There it is: ever so small, but infinitely accusatory, incessantly blinking at you.
You’re sitting in the dark, the only illumination originating from the blinding white Word document open on your computer screen. It’s after midnight, and way too late for you to be worrying about this, but you have an interview next week and you can’t stop spiraling.
There are three empty lines left on your resume, and that damn cursor won’t stop blinking at you, like its sole mission is to taunt you. “Real bummer you’re not more marketable,” it says.
Maybe you should have minored in Business instead of Women’s Studies.
Maybe instead of going to that dance class on Wednesday nights, you should have joined the academic fraternity you were invited to, even though you really had no interest in it.
Maybe you should have skipped yoga, or spent less time playing guitar, or put down your oil pastels to do any number of other things that would have made you “more employable.”
Or, maybe not.
The closer we get to the end of our college careers, the easier it is to enter into full-tilt panic about what we have to show for the four years that are supposed to prepare us for the working world.
With every minute spent anticipating meetings with counselors in stark gray career centers, with every hour passed preparing for interviews where we’ll be vying for internships against 200 other hyper-qualified college students, it sets in a little further.
It gets hard to distinguish what is and isn’t important when everything you’ve ever done seems to get boiled down to numbers and high-impact short phrases: three-point-something GPA; President of XYZ Honors Society; Recipient of National Fill-in-the-blank Award.
I won’t tell you these things aren’t important—they are.
Someday, in the not-so-distant future, we’re all going to need careers. And for those of us who don’t have the je ne sais quoi to be successful bloggers or self-made Etsy entrepreneurs, that’s going to involve dress pants and interviews and, yes: high-gloss, painstakingly edited resumes.
Tangible measurements of your work ethic and personal responsibility will be of value to potential employers, and the late nights spent tweaking the phrasing of the words on that paper may become very important.
But at the end of the day, whether you become a boutique owner or a brain surgeon or a bookkeeper, it’s important to allow yourself to have something else—something unmarketable. So I challenge you this: pick up a hobby or a habit or a practice that no employer is going to give a rat’s ass about, and do it solely because it makes you happy.
Find something you love, and do it not because it will make you money, or look good on that resume, or have any other purpose than filling you with joy. Find something that feeds your soul.
Whether it’s painting tiny canvases of your best friends or writing haikus about every day objects or—if you’re a superhuman—running half-marathons, find something that most of the time you do it, it makes you feel a little bit better and a little bit more whole. If you’re really lucky, it might make you feel a little bit like magic.
If you’re really brave, don’t worry about being good at it either. Go at it kindergarten-style, and approach something you’ve always wanted to do with nothing but an open mindset and your best shot.
Julia Child will not hold you personally responsible for burning a quiche while you try to master French cooking—and if you get down on yourself, remember that nobody has ever had a skill without at least kind of sucking at it first (Julia Child included).
If you’re a person who’s planning on doing what they love for a living anyway, push your boundaries outside the professional arena—find a new love, or take some risks with the one you’re already pursuing.
Because some days, no matter how much you love it, your job is going to drive you crazy. And you’re going to want to have a corner you can retreat to regain your love for this thing that’s simultaneously separate from and such a big part of your self.
One of the coolest and best things about being a human (instead of an orangutan or a 170-year-old redwood tree) is the chance to experience real, raw inspiration—whether you feel inspired to create, or the pure act of doing something is what inspires you. The ability to connect to that feeling is invaluable, and it’s often something we take for granted and miss out on.
We get too busy worrying about being productive, and when we’re done being ultra-productive career builders, we’re too wiped out to do anything but let our eyes glaze over while we watch way more than what should be the socially acceptable amount of Netflix, and we shouldn’t be okay with that.
So here’s your free pass: quit something.
Stop going to the meetings for that club you hate; shrink the minor you’re not crazy about down to a concentration. I promise, the world will not implode. Brush up on your interview skills, practice your firm handshake, and the possibility becomes very small that the exclusion of one extracurricular will lose you a job opportunity. You’ll then be free to fill that time with something you’ve always wanted to do, or something you’ve always loved but can “never find the time for”.
At the end of the day, what you do and don’t have time for is a choice; how you spend your time is just an easy measure of what you’re willing to prioritize.
Amidst all the pressure of career paths and marketable skills and idea of being able to show what we’ve done to future maybe-bosses, it can become reflexive to stop prioritizing our selves and the things we do for no reason other than to make us happy, because those are the things we don’t have to report to anybody on. You and you alone are personally accountable for making sure whatever fire you’ve got in you stays lit.
Find something you love. Ignore the blinking cursor. Know that nobody but you really gives a shit if you can crochet a knockoff snuggie or hit the buzzer on the rock-climbing wall. Know that, and take relief in it; know that, and then go forward and love the thing with all you’ve got anyway.
Image via Kelly Marcelo