When I quit grad school back in 2012 I did a lot of soul searching regarding what kind of job and career I wanted for myself. There was a significant amount of time spent taking aptitude tests and finding careers that would be the right fit. I left for a policy job that involved a significant community outreach component. It was great for me on so many levels because I got to use what I learned in grad school, but I also felt like I was out in the world making a difference. Only I was massively overqualified and after a year and a half I was recruited to another job that is for all intents and purposes a massive step up: better pay and benefits, better hours, no weekends, better title, much more responsibility, and a great learning opportunity and resume booster. This new job catches me up career wise for all the years I missed out on when I was in graduate school and not working. This new job is hands down leaps and bounds better. Like a gift that fell in my lap.
And yet, after eight months I am bored. Bored, lonely, and depressed about the fact that I am stuck at a desk all day, grinding out reports and budgets and projects. I feel like I am not able to be myself, and that I have lost track of what I want out of life. I feel like I do not fit in, and that I don't really want to. I recognized these feelings.
I started looking at job postings, and surfing listings, and I went back to my therapist who I hadn't seen since I quit graduate school. Every session we would talk through job possibilities and what my ideal career looked like. Nothing felt right. Suddenly, one day she looked at me: "You have spent the last few years intensely focused on your career: do you still want that to be your main focus?"
She was right. I realize I don't actually want a new job, or a career right now. I've been so focused on leaving grad school and getting a J-O-B and getting my career back on track, when really what I want to focus on now is being happy and getting a L-I-F-E.
Grad school and work can feel so all consuming. But life isn't only about grad school and work. Life is about family, and friends, and having experiences and making sure that you are doing what makes you you. Life is short and when you look back on it from your death bed what you did for a job is going to matter less than if you feel what you did mattered, and that you lived the life you wanted.
So I know that right now my solution isn't simply to find a better job: instead I need to find a better life. Maybe that is with this job, maybe it is in another. Regardless, what job I have is secondary to what life I want to live.
If you find yourself struggling to figure something out, maybe you need to pause and ask yourself if the question you are asking is even one to which you need an answer. Maybe you need tostop, and ask a different question.