What Should I Do With My Life?

Although my presence here, online, and in the writing community is that of an author and writer, I know I can’t pretend that it isn’t much more than a side hobby (at least at the moment) – as much as I enjoy writing books, it isn’t a career (and isn’t likely to be one). At the end of the day, the books I write, and the time it takes me to write them, are somewhat prohibitive from allowing me to make a full-time living on that income alone. (Who am I kidding? I haven’t actually sold a copy of a book in months!)

The truth is, my everyday life is much more ordinary and mundane, and although I try to keep up the writing in my spare time, I have a job, career, and life outside of words on paper. In real life, I work for a large retail/tech company, and have done so for over fifteen years. I have a wife, a cat, and a teenage son, who will soon be leaving home to embark on his own journey into life, and whether it’s this realization, or just the compounding of fifteen years of retail, I’ve come to a point in my life where I’m starting to question what I do, and am able to do, with my time on this earth.

You see, despite forging a career in this retail environment, it actually started out as a part-time gig to help me through college, and simply blossomed from there. I’m fortunate enough to work for a company where personal development and career progression is highly valued, and after so long, I’ve come to realize that the satisfaction I get in my day-to-day work isn’t necessarily from delighting customers, or working with technology, but rather helping and seeing the personal growth and development of my peers. I’ve been fortunate enough to have several career experiences wherein I was able to teach, train and develop others, and I’ve learned that what truly gives me a sense of purpose, of raison-d-être, is that moment of epiphany in other soul – the knowledge that I helped someone realize something about themselves that they never knew before.

Alongside this, mental health has obviously been a huge part of my personal life, what with my own struggles with depression and bipolar disorder, and there have been times – fewer, perhaps, but still there nonetheless – when I’ve been able to connect with other person on a truly personal level, and help them through a very difficult time in their lives. And those moments … they make me feel like I have a reason to be here. A reason to exist.

And so when I think back on my life so far, I wonder if I’ve – if not wasted, then perhaps misused – my entire existence. At the moment, at work, I’ve recently been given the opportunity to enter into a leadership experience, where I can flex a little more of those development muscles with others, and I’m grateful for that, but … I can’t help wondering if my calling is elsewhere. And I can’t help wondering, also – I’ve been doing this for fifteen years; will I still get the same sense of satisfaction if I’m basically doing the same thing still in another fifteen years? Will I still want to do my job? Or will I be bored beyond tears, and at a point in my life where it’s really too late to turn back?

The more I think about it, the more I get the sense that there is something else I could be doing with my life, and although it’s perhaps too late to start fresh, it’s maybe just the right time to think about a change in careers entirely. And the only other thing that, at least at the moment, calls to me is the ability to help others, truly help them, with their personal and emotional problems. To be able to help others self-reflect, and get the self-awareness and self-realization they need to improve their own lives.

I think I want to become a therapist.

But this would require additional schooling, learning, training … a lot of stuff that I worry would take either too long to master at this stage in my life, or would become overwhelming to me to the point where I would just abandon it after leaving everything else behind.

And more than anything, I worry that, if I leave behind a good, known thing in my retail career for something I’ve never done before … would I regret it?

I suppose this is a question to those of you who know me best, of course, but also to anyone who’s had a drastic career change in the middle of their lives – what would you do? Should I play it safe and stay where I am, possibly for the rest of my life? Should I take the risk of something that seems fulfilling now, even if it turns out to be a mistake?

What should I do with my life?

Any help would be greatly appreciated!

Little Exhaustions

meh
/me,me,me/

INFORMAL

exclamation
expressing a lack of interest or enthusiasm.

Oxford Languages

The above is a great word to express an utter lack of greatness. A wonderful phrase, implying a complete absence of wonder. Perfect, in other words, for describing how I so often feel.

Do you ever feel like there are so many things to do in the world, if only you had the energy? Do you ever think to yourself that you might like to go for a hike, or write a song, only the draw of TV or a warm, comfortable bed is just too great? Or maybe you just feel like you need to get off the couch, but your cat won’t move off your lap.

I was talking to my therapist the other day, and of course at the start of each session she asks how I’m feeling. Every time I smile and say ‘fine’, even though it’s far from true (and she knows it). We do of course end up discussing how I’m really feeling, but to begin with there’s almost this sense of denial about that fact that, most days, I struggle to find the enthusiasm to simply get up. It’s strange, because if I was outright depressed I might be able to admit it, and if I was riding high on a bipolar manic phase I’d know it, but somehow the largely flat, emotionless in-between is much harder to admit – even to myself.

It feels like a constant struggle against little exhaustions, an endless stream of tiny efforts that, compounded one on top of the other, make life an overwhelming, unscalable mountain with no reward at the top. And yet you still get up in the morning, put your pants on one leg at a time, brush your teeth and go to work, even though you don’t know why you do it or what the point of all of it is. Like climbing that aforementioned mountain, you just keep putting one foot in front of the other, minute after minute and day after day, without looking up because you don’t want to know how much further there is to go.

