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!

Thoughts of the Unfinished

Last week I lost a good friend to cancer.

You can read my tribute to him at cmnorthauthor.com, but I really wanted to take a moment to reflect on what his death means in terms of the loss of creative endeavors. You see, for years we would talk about making and creating, during lunchtime walks and in snarky texts. We would discuss what we wanted to achieve, the difference we wanted to make, and how depression would often stand in the way of our goals.

But in the end, only one of us got there. For the last two years, his focus narrowed to simple survival. And while I wrote and published books, he slowly withered.

I know that I write to communicate; I write to help, and to change lives. With my fantasy work I might only do that in the minutest of ways – entertaining people, keeping their thoughts off the stresses of their lives – but it gives me a sense of purpose.

It also helps me come to terms with my own mortality, because of course one day I’m going to die, too. And I want to know that I’ve left something behind – something tangible, something to remember me by.

When I think of his death, I’m saddened, of course; I’m saddened for the loss of his presence, his influence on me, and I’m saddened for the grief of all those who loved him. But I’m also saddened at the thought of all the things he’ll never get to do. He’ll never play a new video game; he’ll never write his book. He’ll never know the ending of The Redemption of Erâth – something I would speak with him about frequently. All the new things that might have brought him joy will never be his to experience.

But they are still mine; they are all of ours left behind. There are so many new things yet to come, and old things never experienced, and it would be a waste of life not to seek those things out. I can’t pretend that his death changes my own creative endeavors; I had always planned on finishing my series, and writing more beyond. But maybe it gives a new flavor to my motivation: the knowledge that there are people in the world who may not have forever left to them makes me want to push forward all the more.

So if there is something that can grow from his death, let it be the experiences that remain in the world for all of us. Don’t wait until tomorrow to watch that movie, or write that book. Do something today, and make it matter: if only to yourself.

Because in the end, all we have are the experiences that form our lives. The day will come when you run out of time, when the only experience left is the final one that we’re all fated to go through. But until that day, live. Live happy, or live sad, but don’t delay it another moment.

My friend – I know how your story ended, and I’m sorry you’ll never know how mine does. But it will, and when it does, it will be everything we ever dreamed.