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!

A World of Possibilities

When I’m not writing (which is most of the time), I have a job – a profession; a career, so to speak. I recently changed roles in my company, and although I’m really not looking for other jobs, I took the opportunity to make a few changes to my LinkedIn profile, update my status, etc.

It reminded me of a few years ago, when I started considering writing as a viable career option (I’m still not sure if it is, to be perfectly honest), and I was looking to create a LinkedIn profile for myself as an author. You see, whilst I do have a professional account for my ‘real’ job, I work for a reasonably high-profile company, and as such I have to be careful about what I say and do outside of work, in case it appears as representative of my company. Given that the job of ‘author’ is essentially about speaking my mind and telling the truth as I see it, this could potentially cause a conflict with my position at work, and that’s not something I’m willing to compromise.

The problem is this: LinkedIn have a very strict policy regarding multiple accounts. Although I could, yes, create a second, unrelated account for myself as a writer, if LinkedIn were able to connect the two accounts (via profile information, IP addresses, or whatever), not only could I lose both, but I could be banned from LinkedIn entirely. A LinkedIn profile, it seems, is directly tied to an individual person, and all the professional things that individual does.

With a world of possibilities, it seems society is still geared to catering to just one at a time.

The fundamental flaw in this setup is that it really caters to an outdated, linear view of career progression: that you move from job to job, company to company, and you don’t start one career until you’re done with another. This is fine if your career is your life, but I think that, for the majority of people, their passion in life lies often outside of what they do for a living. And whilst many of those people will never act on their passion, for those that do – for those who want to make a career out of passion, and not just skill – there’s very little opportunity to build a profile around your passion whilst still working a day job.

I’ll give you an example: let’s say you’ve worked for a globally-recognized coffee brand for fifteen years. You’ve worked your way up the corporate ladder, from employee to manager to district or maybe even regional director, and you aren’t really in a position to give that up. But on the side, you really, really love drawing political cartoons. Maybe you’ve sold a few – under a pseudonym – and it looks like a promising opportunity. But until you are able to match your $75K salary from drawing, you can’t quit your main job. And for as long as you work for a major brand, you can’t be seen to publicly affiliate with any one political view or another, for fear of representing the entire brand.

What do you do? With a world of possibilities, it seems society is still geared to catering to just one at a time. I can’t represent myself professionally as a writer and an employee, and so I’m forced to choose between one career or the other. Everything I do on one side has to be carefully and meticulously kept separate from the other. The corporate me, the writer me, and even the musician me, can’t really coexist.

Even within writing, I’ve chosen to keep two identities – because my fantasy work is so very different to my YA/literary work. And while I don’t really mind ‘cross-contamination’ – I’ll happily reference both sets of work on here or on cmnorthauthor.com – it’s another example of how society simply doesn’t expect an individual person to have multiple passions, careers, or possibilities. Imagine if Stephen King tried to sell and market a beach-bum romance novel; under his real name people would simply be confused, but by adopting a pseudonym (as he did with Richard Bachman, for example) he can publish genres that would typically be considered outside of his wheelhouse.

It does make life frustrating at times, however; I try to commit to writing under both Satis and C.M. North, but time is prohibitive, and managing two blogs is twice the effort of managing one. I have two Instagram accounts, two Twitter accounts … the list goes on.

In the end, I don’t want to sacrifice my passion or my vision to practicality – however tempting – and so I have little choice but to soldier on as both Satis and C.M. North, as well as a professional representative of a major corporation, and simply hope my paths remain parallel.

What are the limitations of your pursuits? What stops you from putting your all into one thing or another? Or are you able to combine your career with your passion, and get everything done in one go?