Monday, March 18, 2013


A few weeks ago, I posted a quote about being good at more than one thing (To read about it, click here). Basically, what the quote says is that, just because you excel at one thing, doesn't mean you can't excel at other things as well.

By the time I was a sophomore in high school, I had made a name for my self as that-singer-chick. I was once stopped from crossing the street by some classmates who had heard me sing. They refused to let me cross the street until I sang "Stairway to Heaven" for them. Incidents like this, combined with accolades like being the only freshman and then sophomore from my school to go to All State Choir, and as a junior, being the fourth person ever to go to All State Jazz Choir from my town pretty much made me feel that singing was my destiny. This idea was further affirmed by people coming up to me and telling me that singing was my destiny.

No pressure.

More than that, being considered so good at one thing, people were always surprised to find that I could do other things, and sometimes reluctant to think of me in any other light. This was not always the case, but occurred often enough to make an impression. But after two years of being steered into other people's ideas of what my musical life should look like, I began to lose my taste for the lifestyle.

When I left college, I felt like a failure. I had been put on this earth to sing, and I was turning my back on that. I tried a few paths out (teaching, English, bartending) but nothing really fit. My failures here seemed to confirm for me that I was cursed so long as I abandoned music.

When my dad died, things kind of got put in perspective. My dad made a career of doing what was expected. He, too, had many talents. His academic and career path has more branches than mine. He went to school for teaching...and he taught Spanish for a few years. Then he decided that wasn't what he wanted to do, so he went back to school, this time to pursue a law degree. Half way through, he realized that he really enjoyed his science classes, so he went on to med school instead of law school. He became a psychiatrist and was very well respected in his field. He was also a devoted husband and father.

What is left out of this picture? He was a great poet. And he painted beautifully. He had a lovely singing voice and played several instruments. Everyone told him he was an academic, but I think he was secretly an artist. Maybe suppressing this inner calling contributed to him ending his life. I can't say for sure, but I know that he would have resonated with the idea that you can be good at more than one thing.

So why is this long-winded post titled "Validation?" Because that's what I got this week. Since I moved back home and started back in school, I've chosen a totally different career path. I'm studying mass communications, and I really enjoy it. More than that, though, I've found that I'm pretty good at it!

This past week, one of my professors (who I have only spoken to a couple of times since being in her class last semester) sent me an email saying that she had an internship that would be perfect for me. She said I was the first person she thought of. I was touched and excited.

But it gets better...

I emailed the head of my department to ask if he would support my decision to apply for the internship, and he echoed the sentiment that I would be a perfect fit. Really? TWO of my professors think this highly of me?

No. Three of them do.

Today, while meeting with professor number one, a third professor popped his head in the door and offered his two cents. He said, and I quote, that I am, "awesome-sauce." If I ever write a book, that review is going on the jacket.

Told ya, validation. Three professors think that I am perfect for this job and are excited to see me succeeding. To me, this is proof that I can be good at more than one thing. That is a powerful realization.

The internship in question may not be a perfect fit, but it's a step. And more than that, having the support of my department proves that, even if this isn't the right thing for me, I don't have to be a singer to be successful. This gives me renewed hope that I can and will find my passion! Thanks, Mass Comm. Department for the much needed ego boost!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Chicken or the Egg?

Since I began this blogging journey, I've had some great feedback from friends and family. Much of this has consisted of, "Wow, I never knew that about you," but I've also gotten a lot of comments in the vein of, "I've gone through something similar. Here's what I have found."

The surprising part of this? The nature of the advice. I have been approaching my soul-searching mission from a very analytical perspective. Analyze my past, examine my thoughts, then deduce an appropriate career path. I'm a pretty stereotypical Virgo in that sense.

The advice I've received, though, has been a lot more...touchy-feely. Don't get me wrong, I'm very much a touchy-feely person and I constantly find myself in situations where my emotions get the best of me, but I thought a more scientific approach would be my best bet here...because of my touchy-feely tendencies. Apparently the Universe thinks differently.

So that advice? It's all been about spiritual cultivation. Friends have suggested meditation, prayer, all that real soul-searching stuff. Which maybe makes more sense? The ultimate goal should be happiness and content, right? Money and a good job are really just a means to that end. So maybe I need to focus more energy on that whole Go to the Wilderness idea.

The problem with the touchy-feely approach? It takes too long! And yes, I am aware what an utterly lame excuse that is. I want results now! I have roughly a year left in my undergraduate degree and I need to know what comes next! I need to intern and find a job and start my adult life! I'm running out of time!

Which, of course is ridiculous. There is always time. So maybe I need to slow down and focus my energy inward.

I guess this just isn't the way I've chosen to prioritize my life. My plan was to figure out my career, then explore my inner self and gain a spiritual side. But maybe it doesn't work that way. Maybe the two are intrinsically linked. Maybe spirituality needs to come before career plans?

Which should come first, the chicken or the egg? Now I'm confused...

Monday, March 11, 2013

Is depression an excuse?

