When I was 6, I wanted to be an architect.
I loved drawing, enjoyed visiting cool buildings, and had the odd drive to be a part of something bigger. I checked books out from the library, talked up the idea with adults, and even took a crack at drawing up blueprints for the first house I'd build.
Needless to say, that didn't quite work out.
As I grew up, my interests changed. I tried my hand at CAD in middle school, but couldn't figure out the complex interfaces. Since everyone told me using a CAD system was essential for architecture, I gave up on that dream and grabbed hold of others.
My favorite high school teachers taught science, so I spent all of my time trying to figure out how the world worked. Much to my parents' dismay, I even brought experiments home from time to time[ref]The first time I tried dividing water into hydrogen and oxygen in the living room resulted in several awkward parent-teacher meetings.[/ref].
Originally I wanted to work in the space program for NASA. I even applied for internships and chose a physics major in college for that purpose. Eventually, I changed gears and wanted to teach. Then I wanted to work in a lab. Then I gave up on that entirely and went back to school for a second degree in political science.
I found I liked telling stories more than anything, so I studied marketing in business school and walked away with a masters degree in international management.
At the moment, though, I'm not using any of my degrees.
I work full-time writing web software for the insurance industry. I also freelance on the side, writing open source software for WordPress. But while I enjoy both, neither is really my "dream job."
I come away from work somewhat burned out at the end of the day, only to keep working late into the night on the plethora of unfinished side-projects I have on my plate. Client work. My WordPress plugins. My marketing/publishing business. My Kickstarter campaign.
Like I said, I enjoy my work, I just don't necessarily feel this is where I'm supposed to be.[ref]I'm good at my job, I enjoy the satisfaction of finishing projects, and I love the challenge. But I don't feel called to this particular field ... if that makes sense.[/ref]
So I've decided to make a list. A list of the abstract things I love doing. The things I'd love to do full-time if someone would pay me to do them.
I'm a prolific reader. So far in 2012 I've finished 16 separate books. Novels, business books, technical guides. You name it. Every piece tells some kind of story, and I live for the story.
The best books, though, tell peoples' stories. Fiction or non-fiction, studying a character and the circumstances that shape their personality, perceptions, and actions is exciting to me. I actually cry a little inside when I finish a book because it means I have nothing left to learn from that particular character. I read the entire Twilight series in a week.[ref]If you ask me to my face, I'll tell you I read it to support a student I'm mentoring. But really, I was just curious and actually enjoyed the story. Sue me.[/ref] I just finished all three books of The Hunger Games in about 4 days. I'm halfway through A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones) and the Left Behind series as well.
Nothing is as captivating as studying a person's - real or fictitious - story.
Most of my writing is done on the computer. I can't write by hand at a speed anywhere near keeping up with my thoughts, and can only barely type fast enough to keep up. Unfortunately, sitting in front of a computer all day saps me of my will to do so again recreationally.
I've won awards for my poetry and I've written several short stories (a few published under pseudonyms). I keep a writing blog, but neglect it so much it pains me to even let you see it now. I also have 4 unfinished novels sitting around my desk begging me to take a year off work and just finish.
Most of the writing I do get to publish is stream-of-consciousness and published online. Like this post. Sadly, I rarely even have time (or energy) to proofread.
I know. Who wouldn't want to spend all their time on vacation? But I don't just camp in the summer.
Is it raining? Great, let's go!
Is it snowing? Great, let's go!
It will only be 15 degrees this weekend? Great, let's go!
There won't be any plumbing or running water? Great, let's go!
My love for camping is the primary reason I keep working with the Boy Scouts. I love the idea of the program, but the parent organization frustrates me enough with their policy that, if I had a way to be outdoors as often and still work with kids, I would.
When I was unemployed[ref]I quit a job due to an ethical disagreement with my employer. He was cheating his employees and lying to investors. I found out. I don't work there anymore.[/ref] I spent every possible day working with Habitat for Humanity. Going to sleep with a sore back knowing that some family would have a clean, dry, affordable place to live as a result ... well ... there's no better feeling in the world.
As I mentioned before, I also work with the Boy Scouts. I serve as an Assistant Scoutmaster for a troop of about 30 youth. I supervise camping trips, teach merit badges, and even advised on Scout working on his Religious Emblem last year.
I also volunteer in the community. I'm mentoring a middle schooler who wants to be a writer, and I used to serve on my church's finance and worship teams.[ref]I'm in the process of, potentially, moving to a different church. So I stepped back at the end of my term rather than leave the post unfilled with a sudden exodus.[/ref]
Where Does This Leave Me?
I honestly don't know. I can think of a hundred jobs that might satisfy one or more of these passions I have, but none that cover everything. Even the jobs I've found that cover some of them won't quite work. Remember how I mentioned I went to grad school? Yeah. Still need to pay that off. So online teacher writing books from a cabin in the woods won't really work out.
Instead, I try to carve time out of my day - each day - to focus on each of my passions. Sadly, as time wears on and I continue to become an "older, wiser, more experienced" version of myself, I begin to doubt when - if ever - I'll find that miracle "dream job" that makes me happy beyond measure.
Is it out there? Hopefully. I just don't quite know what it is ...