If you’re not growing, you’re dying.February 19, 2009
That is how I made my first ever big post-college career decision this week: by reminding myself of a friend who told me once: “If you’re not growing, you’re dying.”
Well, I started my job hunt. I looked at some really interesting jobs with the federal government, a couple awesome think tanks, a couple political magazines that I love. I started applying for some, but still had this nagging sense of anxiety about the whole thing.
Learning to embrace uncertainty and instability is probably one of the hardest lessons I have had to learn the last few months. Because the one thing no one tells you about graduating from college is that it requires this whole shift in your mindset of the last 15 years: there’s no straight, narrow, certain path anymore. Your whole life is sort of open and uncertain until you make the conscious decision to do something that makes your life more stable (get married, pick a more permanent job, buy your first home…).
And that creates a comfort zone. Things are stable(r). You know where you’re going, which can be great for some people. Probably not for me though.
While I was feeling all this pressure to keep up with my friends and their Big 4 interviews and career fairs and whatever, I had the exciting realization that I have the whole world at my feet and all this time for my own adventures, to really do what I love. It doesn’t have to be scary to have your life seem uncertain; it can be really exciting.
So that is why I stopped my job hunt for now, stopped scouring job ads every day and agonizing over cover letters — for now at least.
Because in June, I am thrilled to be moving to Cambodia. And I’m putting my ass on the line for a startup NGO that I will be working with for 4 months.
(If you want to hear something really entertaining, you should ask me what happened when I called up my parents and told them my decision. All they heard were the words “startup,” “NGO,” and “cambodia.” Three things that make them think: our daughter is crazy. When people tell me I am crazy though — which happens often– I usually take that as a good sign.)
There’s nothing at all stable about it. I am going to pack two suitcases and move to what my parents consider a “third-world” country. There’s definitely nothing stable about working for an NGO still in its first year, that is in desperate need of revenue. I’ve read enough of other people’s cash-strapped startup tales to know that this is a risky decision — but also one I know I won’t regret. Because at the end of the day, I am so excited and passionate about the decision I’ve made. And if you’re not passionate about what you’re doing, why even bother?
I don’t really want stable, I want to live on the edge. I want to take risks with my life, and turn them into huge learning opportunities. I definitely don’t want to look back some day and regret that I didn’t do something crazy when I had the chance.
If you’ve established a comfort zone, it’s easy to just chill there. It’s fun, kind of. But boring. So get out of it — because if you stay there, you’re not growing, you’re dying. If you’re hanging out with the same people, doing the same routine every day — do something new. Do something crazy. Do it because you know you will grow from it, not just for the sake of your resume. And if you don’t want to grow, something is wrong with you.
So yeah, my wonderful, good, stable parents are worried because they don’t know where I’ll end up. And they definitely think that I am “lost” on my way to my real career.
But I have to say… eff destinations. I’m in it for the journey.
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