When you’re 17 and looking at the prospect of college, career, and life on your own, you feel an incredible pressure to KNOW what you want to do for the rest of your life. Your confident peers all seem to know the path of their next 5-10 years, with college, grad school, and a boyfriend, (that they’re sure will become a husband) all carefully lined up. And there you are unsure of what you even LIKE doing, let alone what you want to commit to for the rest of your life. But let me tell you a secret…
It’s okay to not know where you’re going.
Between the ages of 18 and 28 your life changes dramatically – you change. You discover passions you didn’t know you had, you fall in love with things you thought you hated, and the guy you hoped you’d marry…well lets just say you’re thankful you didn’t. Life becomes a beautiful, confusing, delightful puzzle for which you’ve lost the box. And it’s okay. It’s good.
A decade and a half ago, when I was deciding on a major, all I knew was that I wanted to help people, I wanted to travel, and I wanted to have an exciting life. (How’s that for a business plan?) I settled on International Relations, but after a bad experience with economics, I switched to History, deciding that if I wanted to help people I needed to know where they came from, and what their stories were.
If I had known then what I know now, I would have been able to articulate what it was about history that captured me. It gave me the skills to read critically, write effectively, and to value the stories of who we were and who we’ve become. These are key values in my life – it is why I am constantly drawn to writing, to communicating stories, histories, and dreams. It is essential for us to know where we came from, for it will inform our decisions of who we will become. But a career in history was never in my sights, instead it was to become a tool set I would use throughout my life.
My last 10 years have shown me so many things I had a passion for that I never fully realized. Spreadsheets have a calming consistency that’s surprising, math still makes me want to cry, writing is a deep seated passion, and food…well food is something I fell in love with and it’s turning out to be a huge motivator of my future.
A decade after graduating with my B.A. I began pursuing my MPH in Nutrition. Andy Stanley’s quote of a 1992 book challenged me, “What do I believe is impossible to do in my field but if it could be done would fundamentally change my business?” – Joel Barker, 1992 “Paradigms” This started me on a journey of asking myself, what impossible problem am I designed to challenge? The answer? Helping others learn how to cook healthy, nutritious meals, so that they can care for themselves and for their families. In short, improving the health of our society.
That’s a lofty dream, so where on earth do I start? My first answer was to pursue my MPH in Nutrition. But now, 6 months into a 30 month stint , I have so many more questions, I am more aware of how much I don’t know, the specific job ahead of me is undefined, and how I want this to shape my life is still unknown. But I do know that this passion has been inside of me for a long time, and this step to pursuing my MPH was a leap of faith. I may not know where I’m going, but I know I’m supposed to go.
Today, I challenge you to ask yourself the question – what is my impossible problem and how can I solve it? Sit with it for awhile. It’s okay if you don’t know where you’re going, sometimes we’re well into the journey before we discover the destination.