There’s a market built on telling millennials they don’t spend enough money. There’s this idea out there that the only way you’ll figure out what you really want out of life is if you go on a daring adventure.I don’t know about you, but I’m young, broke, and in debt. I can't afford that.
I graduated college in 2015 with a degree in English literature and a minor in web development from a tiny college of little renown. I’m good at what I do, but so is almost everyone else in my field. I’d love to be a digital nomad at a coffee shop in Peru, but instead I’m sitting in front of my five year old relic in the middle of Wisconsin. I'm doing literally anything I can do for money and hoping it’ll be enough to pay for rent, food, and student loans.
If I could do anything, I'd spend the next few years living on the road. But I’m going to sign a new lease by the end of January. I'd love to make my living just off from writing online, but I’m still applying for every job I qualify for. I’m dedicated, but I’m tired. I want more out of life, but I’m trying to cut back. I’m a minimalist, but I can’t afford to get rid of my excess. I want to prove that I’m a success, but I’m afraid. My life is full of paradoxes, and that’s perfectly okay.
Life Rarely Makes Sense
I remember when I had a plan. I was going to go to college, get a degree, go to grad school, and teach English. Then I realized I could make more money at a call center then I could as an English teacher, and my path became a lot less clear. For a while I wanted to be a journalist. I researched careers, applied for internships, and visited grad schools that all promised a solid entrance into the industry. Then I remembered that I’m an introvert, I care a lot more about telling stories than I do selling headlines.
And so, as a compromise, I became a copywriter and blogger. Doesn't make much sense, does it? I’ve written everything from vacuum cleaner descriptions to porn transcriptions, and you can find my byline work everywhere from Order of Man to Elite Daily. I broke my self-imposed ban on social media in order to reach out to readers, and I pride myself on my skills as a content marketer. The money is horrible — just like teaching — and I spent a lot of time marketing headlines instead of telling stories, but it feels like a good fit.
You’ll find that the path to success is rarely direct. Making money is hard, and making money doing something you enjoy is even harder. Sometimes it takes shifting the paradigm to make bad work feel good, whether it’s within the career you want or within the career you’re forced to work. The difference between a side-gig and a work of passion is how far you’re willing to go. For me, the things that pushed me away from careers in journalism and teaching aren't that bad when I'm my own boss. It turned out that it wasn't the work that I hated; it was the atmosphere.
I’ve been lucky enough to have already had all kinds of crazy adventures, and I can guarantee you that I wasn’t the instigator of most of them. It makes for a great story when you pretend that you were in control, but very few people actually know what they're doing. We have a fair idea of what we’re supposed to be doing, and a fair idea of how things are supposed to turn out, but connecting the dots is a pretty chancy affair. Accepting that uncertainty is the first step to truly testing your limits.
We’re sold the idea that the only way to explore your dreams is to indulge yourself. But when you’re struggling to make ends meet, it feels like your dreams are as far away as the moon. There are more places you can find yourself than the Bahamas. Sometimes it takes putting your shoulder to the stone where you are to find out what you really want out of life. Other times, you need to grab chance by the tail and see where it will take you.
Six months ago, I had no idea that I'd end up in Wisconsin doing the kind of work I'm doing now. Six months ago, I was working at a grocery store and drinking every weekend. All I wanted to do was forget the fact that I didn't know where I was headed. Now, I embrace that uncertainty; it motivates me.
Accept the fact that there will be uncertainty in your life. There’s no way around it. There's no such thing as 'simpler times,' either. My mother’s mother was born in a tent. My father’s mother was born in Denmark and didn’t speak a word of English when she came to America. Do you think they had it easier because cellphones weren't around yet? They didn’t succeed because life was simpler; they succeeded because they accepted uncertainty and worked their way through it.
I don’t know where I’ll be in ten years, but I do know who I’ll be. I’ll be someone who strives to be the best version of myself. Someone who writes, communicates, shares, and educates. Someone who can look at their daily life with pride, even if I’m surprised by where I am today. Sometimes we have to work jobs that aren’t our passions. Sometimes we have to put our shoulder to the stone and push when we don’t even know the hill we’re climbing. But the only way you can find clarity in your life is to improve yourself.
Life doesn't have to make sense. You don't have to live a 'traditional' life just because it looks simpler. Find the job you're passionate about, live where you want to live, do what you want to do, and embrace uncertainty. Goals are great, but its how you live your life every day that defines you.
I’m an existentialist and a stoic. If you ask me for advice, I’m going to tell you to Do Things and find virtue. I’m going to tell you to read Nietzsche and Camus and Aurelius and learn the value of quiet confidence and absolute self-ownership. I’ll ask you to think about the role that your ego plays in your emotional state, and how feeling slowly can help you feel deeply.
I’m in the same boat that you are. I’m a young and stupid millennial blogger trying to make sense of life by writing about it on the internet. I have a vague idea of what I’m doing, but I have no idea where it's going to take me. I can’t give you answers, but I can share with you the questions I’m faced with along the way. I'm here to talk about life and the way we live it, and how it rarely makes sense. The jobs we do, the relationships we have, the things we buy, the dreams we dream; it's all illogical.
But that's okay, because this is an illogical life.