Someone recently told me the key to happiness in your career is to think about what made you the most happy when you were eight- or nine-years-old. Then figure out how to turn that, or some version of that, into a career.
That got me thinking - what was I doing that made me the happiest?
I was spending hours each day sitting in my bedroom closet. I made it into a cozy den of personal space equipped with everything I needed. Blankets for warmth, pillows for comfort, stacks of notepads, pens, and colored pencils to write and draw, books to read, and a small reading lamp for light. And my walkman for mood music.
As a total aside, remember how labor intensive walkmans were? If you think about it, now you can play music on your phone and make your own playlists or put it on shuffle so you can listen to any number of your favorite artists for hours without even touching anything! But a walkman?
First you had to decide which cassette tape you wanted to listen to. And you only got one at a time so you had to really commit. Then you'd take the selected cassette tape out of its plastic case and jam it into the walkman. Sometimes it could be a bit tricky to slide it in between the guides, but once you got it in there you could close the walkman and hit play. Unless of course you'd stopped playing it mid-way through the tape last time and now you want to listen to the first song. Then you had to wait for what would now feel like hours but was in fact only maybe a minute or two for the tape to rewind to the beginning. If you weren't careful the tape might unravel during the rewind process and you'd have to gently remove the cassette from the walkman, use a pen or your finger to ease the tape back into place and then wind it yourself before once again jamming it safely into your walkman and letting it finish the "automatic" rewind process. Then after all that work was done you could finally listen to music! But only side A. When that side was finished playing you had to take the damn thing out of the walkman, turn it over and jam it in again so you could listen to side B. I mean, was this an actual thing? It was. And we did it with truly amazing patience when you think about it. Imagine giving a child of today a walkman and a cassette tape and see how long their I-want-it-now attitudes would last before all patience would be lost three seconds into the rewinding process. So obviously my eight- or nine-year-old self wasn't feeling happiest about walkmans, but music was definitely up there.
Walkman frustrations aside, music has always been a huge part of my life. I wish I could play an instrument, other than the completely outdated and embarrassing organ my mother made me play as a youngster. That absolutely does not count. I wanted to play a cool instrument, like guitar or the drums. Since I didn't inherit my mother's ability to play any musical instrument placed in front of her, I conceded to a lifetime of enjoying music through listening.
Another thing that has consistently been one of my favorite things is reading. Now that I'm back in school and doing so much reading for my classes I don't want to read in my spare time. It's probably been the most difficult thing for me to adjust to. So often I crave reading a good book but my eyes are like, "Do not make us read another word or we will jump right out of these sockets!" And because my eyes are so important to me I let them win, even if they are being a bit dramatic. But really all I want to do is read something that's going to grab my attention to the point where I can't wait to find out what happens next. And, as an added bonus, there wouldn't be a quiz or assignment about it after.
Back in that childhood den of a closet, there were days when all I wanted to do was draw. I'd draw out scenes from the Family Circle comics (Remember those? They were great.) or draw the covers of any of the cassette tapes I owned. I was never overly imaginative when it came to my drawings, which is why I'd simply find things to draw rather than come up with my own ideas. To this day, ask me to draw something and you'll end up with a picture of a small house, a pathway, some trees, a few clouds, and a sun. Maybe the sun will be wearing sunglasses. But that's about as much as I could come up with on my own. I just liked the feeling of creativity that came from drawing, even if it sucked.
But, above all else, my favorite thing to do was to write. It didn't matter what I was writing, even if it was just repeating some silly boy's name over and over again all over the page. I loved the smell of the pencil or ink on the paper and the feeling of a notepad in my hand. I loved the way my writing looked. The whole process was magical. I could spend hours in that closet, writing about anything and everything. Stories, poetry, ramblings, good or bad things that happened that day; it was the only way I knew how to truly be me.
Often I'd lay in my closet, listening to the music I worked so hard to play on my walkman, shutting out the whole world outside, picturing what my life would be like as an adult. Imagining how happy and successful I would be. Even thinking back on that vision now it sounds completely amazing!
Sometimes we need to remember those special dreams we had as children. Kids don't understand putting limitations on hope and it's unfortunate we learn to do that as we get older. If we're lucky, eventually we'll realize a dream is worth pursuing. And any limitation placed between us and that dream is meant to be pushed past.
Our younger selves are depending on us.