I can't decide if this post is offensive or not. You tell me, but please be kind...I don't like being yelled at, even over the internets.

Is depression an excuse? I suffer from depression (seasonal, major, manic, you name it, I've got it). Not all the time though. It comes in little fits and spurts, as unpredictable as Colorado weather. Some days I'm fine. Some days I'm happy, even manic. Then some days I just crash. BOOM! And I sit in the wreckage and wonder why I even try.

I don't even know what that means. Why I even try what? To live? To love? To make pancakes? It's a little too abstract to be taken seriously. I think that depression is a scapegoat. Not all the time, and not for all people, but for me, I think that my depression is an excuse.

I've been doing really well in school. Like super awesome. Like 99%'s on my tests and 100%'s on my homework assignments awesome. And then, this past week, I mysteriously stopped doing my homework or going to class. For no real reason. Why? Because depression had descended. Why? Maybe because that is the nature of the disease. Or maybe because I'm afraid of my success.

If I admit that I am doing well, then I set my foot on the path to success. If I start walking down that path, I have to make choices about my future. I have to start deciding what comes next. Should I go to grad school? Should I apply for internships overseas? Should I start looking into some possible careers? AAAAHHHH! Panic attack! This is just another form of that passion thing I'm so afraid of. Basically, by doing well in school, I am opening up exciting (and terrifying) new possibilities.

So I blame my depression instead of facing the real problem. My life has given me plenty of fodder for depression, plenty of excuses not to succeed. I have had to fight some uphill battles, and given the circumstances, I'm sure people would let me off easy if I just gave up. Who would judge the girl whose dad committed suicide for suddenly giving up on school? The perfect excuse to fail.

But it really is just an excuse. The truth is that I'm not failing, and I won't fail. Yes, I have depression. Yes, I have had some awful things happen in my life. But I cannot use these hardships like smoke and mirrors to distract people (and, more importantly, myself) from the real issue. I freak out when things start looking good. The security blanket of failure is lifted, and my depression is just my fear fighting like hell to hold on to...what? Nothing good.

So I say that my depression is an excuse. It's hard to admit this, and it will be even harder to fight it, but I'm going to.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Our deepest fear.

I have a confession to make. I'm afraid. I am afraid that I may have found something to be passionate about. Admitting this exciting possibility is scary for me because it feels like the kiss of death. My past experiences have left me with the feeling that admitting my passion jinxes the possibility of success. This is stupid, I know. At best (or worst) this points to self-fulfilling prophesy. I say to myself, "I wanna do this!" and then the self-sabotage sets in. As soon as I commit some part of my mind or efforts to the pursuit of a goal, I start to imagine all the ways it can, and will, go wrong. I start to complain about how hard it will be, how many people are out there who are more talented, more beautiful, better qualified or connected. Blah blah blah. Excuses.

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure." - Marianne Williamson

Is this true? Is self-sabotage just our minds railing against the fear that we are "brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?" (To read Williamson's full poem, click here). If so, then this is good news. When that mean little inner voice starts to talk you down from the cliff, then you know it's time to take the plunge.

I had an assignment in my Careers class to write the bio of my career life ten years in the future. The paper needed to include our "current" job, the things we "did" to get there, and (Dun Dun DUNNNN) our passion. Sooooooo not fair. I keep telling my teacher that I don't have a passion! Why was she making me do this!? For exactly that reason.

Hearing the word "passion" sends my body into a full-on anxiety attack. My heart starts racing, my palms sweat, my breath becomes ragged and shallow. I look like a cornered animal. Why? Maybe because I fear that I am "powerful beyond measure."

I did the assignment. It took me a little over two hours to write out my first draft, but I was surprised at how easily the ideas flowed. I started off safe, exploring my real past. I am a firm believer in the idea that our past has an influence on our future. Once I got into the realm of fiction though, the words still came fairly easily. Yes, the ideas were a little loose and poorly researched, but there was definitely an idea there. I created a passion (crazy, I know) and I really feel some resonation with the idea. I used my Dream Board to guide me a little bit, and I found some dormant interests rising to the surface.

In a nutshell, this is what I said: My passion? "Supporting the arts and my own creativity." My future career? Public Relations...person(?) for an art museum in London.

OK, so this is still a bit vague, but it's getting a lot closer to finding my path. I had a thought shortly after learning about study abroad that I might try and intern with one of the art museums in London at some point. Why? Because they're in London mainly. There's more to it than that, though. I like working with nonprofits, and even though I have abandoned musical performance as a career, I still love to participate in the arts. I also have some experience with education and a life-long love of museums. Seems like a good fit. Why public relations? Well, it fits with my major, and it balances behind-the-scenes work with the role of a public figure. I like that too.

The passion I have picked is also vague. At first I thought this was copping out, but the more I think about it, the more powerful this choice seems. By keeping my "passion" open, I'm allowing myself to interpret it in many ways. I can support the arts and my own creativity by working for a museum, or writing children's books, or opening a community theatre, or marrying some rich guy and working with charities...the point is, this passion is flexible, and I need that. I need to be able to reinvent and start over without feeling like doing so kills the person I was in order to become the person I want to be.

