At twenty-two, I graduated from Cambridge University with a B.Ed. Honours in Drama. I planned to pursue an acting career. And I did pursue acting for the next 15+ years, while I also married, and earned an M.A. in Holistic Counseling Psychology, as well as certification in yoga, Feng Shui, and professional life coaching.
One of my friends calls me the “Master of Re-Invention”.
Along the way, my personal and professional “life roles” included acting, living in three different states, gardening, substitute teaching, temporary office work, community organizing, running as the first Green Party candidate in St. Paul for city council and later, mayor, advocating for renewable energy, lobbying at the state legislature for causes I cared about (including AIDS, smoke-free policy, and enhanced utility franchise agreements), writing short stories, poetry, and screenplays, and ballroom dancing competitively.
In some activities I achieved a degree of recognition from my peers and the wider world.
In others, I achieved only a degree of satisfaction.
There were professional and personal failures that devastated: the acting roles I was told I was “perfect” for that fell through, the sometime struggle to earn a living, the wedding boycotted by upset parents, the jobs that disappointed me in either their duties or my colleagues, or my boss.
There’s a famous quote that says success and failure are both impostors.
Ultimately it’s really advice to find something valuable and enduring and spiritual inside yourself that will keep you going during the rough times and remind you that the good times (while more pleasant) won’t necessarily last either. This, too, shall pass.
The main advice my 53 year old self would give my 22 year old self would be first: stop worrying so much about everything, especially in your career. There is grace and beauty in not knowing. It frees you, for even the best-constructed career plan will be sidelined by life events. Births, deaths, and marriages are not just detours to your career–sometimes they are simply what life is about.
Second piece of advice isn’t advice at all. Just know you will do and achieve many things (as Thoreau wrote) “not dreamed of in common hours”.
At 22, I would be unable to predict my interest in 90% of the things I’ve done. (And it would’ve frightened me if some psychic had predicted them…)
Pursue your path, knowing there are many paths open to you. You may never follow one path to its end.
Use your spiritual eyes to see inside yourself and your spiritual ears to listen to the whispers that come from your own heart and mind to choose your path.
And if you receive conflicting information, know better choices may exist, but few wrong ones.
Amend what can be amended, forgive what needs forgiving, and if you are ever in doubt about which way to go, ask yourself, “What choice would love make here?”
Blessings to you. May you recognize how magnificent and important your life is right now, not just to you, but also to your family (however you define them), your friends, and society at large.
Your dreams and aspirations shape and inspire all of us. Make them big enough to include space to grow, change, evolve and endure. You deserve no less.