I've changed careers three times in my life.
I was obsessed with my kindergarten teacher when I was in school. So when she asked me one day what I wanted to be when I grew up, I, of course, proclaimed proudly that I wanted to be a teacher-- just like her! And, to be honest, that idea never really changed. Year after year I just said the same thing- I want to be a teacher when I grow up- until senior year of high school when my guidance counselor asked me what I wanted to go to school for and I spit out the answer I was so used to saying: a teacher, I guess?
So I got my degree and taught for several years until I was 27 years old. And I had that moment: is this even what I like doing? And in a very scary life decision, I decided that maybe it's not.
I moved cities and decided I wanted to become a freelancer writer. And I was fortunately able to, for several years, living month to month writing for several publications, podcasting, ghostwriting, and doing video content for different websites. But it was unstable. I had no routine. I worked from home and had little contact with others for days and sometimes weeks at a time. I didn't feel like I was part of a community and, at age 30, I decided to change careers, again.
Now I work for a startup-- here, at women.com. It's still writing, but it's a full time job-- 8am-6pm. I commute. I'm responsible for a workload that I have to complete every day. I have teammates and meetings.
And I have to ask myself: what does it really mean to change your career, or not be sure of what you want to do in life?
Maybe you're not a freelancer, you're just lazy
I feel like I can say this because I was a freelancer, and maybe this doesn't go for all freelancers out there, but when I was doing it, my laziness was at an all time high. Getting dressed was optional. Pajamas were a staple. When you work from home, Netflix and snack breaks happen with frequency. I was at the mall a lot. Deadlines were a light suggestions. I did in one week what I now do in one day.
Ask yourself: are you a freelancer, or are you just not working to your full potential? Are you afraid of the demands of a full time job? Weigh the pros and the cons. Because while working a full time job may be stressful, time demanding, and at times scary, it's also what adults in the real world do.
Unfortunately, we need money to buy things. We need to pay our rent. We need to buy food. Sometimes, we want to get that new coat or go to the movie. You don't want to be the annoying person at dinner who can't split the check evenly.
As much as I hate saying it, we live in a society that's driven by cash. So as much as you might not want to give in, as we enter adulthood, money matters. Money means stability. It's comforting. And if you ever want kids, or an equal relationship where you can hold your own (especially if that relationship doesn't work out), you better have your own stash.
Additionally, a job usually means benefits. So, while floating around from gig to gig might seem like some wanderlust, manic pixie dream that makes you interesting for five minutes at a dinner party, it actually makes you seem confused and unreliable to any full grown adult.
Big girls and boys pay their bills and have some left over to have fun. And they don't have to ask their mom and dad for money. I say this with love-- because when I was freelancing, I had to call dad on several occasions and ask him for a little bit of cash. Asking dad for an allowance when you're old is embarrassing- even if on the outside you think that's what artists and creatives do.
Stop People Pleasing
Don't pick a job just because you think that's what other people want you to do. I know that I chose the teaching profession because I thought that's what would make my parents proud. Writing is what makes me happy. Imagine if I had just chosen that from square one? I would have saved myself a LOT of money (that college degree in education at USC was expensive) and about 10 years of my life in a profession that wasn't right for me.
Take some time to figure out what you like doing. What are you good at? What is a passion you have that you can also make money doing?
Then go do that. And if you need to intern first in that profession while waitressing, working at a coffee shop, or doing whatever on the side, then that's great too. We can all start as experts in our chosen profession.
Take a Risk
If you're in a profession you're not happy in now, examine it. You don't deserve being miserable for the rest of your life. Your dream job could be out there waiting for you.
But Some Ideas Actually Are Stupid
But don't take a risk that's not reasonable. Most likely, you're not going to be an astronaut at age 30 because you saw a fun gif on Tumblr of a planet you thought looked cool. But if you think you want to create a start-up, talk to people in the same profession. Find a mentor. Find people in the career you're interested in and ask questions. Do what they do.
It's never too late to start over, but it's never a good idea to wander aimlessly.