Thanks, Careers class, for forcing me out of my comfort zone and making me realize my power.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Watching a professional at work

A couple of weeks ago I shared a blogpost about the importance of asking for help. Today, while browsing my Twitter feed, the perfect video appeared to say more eloquently what I have experienced and am trying to achieve.

Amanda (F***ing) Palmer is a singer/songwriter/musician/artist who has perfected the art of asking for help. Confession: I have never actually listened to Amanda Palmer's music...but I read her husband's books. Amanda Palmer is married to Neil Gaiman. If you like fantasy fiction novels and you are an adult, then you NEED to know who Neil Gaiman is.

Here is Amanda Palmer's take on "The Art of Asking."

What I like most about Amanda's argument is the acknowledgement that asking leaves us vulnerable. But more than this, that vulnerability implies trust, and trusting others to help you is a beautiful lesson in personal connections. 

I have experienced this too, and I found that people are generally kind and willing to help. Amanda explains this kindness. She says that people want to help you because by reaching out and asking for help, you are connecting with them on a personal level. This is such a beautiful expression of the human spirit. Adopting Amanda Palmer's philosophy on "the art of asking" makes it easier to accept and enjoy the experience. 

My next mission!? To actually listen to Amanda's music. Anyone who is this cool of a human being is probably a fantastic artist as well. Cheers! 

Using the past to empower the future

Music school left me feeling very bitter. About school. About friends. About music. When I dropped out I swore off music and all the things in my life that reminded me of the time I spent there. This was short lived, but even now, almost three years later, I still have a slightly bitter taste in my mouth when I talk about that time in my life.

Although I have yet to truly reembrace music (and I'm not sure that I will ever want the same things I wanted then), I have occasionally tested the waters. I spent some time gigging in my home town, and for a while I thought that I wanted to be a musician after all. I liked the attention and the praise, but I still really hated the lifestyle. And treating music as a business took away all of the joy and the art. So I swore off music again.

I have sung in public four times in the past two years. And yet, I still have people come up to me on an almost daily basis to compliment me on my voice. If I had a nickel for everytime someone told me, "I remember when you sang at [fill in the blank]" I would...have a lot of nickels.

For a long time, this recognition made me sad. I felt that the Universe was trying to guilt me back into music. Then, in periods where I have felt underappreciated, these comments lifted me back up, riding on my former glory. Neither of these feelings represent a healthy approach to the past.

I'm in this class right now all about careers (no wonder the subject is on my brain). Most weeks we have guest speakers. This past week, our guest was a representative from the local library system. She made her job sound awesome. It was a great talk, and it made me think that I might want to work for the library some day. Let it also be said, that I have a similar reaction to all of the speakers, "I could do that!" Optimism is great, but this isn't really a career epiphany. What I really took away from the library spokeswoman were the names she mentioned.

During her presentation she mentioned the names of several people that she works with. I knew every person she was talking about, not because they were local celebrities (although some of them certainly are), but because I have had personal interactions with them. The really important part about this is how I knew each of these people. They were all connections I had made as a singer. I thought to myself, I could probably talk to that person and use them as a reference.

Aside from the possibility of getting a job at the library (cool by itself), this gave me a valuable lesson. Use your past to empower your future. OK, I may never classify myself as a musician again, but I don't have to disown that part of my past. I can use the experiences and the connections from that time to create opportunities in my future. If people already know me and like me because of my voice, then they will be more receptive to liking me for other skills. So there you have it, never discount even the bad parts of your past, because none of them are entirely bad.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Devil's Advocate

Let it never be said that I am not open to other points of view. Ok...I'll admit I'm pretty stubborn and I don't take contradictory advice very well all the time, but part of this soul-searching mission is about expanding myself and being open to new ideas. So here goes...

While I was out roaming the blogosphere, I came across this post by Penelope Trunk. In her blog post, Penelope states loud and clear, "Forget the soul search; just do something." I felt a little stung by the directness of this post, as if Ms. Trunk was aiming it specifically at me.

But I didn't get scared and run away, I read the post and kept my mind open to what she had to say on the matter. She had some excellent points and some good advice.

One thing that I found particularly important was the idea that soul-searching takes too long. Discovering ones' self is a life-long and ever-changing process, so waiting for the end result of that search before pursuing a career is pointless. You'd die before you ever attempted to do something with your life. I have to say, she's got a point there.

So how do I balance this advice with my own mission? Compromise. It is important to know that I will never have a definitive answer to the question, "Who are you?" (see my earlier post here), but that doesn't mean I should stop asking the question. Tuning into yourself every once in a while is important. It is easy to lose sight of what you want in this world when you allow yourself to get swept up in action all the time. That being said, thought without action is equally unsuccessful.

Penelope Trunk's blog post urges readers to get out there and just try a few things. A "bad" career decision is still a useful tool in self-discovery. By having experiences we don't enjoy, we learn more about our likes and dislikes. These experiences, then, inevitably lead us towards more successful experiences in the future (so long as we take care to actually learn from our mistakes, and don't simply repeat them).

