I’ll be paying for for the next, oh, twenty years, it also got me all excited and inspired, and energized me to the point where I was able to see new possibilities…and that time period directly resulted in what I’m doing today.

Keep trying things, and follow through. Did you know that no one follows through? I remember when we were shopping around the pilot for Sunny, no one could believe that we’d actually just gone ahead and done it. Every actor/director/writer we knew was always announcing his or her plans to shoot their own pilot and shop it to networks…but no one did. They just talked about doing it.

It’s one of the great secrets of life: everyone talks and talks about all the things they’re going to do, and very few people actually do them. And those who do just blow everyone away.

Really, I hear you: I know that this feeling of wanting to do something and not knowing how to go about doing it is just crushing. Almost the worst feeling, the sense that you’re wasting time and wasting all those opportunities that you’ve been given. But you’re not, and you haven’t. What you’re going through is an absolutely crucial part of the growing-up process that smart, creative people with enormous dreams and capabilities go through – or at least that’s been my experience from watching those around me.

I don’t want to suggest that I have it all figured out – of course not, not at all. But I do know that I used to feel just as you do, and I also know both that it’s very, very difficult, and that it will not last forever, not if you keep your eyes open to the possibilities around you.

Look: if you didn’t care so much, you wouldn’t feel this way. And it’s because you care that you’ll put in the work to change your situation, and to do great things.

And that’s not making you feel better – that’s just the truth.

Lots of love,

J

*Reader email edited and reprinted with reader permission.

Related:

Save The Assistants: An Interview with Lilit Marcus (plus Career Advice)

Follow My Bliss Interview

  • Adeline

    I started typing a huge response but instead will just say: boy, I know how you feel. And everyone I know is exactly at the same stage.

    Hang in there, things will work out. Eventually. And they’ll be fun (right?).

  • Wow! Thank you so much for sharing. I’m sure I’m not the only desk-bound blog lover that secretly wishes she had a clear direction, but some days it’s nice to truly know I’m not alone. Your post was incredibly inspirational and I went on to read the drama with “It’s always Sunny” and was even more impressed with your willingness to share and be open and just generally be an awesome person. Thanks for the inspiration 🙂

  • Stepht08

    Grade A advice. I think it’s going to help a lot of people (myself included) take the time to really think about where they are and where they want to be in life. Advice like that is one of the things I love most about your blog Jordan.

    And Meghan, I want you to know you’re not alone. We’re probably about the same age and I feel the same way, and Jordan’s right, we just have to take the leap when the opportunties come.

    Good luck Meghan!!

  • Sarah

    I think part of living a successful life is just living with this uncertainty and learning to accept it. I am 30 years old and I am just as confused about what I want from life as I was when I was 18. The only real difference between then and now is that I’ve come to accept, appreciate, sometimes even welcome uncertainty in my life. A few years ago, when I was upset or confused about something, I would go to a psychic, get my tarot cards read, consult the I-ching, ask everyone I knew what I should do, stay up all night in bed staring at the ceiling and obsessing…I was always looking for a “sign.” But in the end I just had to close my eyes, take a deep breath, and jump. The worst that can happen is you fail miserably…and then pick yourself up and try again.

    One of the things I’ve come to learn that helps with accepting uncertainty is that NO ONE has a perfect life. NO ONE!! You look around at all these people who seem like they really have it together – Jordan included! – and think, why am I such a screw-up? Why is it easier for them than it is for me? But they are just as uncertain and scared as you are. Our culture teaches people to hide that fear – we feel like we have to always present a perfect front and God forbid someone realize that you aren’t perfect, that your relationship isn’t perfect, that your life isn’t perfect, that your child isn’t perfect. And I know I personally want to kill those people who seem perfect but then I try to remind myself that it’s all a game of pretend, and those people don’t know what the hell they are doing anyway.

    I always try to remember that the worst thing is not failing at something; the worst thing is never trying in the first place. It seems hokey but it’s true. If you let the fear and confusion paralyze you, one day you will wake up and your life will have passed you by.

  • travelsbykatie

    I love Jordan’s advice but I want to add something from my own experience.  I’m 27 and only recently figured out what I want to do.  Knowing that I’m working towards that makes my day job much more enjoyable/tolerable. What I did about 4 years ago was just start doing what I like and trying as many things as possible. I say yes to every opportunity that comes my way if it sounds like something I would like. Would I like to serve on this committee? Yes! Would I like to write an article? Why, sure! Attend this political dinner? Okay, why not! And so on. Some of it I like, some of it I don’t. But it helped me figure out what I like to do (and what I don’t like to do) and what I want to do with my life. Oh, and my boyfriend figured it out way before I did. About a year ago during one of these discussions, he said, “you know, you really should do XYZ. I think you would really like it.”  And I hemmed and hawed but finally realized he was exactly right. So maybe the people around you know something about you that you haven’t seen just yet either.

  •  I love that Meghan wrote in about this (her email is serious and comical all at once, and that’s great) and I love that you shared your response and all that good stuff.

    I thought I had my life figured out, good job, good family, I got married… and now I’m going through a divorce, have had the worst year of my life and am coming out on the other side. It’s crazy how you ‘plan’ your life and think maybe you know where you’re going and then you don’t… and then you’re like, ‘waitaminute, what am I SUPPOSED to be doing’.  All that to say, I can relate, I think many people can, and I think both of you are great!!  GOOD LUCK Meghan, it will come and you’ll figure it out 🙂

  • elb
  • Manderleigh1225

    Wow!  I am at this point right now.  I am going from the childcare industry to the law field as a paralegal (hopefully.)  I know how Meghan feels.  I think I’ve cried about a hundred times, feeling so overwhelmed with my decision.  But, you know what?  I am super excited!  It’s sooooo scary to make a change, but I am so ready to be a “grown-up.”  I have been in childcare so long that I have forgotten how to be an adult.  Being around children all day kinda does that to you.  Anyway, Meghan, I know what you’re going through.  Good luck and you WILL figure out.

  • AnnieF

    I am feeling this exact same way right now. I graduated last May as well, and after finding a decent retail job over the summer, was feeling a little stuck in life. I just got laid off, and I think it actually might have been for the better. I started a food blog a few months ago (seriouscrust.com) and am taking the opportunity to go on auditions and try to find jobs in the field I love (I majored in theater at school). This advice is wonderful. And it’s so great to see you write about this right as I’m thinking about all these things myself.

  • Meghan –
    YOU ARE NOT ALONE! Holy crap girl, that letter could have been written by me. I appreciate you honesty and openness. It’s always helpful to know you’re not alone.
    And Jordan. my biggest fear in life is that I’m wasting away my twenties. Thank you for the encouragement that I’m not! Such a wonderful post- I am grateful.
    Love,
    Chelsea

  • Justine

    I cried when I read this because THIS VERY MORNING I had a total breakdown and said most of these exact same sentences…to myself…in my car. It’s so nice and encouraging not only to know there’s a lot of girls feeling this way, but to see and hear from someone on the other side. Thank you so much Jordan! Meghan, I HEAR YA GIRL! 

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