And what, really, is the point of it all? What happens when you get to the top of the mountain? Is is a false peak, another even higher summit to get to afterwards? Or is that just it – the end?

I was thinking the other day about this, and contemplating the idea that, if you knew when you were going to die, you might live your life differently. You might write that song, or take that hike, because each day that goes by wasted is another day closer to your end and you won’t ever get it back. The funny thing is that, even when you look at life this way – that every day gone by is a missed opportunity – it doesn’t seem to change how you feel. It doesn’t change the sense of exhaustion from all the little things that build up, pile up, collect in the dust, and end up never getting done.

I suppose, at the end of it all, you only have so much time in the world, and of course you’ll never really know when it’s all going to be over. And life itself is really just about getting through it, doing stuff, because otherwise you might as well just die now. And whether you write a song, go for a hike, or simply do the damn dishes, in the end, it’s really all the same. One day you’ll be long gone and forgotten, dust in the wind, and life isn’t about what you have to show for it at the end of it – it’s about what you experienced for yourself while you were alive.

And really, life is pretty ‘meh’. Most of it goes by in a blur, each day the same as the last, with no distinction between what was and what wasn’t wasted time. So maybe the way to feel better about it is to think not ‘what did I do’, but ‘how did I feel’. And even if you don’t have control over those feelings, the truth is that in a world of shit and lies, ‘meh’ isn’t really all that bad. It could be worse. And of course it could be better.

So if I felt ‘meh’ today, that’s fine. If I feel ‘meh’ on my last day on earth, I’m okay with that. I don’t have to be enthusiastic about everything – I can’t be. It’s exhausting. But I know I’m not going to be depressed all the time either, and that makes me feel better, too.

Meh.

Writing in the Film Generation

If I’m to be brutally honest, I don’t really read that much – particularly not as much as I think I should, as a writer. This isn’t a new problem for me, but I haven’t always been this way – in my youth and young adulthood, I used to read voraciously, devouring book after book with gusto. In fact, I would argue that I stopped reading so much around when I started writing (an odd coincidence, to be sure), but it also occurs to me that I stopped reading quite so much when I started watching.

I’ve always loved movies, film and TV, and there was a time when I would be excited about all the newest movies in theaters, or the latest TV show to grace cable networks (I’ve also come to realize that, as I get older, I kind of just want to watch the same stuff over and over again, a kind of comfort in familiarity). And if I’ve never said as much outright, I find that film and literature are really two sides of the same coin – namely, storytelling.

I think that’s what I really enjoy more than anything – a good story. Something that triggers the imagination, that gets the creative juices flowing, or simply makes you feel. And I don’t particularly think that any given story ‘needs’ to be told through any particular medium; the core essence of the story can be just as valid as a book, a poem, a photograph or a full-length movie. However, the way in which the story is told is more important to the medium, and this is where I think that, as I write more and more, I’m slowly realizing the influences that are guiding my storytelling.

You see, reading in the past – wonderful books like To Kill a Mockingbird, or Great Expectations, or even Salem’s Lot – got me feeling in a way that, in my experience, only a book could. When Scout and her brother are being stalked through the dark, or when Magwitch is waiting in the staircase for Pip, I remember feeling a deep unease, a fright and terror that no movie could ever instill in me – something that came from a deep caring of lovingly crafted characters, and the words on the page painted emotion as much as they did images.

Film, on the other hand, is (obviously) a heavily visual medium. And whilst some films don’t necessarily explore this in depth, others manage to convey the story in a way only visual imagery could. The Lord of the Rings, Lawrence of Arabia, or even the manufactured but highly enjoyable Marvel movies … these are all prime examples of stories that, I feel, are absolutely best told through film. The grandeur, spectacle, and beautiful blending of sound and light simply wouldn’t work as words on paper (ironic, that all of these would have started life as scripts – or in some cases, actual books).

But as I delve deeper into writing my own novels, I’ve come to realize that I’ve become more influenced by these visual stories even as I put digital ink onto screen. When I write The Redemption of Erâth, I see the story in my head, almost as a film playing before my eyes; I write it as if I were describing a movie. And the more I think about it, the more I realize that I’m really writing movies – 400-page movies, to be sure, but movies nonetheless. My inspirations aren’t the books of my past, but the films I’ve watched and adored.

It’s interesting, because in some of the reviews I’ve read, people have actually said that they would make great movies – perhaps because of the visual element I’m trying to instill into black and white text (not always successfully, of course). And it makes me wonder – is there room for a different kind of story in me? Can I even write a book that toys with emotions and thoughts in a way that film can’t do justice to?

In any case, I enjoy writing these stories – whether they’re primarily visual in my head or not – and I suppose I’ll carry on for now in the way I always have; after all, I don’t particularly want to see a great change of style halfway through the Redemption of Erâth series. But as I continue through my literary journey, perhaps I can try to include a little more of the written story in my books, as well.

What do you think? What books have made you feel things that you couldn’t imagine from a film? Or vice versa?