Another point that Trunk addresses that I found encouraging was the statement that each person has many selfs. At any given time, there are multiple things that motivate us, and multiple careers that could bring fulfillment. She sights the statistic that most people nowadays change careers every eighteen months. As your tastes change, or a different motivation rises to the surface, go with it.

One last gem that I want to share is this. Trunk says that you need to get your toes wet. Try careers out, take the leap, and if you don't like the result, "reframe your landing pad as just a stepping stone." When I left music school, I felt like my life was over. I had failed, my passion was dead, going on was futile. But if I allow myself to reframe that experience as just another stepping stone in my life, then I can take away the valuable lessons I learned (like how I didn't want the insecurity of a musicians life - see here for more on that).

Even though her argument is directly at odds with my philosophy, Trunk's arguments for action seem not to contradict, but to compliment my continued search. (Am I still being stubborn?)

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Redefining Failure

In my life I have failed at many things. I have failed to stay in touch with good friends. I have failed to finish projects I have started. I have failed to keep my cool. I have failed classes, and I have failed to work on broken relationships.

Failure can be crippling.

As a Virgo and a Snake (yes, I totally buy into the whole astrology thing, sue me), I have a particularly hard time recovering from failure. It is often the case that I allow failure to define me.

Failure does NOT define you.

Tonight I had a talk with my good friend and ex-boyfriend. He mentioned, in what he meant to be a passing remark or joke, that I had broken his heart. I won't get into the many things that went right or wrong in that relationship, but his words stung because they reminded me of my failure.

As my mother pointed out, most relationships fail, especially first relationships like this one. Of course I already knew this to be true, but hearing it made me think a little more deeply about this truth.

Relationships fail. Communication fails. Classes and projects and emotional control fail. This is totally normal.

Maybe you think that failure is too harsh a word for these situations, but I disagree. Failure is not a big scary end-of-the-world thing. It is simply a part of everyday life. Failure only has the power to defeat us if we let it.

So, I have a new task in my search for meaning. Cut myself some slack. I have failed before and I will fail again, but my failures do not define me. Failure can happen for many reasons. Maybe a lack of effort, or a misunderstanding. Or maybe whatever it is just wasn't meant to be. Whatever the reason, the important thing to do in the face of failure is accept that it happened and move on. Learn from the mistakes, forgive yourself and move on.

I'm sure this is another one of those easier-said-than-done things, but it's worth the effort anyway. I am going to redefine failure. Failure will no longer be the end. Failure will be the beginning, a new direction or just a bump in the road. Here's to redefining failure!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Let's talk about hair.

This is going somewhere...I promise.

Much like my fickle career pursuits(see Careers I have considered for the full list), my hair has been on a rollercoaster identity ride. I was at a party tonight, and half way through, I friend from high school came up to say hello. He said he would have come up to me sooner, but he didn't recognize me because my hair had changed...again.

Let me give the short list of hairstyles I have tried since my sophomore year of high school. Ready?

Half-way down my back and permed. Bob. Faux-hawk with purple streaks. Bleach blonde bob. Spikey blue and pink pixie cut. Brown pixie cut. Bald. Purple pixie cut. Bleach blonde pixie cut. Mohawk. Bald. Dark brown bob. Bald.

And that's just the highlights (pun intended).

Here's where I'm at now, one year after my last buzz-cut.

Why am I sharing this? Because I am growing my hair out. Still lost? I'm not surprised...

In between each of my many erratic hair choices, I have said to myself, "Now I'm going to grow my hair out." My hair has not reached my shoulders since the perm of '06. What does this mean? I lack will power...or patience...or something. My hair seems to be a pretty good metaphor for my life choices. I get an idea, I pursue it (with scissors and bleach....or a college major), I grow tired of it, and I vow to start anew. Then, six months later, I find myself in the salon (or the admissions office) starting the cycle all over again.

I realize that this habit is counterproductive. My inability to commit to growing out my hair seems to echo my inability to commit to finishing my degree.

Part of this is personality. I'm just one of those people who gets bored easily and needs new direction. But I think it's more than that. I think that I fear commitment. The only reason I can come up with for this fear is a greater fear. Failure. I am afraid that I won't succeed at whatever I pursue (waist-length hair or a career in my major), so instead of sticking it out and seeing what happens, I bail.

I have created a psychological barrier between myself and success through this self-sabotage. Understanding this self-imposed weakness is the first step to overcoming it. So...I have a plan.

I really am going to grow my hair out this time.

Why hair? Baby steps. If I can succeed in the much simpler task of simply avoiding scissors for a while, then I will prove to myself that I can finish what I start. That I can succeed. By disproving my belief that I am doomed for failure in whatever I do, I will open myself up to other successes. Like finishing college, and pursuing passion. So...I'm swearing off scissors as part of my pursuit of passion! Wish me luck!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The question that must never be asked.

First of all, kudos to anyone who caught the Dr. Who reference in the title. (If you don't know what Dr. Who is, go find out, it is a great show!)

