I am 32 years old, and I still feel sometimes like I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up. And to make matters, I feel like my personality is highly compartmentalized and that when I look one facet of my personality and its corresponding career, I inadvertently exclude all others; and yet, the same time, I feel that if I don’t exclude something, I will end sounding like a 10 who says, I want to be a rock star, a secret agent, and an astronaut.
In The Tao of Jeet Kun Do, Bruce Lee says “Freedom lies in understanding yourself moment to moment”. I feel like I understand the separate parts of myself, i.e. the beer geek, the writer, and the aspiring tour guide/future travel channel host, but I don’t understand how they fit together, or if they even fit into to my professional life at all.
The one thing I know is that I can’t live an ordinary life, that is off the table, I have tried too many times to be a good boy and go back to America and get job, pay my bills, and do all the things normal people do. That hasn’t worked. I tried the whole working for a corporation, normal job thing, and it felt like it was killing me. I really value freedom and creativity in my work, something most companies don’t value.
For me, the current issue is channeling my interests and my talents towards something that can make me happy, pay my bills, and makes me proud to do. Currently, I teach ESL to third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh Graders in Beijing’s airport district. I love my job, but ultimately I don’t want to have answer to answer to someone in my day to day life (I understand that if I actually ever sign with a publisher I would answer to them, but there is still more autonomy than I currently have), I want to be my own boss, either as a writer or as a brewer. I want to not have people try to tell how to cut my hair, or how long my beard can be, or what tattoos I can have where. Autonomy is what I want more than anything (I have a pretty good degree of autonomy with my current job). I also want to feel fulfilled creatively by my work and do work that brings me joy. Some people may think I am crazy, I think there this idea in America that you shouldn’t be happy at work, you just go to the job that pays the most, and then buy a ton of crap to fill the empty space in your soul, but my desire to enjoy my work is actually biblical, Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 2:24-25: “A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?” Toil means work, we were meant to find happiness in our work.
Now this bring me back to my original dilemma, what should I focus on. I recently told my friends and family that I was feeling this way, and I got some really encouraging emails, but one that stood out was from a friend and in it he said that I should follow the passion that is the first thing I think about in the morning and the last thing I think about at night. I won’t lie, at first I was extremely frustrated by this advice, mainly because I have heard it before, and secondly because the last thing I think about before I go to bed is what bills need to be paid, or unfinished lesson plans, and the first think I think about is whether or not I’m going to do yoga that morning or what’s on my schedule for the day.
The one thing, though, that I can tell you is that I draw energy from my writing. Just in writing this today, I feel alive. I think that may end up just being a writer who is a passionate amateur tour guide and beer expert. I can say I am not entirely sure where the road goes or how the story ends, but I do know that as long as I keep doing what I love, even I don’t get paid, it will be a good journey.