“Dear Ms. Mix & Bitch,
I’m going to be 30 years old next month, and feel like I’m heading nowhere. I’ve been working in various, dead-end jobs since I graduated college nine years ago. I feel as if I should know what I want to be when I grow up already, but I don’t. Or at least the things I’d love to do are not exactly steady career choices. For example, I am interested in photography – and am quite good at it – but don’t want to be stuck taking portraits at Sears for the rest of my life. So instead of taking a chance, I’m a perma-executive-assistant, and I am really getting to hate it. This birthday coming up makes me feel like I’ve lost my chance at having an interesting life. I know that’s not true, but that’s how I feel. What do you think?”
Signed, Lost in Baltimore
Dear Lost in Baltimore,
Birthdays are a bitch, aren’t they? They serve as these metaphorical markers, telling us we should be “here” or “there” by this-and-this time. Only, as we get older, we finally understand what Gertrude Stein alluded to when she said, “there is no there-there.” You’re scratching your head about now, right? My point is, you’re not alone in having a big birthday shake up your tree a bit. Here’s what separates the winners from the winers…what are you going to do about it?
I’m a big believer in J.R.R. Tolkien’s adage, “…not all those who wander are lost.” I think our twenties are the time we’re supposed to “find ourselves” and, frankly, figure out what we DON’T want in a career, a partner, etc., in order to unearth what we do want for our lives. What troubles me is that you’ve spent NINE years not taking a chance on yourself, wasting years in jobs that pay your bills instead of feeding your soul – all in the name of being realistic. That’s just sad. The thing that gets me about your letter is that you’re telling me you don’t know what you want to be when you grow up (which by the way, you’re full grown now kitten) and a sentence later, telling me about your love for photography. Hey Baltimore, you already know what you want to be…you’re just asking me for permission to do it. So here ya go….YES. Be a photographer. Don’t want to work for Sears? That’s fine…instead, keep your day job for a while and write out a plan for yourself for the next week, month, year, 5 years – you get the picture, so to speak. Take advanced photography classes on the weekends if you need to brush up on your skills. When you feel you’re good enough to go pro, start taking photos for family and friends’ special events at little or no cost in the beginning to get your name out there. Get a portfolio going, give out your new business cards. Photographers for special events, for the media are always in demand. If you want to show your stuff in galleries, develop that body of work too. Of course, you are doing all of this on your off hours in the beginning – but considering you have a very dull, 9-to-5 job, your off time can re-fuel your spirits. If you have a plan for yourself – something laid out in black and white, so to speak – then you’re going to feel much better about milestone birthdays, because you are actively working on your future, while taking full advantage of the present. You should also check out Po Bronson’s latest, “What Should I Do with My Life?” Reading others with a similar journey can help salve the self while going through our own tsurrus (that Yiddish for “problems/worries).
Good luck, Baltimore.
1. “A Question Mark,” Elliott Smith. [XO]
2. “All is a Game,” Nada Surf. [The Weight is a Gift]
3. “Don’t Panic,” Coldplay. [Parachutes]
4. “Working at the Car Wash Blues,” Jim Croce. [Jim Croce’s Greatest Hits]
5. “Find the Cost of Freedom,” Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. [So Far]
6. “Hard to Change,” Carey Ott. [Lucid Dream]
7. “Last $20,” MoZella. [I Will]
8. “My Favorite Things, Part 1,” JohnColtrane. [My Favorite Things]
9. “New Strut,” Dafluke. [The Rorscharch Suite]
10. “Perfect From Now On,” Avion. [Avion]