But seriously...what am I talking about? Today we had a guest speaker in my careers class. Everything was hunky-dory at first. She told us about her job and why she loves it, then she brought out this oversized deck of cards.

"This is called a Big Picture Deck." she explained as she scattered the cards across an empty table. Instead of the traditional four suits, numbers and faces, each card had an individual photographic image. "I would like each of you to choose the card that represents your passion and then tell me about your passion."

Dun dun dun!!!! She hadn't actually asked the question, but it was implied. What is your passion? This was so not fair. I wanted to raise my hand and say, "But, but, but...I don't know! I need more time!" This was, unfortunately, not an option. So I improvised.

Ever since getting the happy news that I would be joining the summer Study Abroad program I have had travel on the brain. I don't know if travel is my passion, but it is certainly something I want more of in my life (check out My Dream Board to see more of this). So I began searching through the deck for a picture of luggage.

I didn't find luggage, what I found instead was this:

A compass.

We took our images and divided into small groups to share our pictures and our passions. One of the girls in my group had a very specific passion that she shared in detail. I was impressed and intimidated. Even so, when our guest speaker asked if anyone would like to share their passion with the whole group, I volunteered.

I told the group that I didn't know what my passion was. I told the group that I was currently suffering a bad case of travel-fever, so I had sought an image associated with travel. the middle of my impromptu presentation, I was struck by a sudden thought. So I added that it seemed significant that the image of travel I had lit upon was a compass.

Compasses do symbolize travel, but they symbolize much more than that. They symbolize direction. I shared with the group that I was currently on a journey of self-discovery and that it was fortuitous that this compass would so succinctly encompass my quest for direction.

There is poem, a song really, that JRR Tolkien wrote that I love. If you have seen The Lord of the Rings, then this will be familiar to you, and if you haven't seen LotR, shame on you!

"The road goes ever on and on, down from the door where it began. Now far ahead the road has gone, and I must follow if I can. Pursuing it with weary feet, until it meets some larger way. Where many paths and errands meet, and whither then I cannot say."

I have always found this to be extremely poignant and inspiring. I love the idea of "the road goes ever on and on." It seems to suggest that no matter what life throws at you, life goes on, and that is good. The part that has always touched me the most, though, is the last line, "and whither then I cannot say." The future is always a mystery and that can be scary, but this poem makes it seem exciting.

In fact, this is not the first time I have considered the compass or these words an important symbol for me. I have a few tattoos and I plan on getting a few more. Each tattoo marks some specific event or self-realization that I want to memorialize. The design I am most eager to implement next is that very line, "and whither then I cannot say," wrapped around the edges of a compass.

I am beginning to feel empowered by my search. Self-discovery may not be my passion, but it certainly seems to be my path at the moment. And I must pursue it with weary feet until it leads me to the next step!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Seeking Inspiration

I am a bookworm. At an early age I began turning to books for solace and advice. As I have gotten older, this strategy has continued to prove effective. While I mainly read fiction, I occasionally browse the self-improvement section. The picture below is the cover of a book I am reading as part of a careers class I'm taking. (If you're interested in reading it, you can find it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble's websites).

"Smart Moves" is full of personal stories of people who have found careers they love. Mostly my reaction to the book has been, to quote Austin Powers, "Whooptie-do, Basil." In my search for meaning, I catch myself slipping into the roll of the angry cynic from time to time. I read their success stories and can't help feeling a little bitter about their confidence and direction. 

However, when I am able to push away my negative thoughts and objectively evaluate the choices these people have made, I admit that it can be helpful. One idea that resonated with me while I read tonight was this, "Just because you're good at something doesn't mean you can't be good at something else."

I struggle with the idea of "talent" a lot in my career soul-searching. I'm a good singer, I know this because people of all walks of life have told me so. I have been told by complete strangers that it would be a sin to neglect my talent and pursue anything other than music. Glazing over the religious implications here (I don't want to debate theology...tackling my career journey is quite enough without embarking on a spiritual journey too), this statement upsets me.

It is hard to justify leaving music performance behind when everyone I know tells me that I have what it takes to make it in music. "If you just put some effort in, you could be great!" But the thing is, I don't want to put some effort in. Yes, I'm a good singer, but I don't want to be a musician. That just doesn't feel like my passion. At times it does, those shining moments when I'm actually on stage and basking in the glow the spotlight. But as soon as I step out of the lime-light I remember how much I dislike the business of being a musician. And I know that isn't my passion.

So it is encouraging to read those words. Yes, I'm a talented vocalist, but that doesn't mean I can't have other talents. Being a good singer does not limit me to being a musician. I can pursue any avenue I like and who knows what else I may find I am good at!?

I titled this entry "Seeking Inspiration" because in absence of passion, I am putting my energy into finding passion. To do so, I think it is important to be open to inspiration. A book assigned for class or the words of a stranger can provide tips to finding the path I'm looking for. I encourage you to do the same! Be receptive to the lessons around you and actively seek inspiration!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Always know who you are.

