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!

We’re Only Worth Who We Know

I’d never heard of Amie Harwick before today. I’d only vaguely paid attention to the name Drew Carey. I certainly wouldn’t have been able to identify them, or said what they were known for. A friend posted on Facebook this morning about her death, and it was odd because the headline spoke of her as the latter’s ex-fiancée. It was hard for me to understand why I should care about the ex-fiancée of a second-tier celebrity I barely knew.

I had to do some digging to discover that Amie Harwick is a therapist in Hollywood, primarily focused on sex and relationships. She had helped a great number of people with overcoming abuse and difficult mental health issues, and was apparently killed by a former boyfriend, Gareth Pursehouse, against whom she had had a restraining order.

It seems to have been a senseless, tragic death, but the fact is I only know about it because of a tangential connection to someone the media thinks people care about. If she hadn’t once been engaged to Drew Carey, it would have been a second-tier back page new article, or possibly just an obituary.

Of course, people die every day. People are murdered, commit suicide, die of old age … it’s literally part of the world, and part of life. It isn’t possible to be as upset about the death of a stranger as it is about the death of a loved one. But, when someone with a greater sphere of influence dies, there are naturally a wider range of people who are affected by it. Think of when Robin Williams died, or more recently, Kobe Bryant. Their families were presumably devastated, but so was the world.

It seems that the greatest celebrities in the world – those with the greatest influence over strangers they’ve never met – are entertainers. Perhaps it makes sense that we mourn our entertainers the most; after all, they provide us escape from the pain of the world around us. But when someone who truly did the world good, who made life better for other people through their dedication and work, it seems unfair that they aren’t mourned for their work, but rather for who they were in relation to others who were better known than they were.

What’s particularly upsetting is that most new outlets seem not to have even bothered to reference who she was; only who she knew. Her worth to the media was in her relationship to a comedian – an entertainer. Not even an active relationship – a past one.

It’s enough to make me wonder – who am I? Am I myself, a person of my own with my own virtues and values? Am I just a husband? Am I a father? What is it that defines me?

I can’t pretend to have answers to these questions – they’re going to be different for every individual, of course. But it just seems sad to me to only be known as an attachment to some other person, as if you were owned by them, a part of them, and not a whole person of your own. And this sadness only enhances the tragedy of death, because it devalues who the person was in life.

Amie Harwick was a therapist, a child, and adult, and a whole person of her own. She deserves to be mourned for her own death, and not someone else’s loss.

The Devil’s Details: Tell Me About Your Parents

pictureIt’s still early days in therapy for me, but last week the Lovely J (to borrow a phrase from a good friend) asked me something straight out of a Ben Stiller comedy.

So, tell me about your parents.

I almost cracked up. I understand that it’s a perfectly valid question to ask, and important in the ‘getting to know me’ part of it all, but there was a part of me that wanted to retort, “Tell me about yours!”

What did I do in the end? Naturally, I told her about my parents. About how my mother was a obsessive, controlling compulsive liar who loved me nonetheless (if in all the wrong ways), and my father was an emotionally distant power figure. Could it get more clichéd?

Sigh. It was kind of fun, if not terribly insightful. I wonder what she’ll conclude?

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