For the majority of my life, I've been traveling along a pretty regular path. It's been good to me. That's not to say it hasn't been uphill and difficult at times, but I haven't really had to make huge life decisions about deviating from the straight and narrow. At some early age I decided I wanted to be an architect (seriously, I think I was 10 or 11), so from then on I walked the path towards that goal. Going to Auburn seemed like a decent way to get there, so I didn't apply anywhere else. After graduation, people go out and get jobs, so that's what I did. (Some people might see it as a big decision to move to New York City, but I took the first job I was offered and there was no where else I would have rather been.) After a few years of working, you're supposed to get licensed. It's responsible to get licensed. It's what people who want to be Architects do. I studied a lot, took a bunch of tests, and got my stamp.
So now, here I am. My clearly defined path has petered out and in it's place are countless forks in the road.
We've had some big events happening at my office recently. Everything is good but change is on the horizon. With the upheaval, people tell me "You should ask for a raise...You should angle yourself to get XYZ...You should have a bigger role with yadda yadda yadda." And most disturbingly, I've been asked "What do you want to do?" What do I WANT? What an insane question. I haven't the foggiest idea.
I've been so consumed with following THE PATH that I hadn't bothered to think of what happens after my arbitrary goal was reached. What kind of work do I want to do? Should I change firms? Do I eventually want to work for myself? Do I abandon architecture completely and do something different? (Probably not, but it's a possible fork in the road.) And beyond professionally, what do I want the rest of my life to look like? How long should I stay in New York? If I leave, where do I go? Do I get married and have 2.5 kids? What kind of work/family balance do I aim for? The questions have always been there but they always seemed distant and terrifying because there is no one to tell me what I should do.
I know everyone struggles with these choices, so I'm not preaching anything new. I'm also not complaining about the task at hand. I'm incredibly grateful and lucky to be able to set lofty goals and have to opportunity to work towards them. I have the support of my boyfriend, family, and friends no matter what I do and the comfort in knowing it will all be fine in the end. Now, I've just got sit down with a glass of wine and do some soul searching. The path ahead looks uncertain and bumpy, filled with doubt and worry and screw ups and no clear end in sight, but it's going to be okay. It's all about the journey, right?
[image via the fantastic Death to the Stock Photo]