I met Yoda this week. Not really, but I got some very Yoda-esque advice from a stranger, so that's kind of the same thing, right?

I was just sitting on campus finishing some homework when this middle-aged gentleman sat down across from me and asked, "If I were to ask you who you are, how would you answer?"

So, as any socially awkward and cautious person would, I gave the simplest answer I could, "Um...I'm Kim and I'm a student here."

This answer did not satisfy Sensei. As he explained, you are not your name or your occupation. He proceeded to tell me a little bit about himself and introduced me to his daughter. As he went to leave, his parting words to me were these, "It was nice to meet you, Kim. And remember, always know who you are."

Yes, Master Yoda.

I've been thinking about those words for the past several days, and it worries me to find that I still don't have a good answer. A few years ago, I would have told you that I am a singer, a vegetarian and an LotR fanatic. That would have been a fairly accurate description of who I was then. I still, technically am all of those things, but they seem to fall far short of who I am now. There are so many parts to me, as I'm sure you can relate. How does one explain who they are to a stranger, or any person, in a minute or two of conversation? It seems impossible, but vital.

In a practical sense, knowing who you are would be really useful in, say, an interview. But more than that, I think it is important to life to know who you are. How else can you know if you are on the right path? How else can you begin to seek the right path?

I think that discovering who I am is the key to discovering what I want to do with my life.

For now, all I know is that I am equal parts romantic and cynical, brave and cowardly, hard-working and lazy. I am lost, but seeking. I guess that I am a pilgrim. I am seeking self.

There is a meditation mantra that I really like. Hamsa. It is the sound of inhale (ham-) and the sound of exhale (-sa), the most natural phrase a person can utter. It means, "I am that." What could be more natural than knowing who you are?

I encourage anyone who feels lost, or just feels like checking in with themselves to ask yourself this question, "Who are you?" because it is necessary to always know who you are.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Food for thought.

Above is a link to an article one of my professors posted. This article summarizes and quotes some of the advice given in a self-help career book from 1949 titled, "How to Avoid Work." The idea here is that work is bad, career passion is good.

There are lots of great quotes from the book, as well as similar advice from people like John Cleese and Neil Gaiman, among others.

One idea in particular struck me. You may be familiar with this trick. The book suggests a "what if?" scenario. The question it poses is, "What would you do if money were no object?" I don't have an answer for this right now, but I will definitely be giving it some thought.

Another particularly powerful point was the view offered on time. To summarize the author, William J. Reilly, everyone in the world has the exact same amount of time in each day. The difference in productivity, success and happiness has nothing to do with the amount of time we have, but the way in which we utilize that time. So much for the "I don't have enough time," excuse.

The article is long and offers oodles of useful information, so I will be rereading it several times myself. I suggest that you do the same! Even if you are happy in your career now, applying some of the self-checks offered in this article can help you make sure that you stay on the right career path for you!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Go to the Wilderness.

This video from TEDTalks is a little long, but well worth watching. The first time I saw this speech, my reaction was, "Yeah! Introverts rule! Leave us alone so we can be awesome!" But, having watched it a few more times after a few more experiences, I get a different message.

First of all, I'm not totally introverted. I enjoy the spotlight and I have a hard time relinquishing control. I do, however, prefer to work alone much of the time and find that I am most creative and productive when left to my own devices.

I think that Susan Cain has some valuable advice for the structuring of society, but that's not why I posted this video. Introverts and extroverts both have strengths and weaknesses, and they rely on each other to create a balanced world. It is important for introverts to step into the limelight and voice their ideas. It is also important for extroverts to withdraw and examine their thoughts in private.

As I seek a career path that suits me, I face both of these challenges. I know that it is important for me to put myself out there and explore my options, which can be scary. But, maybe more importantly, I know that it is important to "go to the Wilderness" and examine my thoughts. This prospect is much scarier.

In our "plugged-in" culture, we are rarely alone with our thoughts. I do a lot of my thinking in the car as I commute to class and work, but I keep the comfortable buffer zone of the radio to ward off deep reflection. Why? Because I'm scared of what I'll find in my thoughts. I'm scared I'll find that I have no passion. I'm scared I'll find that I do have passion. On my journey of self-discovery, I know that I must face my fears. I will have to speak out...and I will also have to listen to myself.

I challenge you to listen too. Let's all make time to go to the Wilderness and examine ourselves, free from comforting distractions. And, once we have discovered our secrets, let us share them with others.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Reaching Out

It does absolutely no good to be too proud to ask for help. Stubbornness and pride are some of the dumbest, self-imposed roadblocks a person can set up against success.

I have always been a proud person. I don't know where I got the idea that I was "above" asking for help, but I did.

Lately life has thrown me some curve balls, and I have begun to admit that I need help. When my dad died six months ago, I found that I needed a lot of help in a lot of areas. I needed my boyfriend's help to move my stuff back to my parent's house where I was staying with my mom. I needed my employer's help finding someone to replace me on short notice. I needed my former employer's help to reenlist me once I had moved back home. I needed my friends' help...just to have someone to talk to.

