Stop asking what our dream job is
Leave your lights on
Have you ever been asked the question "what is your dream job?"
Last week we were asked four times. FOUR TIMES.
And each time our responses were enthusiastic but different, and delivered more like the answer to a game show question: An anchor! A lawyer! A lion tamer! A freelance journalist who travels the world! A news reporter! Ooh, ooh, we got it: hosts of our own show!
But the only answer that actually felt right was: we don't know.
We don’t know if there is one job for us.
But when we say that, we’re met with the same look we get when people ask me when we’re getting married or when we plan on having kids, like they know something we don’t about the way life works, like they have The Checklist in their back pocket and are ready to whip it out and say, “but the clock is ticking." Somehow, that is considered a perfectly reasonable response.
And that's when we wonder if we could be using our time machine more effectively. Perhaps, to avoid conversations like this.
Yes, some people have one goal in mind and they pursue that goal like an arrow. We operate more like an explosion: pieces of ourselves flung every which way, some that will miss the mark and others that will hit a bull’s-eye.
But don’t confuse our shrapnel-like indecisiveness for idleness.
The decisions we have made consist of waking up every day and putting many wheels in motion. We’re interested in so many things that we have a hard time imagining ourselves doing one thing, let alone the same thing every day.
When we do become interested in something, it's all consuming. Opportunities have led to fulfilling jobs because we say yes. We lean in. We want it all.
And the thing is, we’ve become pretty good at whatever it is we’re doing.
We start to get bored. And we go on to learn something else.
Last month we were absolutely sure we needed to learn astronomy to improve our writing. Before that we were studying to be Scrabble champions. Next up: ukulele lessons to start a travelling band.
The tendency to become a momentary expert of something before its abrupt abandonment doesn't give us any anxiety. What does, is when we’re asked the question over and over again: what’s your dream job?
By now, we think you know why this question is problematic.
We feel like we are merrily floating down the river of life, enjoying the variety of opportunities coming our way, when someone puts a waterfall up ahead and tells us that if we don’t decide by 30 exactly what it is we want to do, we will go over the edge and it will be too late. We’ll be just another story of wasted potential, someone who could have been something great but just couldn’t commit to THE DREAM.
We worry that there is something wrong with us, that we will fall behind because we can't decide on that ONE THING. We can't declare to the world in big shiny lights, ta-da, drum roll, that our career choice is...
What is your dream job?
Life suddenly becomes a game of snakes and ladders and we’re slipping because we’re not working towards ONE THING.
We recently read an article that said you are the designer of your own destiny, and that you get to decide —you must decide, because if you don’t then someone else will decide for you. Indecision, it said, is a bad decision.
You know what we think about that?
We think your idea of destiny is bullshit. The idea that we need to figure out our one path, our one true calling, and ride it out until retirement drives us crazy.
It’s those expectations that ruin potential.
We thought that maybe one day there would be this magical fork in the road that would force us to make a concrete decision: do you want to go this way or that way?
Even now in our mid-twenties, we have encountered no such fork.
But after getting asked so many times about this “dream job," we started to think that maybe we couldn’t have it all. Maybe we had to choose one door. Walk one path. A stable 9-5 might make us happy. A job title without a slash. Consistency. A steady paycheque. Maybe it's time to put that one chosen career up high like a star on top of a Christmas tree and spend our lives figuring out how to get there.
But why can’t we have it all, try it all, be it all? What if a career is more like floating down a river than it is climbing up a ladder?
Maybe instead of asking what our dream job is, ask us if we’re happy? So long as the answer is yes, then we don’t see a problem.