Life, identity and making choices

Post date 2011-11-14
Category Writings

Just so you know: This is a post from my unpublished archive. I wrote it in April 2011, but didn't want to publish it before I had some perspective. It is now November 2011, and after having re-discovered it it feels like something worth publishing, even after all these months. It feels like it'll be an important piece of writing for me to look back at in a year or so. It was fun to read this again - it suddenly became clear that I've learned a lot during summer. I've dealt with much of what I've written below already, and learned to appreciate life as well as cultivate my skills a the same time. Pretty awesome.

This will be a very unstructured rambling post about life, identity and making choices. I will try not to make it a "look at me, I'm awesome but sad because I can't choose"-post. I make choices, and I think about them, and I'll try to jot down some recent thought processes here. It's a post about work, and the meaning of work in life.

Things have been well the past months. After leaving IKEA for a job I didn't get, my freelancing got a good boost. Suddenly I had a bunch of awesome things to do. And I was able to go to several new interviews, for pretty awesome jobs. And still, I wonder: when is it good? When am I happy?

I got confused, I have to admit. I got to work on these awesome projects in my own business. I had the chance to take these awesome jobs at these awesome places. Should I? Should I not? Why? Why not? It all culminated yesterday. After going to a follow-up interview to get to know more about the most recent job - which seemed great, by the way - I really had to wheigh pros and cons. And worse than that, I had to try and compare lifestyle with lifestyle.

On one hand, a stable job. Secure income. Fun organization. On the other, freelancing. No regular projects or income. Very random things to do. How do you choose?

Having to face this made me realize that I've got an insecurity that I didn't even realize I had. To make it easier to understand, I refined my insecurity to two things:

  1. Work identity
  2. Long term goals

When it comes to identity, I realized that the decision was made more difficult by me not having - nor wanting to have - a proper "title". Depending on whom you talk to - or even when you ask me - I'm a programmer, a communicator, a project manager or even a photographer. But I can't choose one. This is awesome when it comes to making my own stuff - but absolutely horrible when it comes to taking a job. For one thing, it means I like doing everything - but isn't as good as a person dedicated to that one thing. It also means certain people tend to see certain sides of me. A project manager thinks I could become a very good project manager (if I fill in some blanks), and a programmer sees potential in me (if I decided to dedicate myself to it).

These are things I've heard, and yes - they're true. But I can't help but feel that I would do myself, my clients and a prospective employer a disservice if I suddenly became a specialist instead of a generalist. There has to be a place for someone who is a pretty darn good programmer and project manager. And LEGO builder. And interaction dude. And writer. And photographer. And... you get the point.

Sometimes it makes me feel like I've got awesome super powers, sometimes like I'm miles behind everyone else. I just don't know what to do with this, or how to best cultivate it. And that leads me to the second point: long term goals.

I have none. I've been living for the moment all my life. If I felt like doing something, I did it. If i didn't feel like doing something, I didn't. (Except if I had to because of work/school/something else - then I just buckled up and got it done, kicking ass on the way.) But what I now discover, is that I lack a feeling of purpose. I'm just not working towards anything.

This have had an immense effect on the choice between employment and self-employment. How do you know what suits your life situation best if you haven't decided what life situation you want? Here's a hint: you can't. I figure if I work out my long term goals I should discover what my ideal life situation is, and what jobs (and thus, work identity) helps me achieve that. Here goes nothing.

Oh, and the job? After thinking about it really, really hard, I decided not to take it. And felt like an ass doing so. You know when you date a girl, kiss her and have taken her bra off, and she says she loves you? And you say "Baby, I like you but not that much"?

I was that guy. And the job that girl. Let's make sure that doesn't happen again. Time to think things through, for real.