What I learned from this is that asking for help is not hard or embarrassing. It is, quite simply...helpful. I asked for support and I received it. I have done my best to express my gratitude and repay the help in kind, but one of the great things about asking for help is that people often do not expect repayment. People are generally kind and willing to help just because.

Another thing I have learned is that it is not selfish to take advantage of the opportunity for help, it is wise. We all need help sometimes, and that is OK.

Last week an opportunity presented itself which I couldn't stand to pass up without at least an attempt. The English department is doing a Study Abroad program this summer, and they're going to my favorite place on the planet: the British Isles. I've been to England once before and it was a life-changing experience. That trip was the foundation for the one thing I am absolutely sure I want out of life: my desire to live in England one day (Check out My Dream Board to see more). So, when I heard that there was an opportunity to return to the land of my dreams, I went out on a limb and asked for help.

I can't afford to travel out of the country right now. Money is tight, but I remembered my lessons in asking for help, so I gave it a shot. My efforts paid off...literally. When I asked if there was any help available for students who couldn't afford the costs, I was sent, well-equipped, to ask for help from the right people. I reached out and the kind people I encountered were able to help me fund the trip!

Thanks to my newfound ability to reach out and ask for help, I am now reliving the dream of traveling to England! Although this doesn't equate to a career, I am sure that this experience will help me to shape my future career interactions. "Ask and ye shall receive."

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Sage Advice

This will be a fairly short entry (hopefully...I tend to get carried away).

One of my bosses read my blog and offered me some advice yesterday. She told me to think back to the things I enjoyed doing when I was five years old. Her theory is that the things you enjoyed then are probably still true today and can provide some insight into what you may want to do with your life now!

She also noted that becoming an actual tiger was probably out. Think general, that's the idea. I liked to play dress up. I liked to make up stories for my Barbie-dolls. I liked to pet kitties. I liked magical things (like fairies and turning into a tiger). I liked to be the center of attention, posing for photos, putting on plays in the living room and just generally being the loudest person in the house. I liked to draw and write and read (granted, these were likes I developed a little after the age of five...but I think they're still valid).

So what can I do with this laundry-list of likes? Start thinking. How can I combine these pleasures into a cohesive life? Maybe I could be a novelist or an actress or a playwright. Maybe I can move out of the spotlight and still participate in these things, work for a magazine or a theatre or a publishing company.

This new insight is by no means the end of the journey, but it has given me fresh eyes to look through!

I recommend this exercise for anyone who wants to rethink their career plans. It is insightful and just plain fun, reminiscing about all the silly things you did as a young child when all the world was one giant possibility.

The other thing my boss mentioned that was very encouraging was: she didn't get it right the first time...or the second time...or the third. And that's OK. She loves what she does now and that is what matters. Don't despair just because you haven't figure it out at 19.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Fate intervenes.

Have you ever known something was a bad decision before you made it? Have you ever done it anyway? My bad decision was the Air Force.

I like to refer to myself as one of those "hippie-dippy" non-conformist types. I'm not an activist, but I'm a vegetarian and a bit of a pacifist. So how did I land on the bright idea of enlisting? My motivation for this ill-advised venture was based on stability, a word I learned from my mother.

 One of my reasons for leaving music school had been the unlikely prospect of paying off my massive student loans in my chosen profession of musical performance. The Air Force offered a unique opportunity to do just that. The voice teacher I was studying with at the time had some connections to the Falconaires Jazz Band, the official Air Force band. They were looking for a new singer and my voice teacher believed I was just what they were looking for. This was a full-time paying gig. Yes, I would have to go through basic training, a thought that terrified me (I can't do even a single push-up, and I have an annoying habit of crying when people yell at me), but the Air Force would help me pay for the remainder of my schooling. Plus I would have all the benefits of a military job. Stability.

So, I sent in my CD audition packet and waited for the phone call. It came! I was one of five vocalists that would move on to the live audition. Not only that, I was the youngest candidate. I was also the only candidate who didn't already come from a military background. I was intimidated, but excited. Here was a chance to prove that my musical education had not been a waste of two years and $60 thousand.

I knew it was a long shot, and there was a nagging little part of me (fuelled by my fear of basic training) that secretly wanted this to go poorly. I knew that I was up against some tough competition. I even knew one of the other girls auditioning. She had gone to the same university as I had and she was a legend there. With the odds against me, I knew that I needed a plan B. The six month grace period on my student loans was about to run out, and I couldn't afford the $500 monthly payments that would be heading my way. I knew it would be difficult for a college drop-out to find a job that would make enough to pay these monthly bills, so I faced the tough truth. I would have to go back to school.

Fall semester was about a month away. There wasn't time to apply to any schools, but I knew the university in  my hometown of Podunk, Colorado wouldn't turn me away. So, I promised myself, "If I don't get this gig, I'll go straight to the office of admissions and enroll in fall semester."

