On knowing what you want.

I’m always jealous of those people who know exactly what they want. You know, the ones in your class who know that they love this, that they’re passionate about that, that this is what they want to do, what they were meant to do. The ones who know exactly what field they want to work in, in which role, focused on which particular topic. That when they introduce themselves, they can tell you where they’re heading because that’s where they want to be. They go around in life actively pursuing this goal. Maybe they have several. But there’s one that’s guiding, that they’re working toward, now.

These people exist. And they’re excited and passionate and determined and often insufferably happy doing it. And they are doing it. Moving forward towards something, whatever that may be.

My question is: how do they know? Is it something that holds their interest above all else? Do they understand themselves well enough to know that following this path will make their future selves happy or fulfilled, or whatever it is that they’re seeking? Or is it simply for lack of imagination? Of exposure? How do they know? There are so many things in the world. So. Many. Things.

How do you know exactly what one wants in a partner? In a workplace? In a career? Is it naïve to know exactly what you want with such conviction? Are you forcing your future self into a box, into an abyss from which you can’t climb out? Is it not crippling to find out that it wasn’t what you believed it to be? How can you want something so much without knowing what it truly means to have it?

Maybe all of this struck me too early. I wanted to be a scientist when I was little, specifically forensics, believe it or not – an investigative scientist for justice, if you will. This lasted for years. When I started to understand what that really meant, beyond solving problems and serving some sort of justice, but what that meant in the day-to-day, and realizing that that wasn’t something that I wanted, I was crushed. I remember going to my dad, nearly in tears, asking him what do I do. I had spent so much time focused on this, planning for this, imagining a full life. Of course, talking to a 10 or 12 year-old kid, he told me that it’s okay to change my mind. He’s had to tell me this several times since, but that’s beside the point. With seemingly nothing else to fill the void of this passing realization, I felt both loss and lost.

Maybe it’s something that everyone goes through. I feel like I’ve gone through it a hundred times over. It’s exhausting, mentally, emotionally, and physically. It seems as though I’ve flipped through the options a thousand times. Nothing seems appealing anymore.

So then, what happens when one doesn’t know what one wants? I’ve told myself that it leaves me open to more – more experiences, opportunities, people, places, ideas. That I’ll find something, eventually. But I haven’t. I can hardly articulate what I do, or say that I do it with “passion”. In fact, I cringe at the thought of saying so. Decisions are made based on seemingly fleeting desires and interests or what seems to make sense in this moment, or the next year. It’s a reasonable justification to say that you can’t plan for the next ten years, but it’s nice to have an idea of direction – that progress is being made towards something. Or maybe my type A-ness needs to take a backseat here. JUST LET ME LIVE.

Still, I’m jealous of the knowing – the knowing where you’re going and that you want to be there. Perhaps these people don’t feel so limited by their dedication to their “passion”. Perhaps it’s an issue of trusting yourself to know yourself and make decisions for your-(future)-self. Perhaps it’s not being intimidated by the investment, or the impending disappointment. Perhaps it’s something to work toward just to do something, moving somewhere. Or perhaps everything else is just alluring distraction and I’ve stumbled into a labyrinthine house of mirrors that only ends with me choosing a single image of myself, abandoning all the rest.

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