'What do I want to do with the rest of my life?' This question is asked and answered, pondered and cursed, reconsidered and avoided - over and over again - often causing great anxiety, which is understandable. It is, after all, a pretty big deal to consider what one will do with the rest of one's life.
My daughter, a high school Junior, who has a very long rest of her life to consider, is being asked to ask herself this question as she contemplates which college might prepare her best for that next phase of her life - the rest of her life. And at the ripe old age of 16, she doesn't have the answer. Some of her contemporaries do - or at least think they do - which is helpful, given that it allows them to select a college that caters to the particular career in which they are interested. And yet, should we expect that a child of 16, who has not had much exposure to the many career choices available, to know at this stage of the game how he/she wants to spend the majority of his/her time over the rest of his/her life, which may last another 70 years? I know I didn't know at her age.
I find myself asking what do I want to do with the rest of my life at the ripe old age of 50, which may sound silly; however, I hope I have another half life in me, necessitating something meaningful to fill it. After earning two college degrees (again, not knowing what I wanted to do when I went off to college), enjoying a successful career in the investment business, "retiring" to devote my full attention to raising my children, moving back into the working world as a writer and financial analyst, I continue to wonder what I will do with the rest of my life. While I enjoy my work, I also make time for things that bring me joy and meaning outside of my paid profession, things like playing my piano, studying languages, learning to cook, gardening, traveling, etc. As I learn and do more, I wonder if my next "career" might involve something I'm just learning to do now.
Pondering the question 'What do I want to do for the rest of my life?' at any age can be paralyzing, if we allow it to keep us from taking the first step on our life journey while we search for the definitive answer. Perhaps we should instead focus on doing something that brings us joy and that brings good in the world, in the present, and be willing to make a change when that something no longer suits us or the world, or when we are fortunate to find something new that brings more joy and good. The rest of one's life is a very long time, no matter how young/old one is, so focusing on the present seems an appropriate place to begin to ensure it is a joyful long journey.
author of "JOY"