Three hours later, I had been cut from the final rounds of auditions along with two other girls. I got in my car and drove down the highway straight to the college. I didn't even stop to change out of my audition clothes or grab my transcripts. Within five minutes of speaking to an advisor, I was enrolled. It didn't feel great, but I was proud of the fact that I had done something.

A couple of months later, I ran into a musician friend who used to play in the Falconaires. He told me that the group had been disbanded as a part of budget cuts. So that sure thing, stable job I almost had would have collapsed only a few months in...then I would have been a cadet, part of an organization I don't really believe in, fighting for someone else's cause and not utilizing my music degree to do it.

They say (and I'd love to know who they are), "Everything happens for a reason." I'm not sure if I entirely agree, but in this case, I'd have to say, there's definitely something to that...

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Admitting defeat.

As any twelve-step program will tell you, the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. If you have ever had a problem, you may be familiar with the phrase, "Easier said than done."

Admitting you don't know what to do with your life after three years of college is hard to do. I have invested tens of thousands of dollars that I don't have in a life I am no longer pursuing. Two years into music school, I realized that music school made me HATE music. One of the scariest things I have ever done was to admit this to my parents. What made this particularly hard was waiting for the inevitable, "I told you so," from my very practical mom.

Musical performance is a risky career direction. The economy is bad right now, so people have less money to spend on frivolous things like going to see some chick sing old jazz songs. Part of me knew that, the same part of me that knew I could never become a tiger, no matter how often I practiced my jungle stalking skills. But, part of me refused to believe this, the same part of me that wished to be a tiger in the first place.

This part of me can only be described as hope. I used to believe that hope and faith were the same thing. I treated them the same way in my thoughts. To hope for something was to have faith that it would one day be true. The world has made a cynic of me, though, and the distinction between the two has become clear and cloudy at the same time. After two years of spending all of my time with musicians I began to realize that hope was as silly a thing as believing that wishing on the evening star would turn me into a large jungle cat.

Music school showed me how hard it was to be a musician. I considered my professors to be successful musicians, but the more time I spent with them, the more I realized that success as a musician wasn't what I had envisioned. Each of these musicians shared a commonality that scared me. They were teachers. Even though they gigged regularly, had excellent technique and style, they had to supplement their income with teaching. I didn't want to be a teacher. I had specifically gone into musical performance, NOT musical education. My fate seemed to be sealed, though, being a musician meant making some sacrifices. Sacrifices I wasn't willing to make.

So, sixty thousand dollars later, I had lost my passion for music. I stopped hanging out with friends. I started sleeping though classes. I even made myself so sick, I had to practically be carried to dinner one night. Sixty thousand dollars later, I admitted to my parents, and to myself, that I had a problem. I didn't want to go to music school anymore. I didn't want this life.

Admitting this wasn't easy, and the life I have led since hasn't been easy either. You see, admitting I didn't want to go to music school also meant that I was admitting I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life. Whatever I had felt inside though out the years, I had always maintained a sense of purpose and direction to the world. Now that facade was broken and I was forced to begin the search for a new path. I have started down many roads, only to run back screaming the way I had come. Today marks a fresh attempt at tackling my problem. Admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery. Maybe this blog is the second footfall.

The journey begins...long ago, in a galaxy far far away.

Deciding what to do with your life is never an easy task, and the older you get, the harder it can be to sort that out. When I was five years old, I knew what I wanted to be. A tiger. How I was going to accomplish this career goal, however, proved problematic. This was my first experience with career disappointment. The more I thought about how much I wanted to be a tiger, the more difficult my goal seemed to be, until one day I believed it was utterly impossible.

My next career goal was equally frustrating. By the age of six, I had lowered my sights to fairy. All I needed were a pair of wings and a little pixie dust. The wire and panty-hose wings my parents bought me (after much pleading and a few temper tantrums that I am not proud of) did not elicit the appropriate response, namely, flight. Likewise, the glitter I employed as generic pixie dust served no better purpose than to irritate my eyes and my mother, who had to vacuum up the mess I made.

At the age of six I had already begun to feel disillusionment for the phrase, "You can be anything you want!"

The logical result of these experiences would be to grow up a little and choose a career that was...real? I went through a long list of, "I want to be that when I grow up!" but to no avail (check out Careers I have considered for an up-to-date list). Although I had resigned myself to the fact that I would never change species or become a mythological creature, my goals in life still seemed too far fetched.

In this blog (a medium I am entirely unfamiliar with, by the way) I will take anyone who is willing on a journey through my trials and errors in pursuit of the perfect career. At only twenty three years old, I have already tasted many career paths and there have been plenty of opportunities and pitfalls that have shaped both my experiences and my outlook on life. As you might guess from the title of this blog, I am lost. I have felt passion many times. I have pursued passion many times. I have lost passion many times, and I find myself today at a crossroads, if you will forgive the cliche.

I hope that through the process of laying out my thoughts inspiration will hit. Maybe by stating my thoughts the path will suddenly be illuminated. Maybe someone else will read my stories and offer helpful advice. And maybe my experiences will help others find their paths as well. Cheers!