Monday, October 15, 2012

Never Settle For Mediocrity

I had awesome plans for this weekend -- a new recipe to try out, the N.C. State Fair, a Hinder concert, a picnic with my CUSA friends. In the end, none of these things made my agenda. Instead, I holed up in my apartment and pored over career assessments and personality tests. Lame, right? 

Certainly, other factors prevented me from going to these events (relatives and friends visited for a day), but I could've chosen to do other fun things during my spare time, like go on Franklin Street. I didn't, because I felt like I deserved to stay home until I figured out what the heck I'm going to do with my life. 

The Myer's-Briggs Type Indicator (note: my second time around), Strong Interest Inventory and Focus 2 Career Exploration alone took about an hour to fill out. And then, there I was, having filled out three assessments and then some, still without a single clue. My interests are clear: I love writing, psychology and helping others. I actually know what I want to do, it's just fitting it all in one career that stumps me. 

When the assessments failed to serve as my own personal Magic 8 Ball, I resolved to hash out a "life plan" for the next 30 years: what post-college degrees I would get, the potential publications I'd want to write for, the cities that appealed to my lifestyle. Doing this was supposed to make me feel more grounded, but all it did was make me more frantic. The what-ifs automatically began to form, and the big question mark still hung in the air. I felt like a mess. Surely by junior year of college, people should have an inkling of their future! 

But today on tumblr, I came across a passage that woke me from this naive perspective:

For more great quotes, check out my tumblr and #DailyWings

When I read this excerpt, I instantly felt peace within me. How beautiful words are, and how wonderful it is that the right words always seem to pop up when I need them the most. Perhaps this big old question mark isn't some puzzle to solve on a deadline. Perhaps the question mark is the journey itself, for if we choose to live every day not knowing what's ahead, then things will unfold as they were meant to. 

Had I planned everything out for the next 30 years--down to the very street I'd live on--then there would be no wiggle room for pleasant surprises and unexpected forks down the road. Each day would be geared toward fulfilling those goals, those career aspirations, until they were reached. And what then? My writing wouldn't be about the writing anymore, but rather would become a job that I'd planned for myself. Learning would no longer be about the learning, but a degree etched in gold on a diploma--just another line of text on my resume. Life would be mediocre. And I swore to myself that I'd never settle for mediocrity. 

Moving beyond a mediocre, day-to-day routine, I have devised a short list of to-dos (ironically) in an effort to brood less and live more.

1) Observe others. If people-watching was a career, I'd be all set to go. I learn so much simply by noticing the child walking down the street, tiny hand clutching his mother's pinky, and the man of Chinese-Japanese descent with fingers flying across the piano in Hanes Art Center. And by observing others, I realize I'm not the only one to feel the way I do. These feelings of uncertainty, fear and doubt--they're universal. 

2) Try something different. A few weeks ago, I wrote a historical feature for the first time. I thought it was going to be boring, but through my research, interviews and in-person observations, I discovered a whole new character within a place--something that never occurred to me could exist. Writing about these moments of discovery made me feel excited and alive, and that story assignment has turned out to be one of my favorites. 

Also, a couple days ago, I signed up for the Halloween House of Horrors blogfest. I have written scary stories before, but not "romantic horror." The story idea for this blogfest has yet to be formed, so I guess you'll just have to wait and see what I come up with on Friday, Oct. 19! 

3) Plunge into a challenge. It's no secret that I love NaNoWriMo, but I haven't officially won since 2008 when I was a junior in high school. The point of challenges isn't to win, but to see how far you can push yourself. This November, I'm pushing for 50,000 words. I won't settle for less. 

How do you spice up your life on a daily, weekly, monthly basis? Do you consider yourself a planner, or more on the spontaneous side?



Wendy Lu


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8 comments:

Lynda R Young said...

Oh! Good luck with NaNo!! I totally agree, it's about the challenge and pushing ourselves.

Donna Hole said...

Wendy Darling, this is a profound post. I love how you are searching deep within yourself to figure out "what makes you tick". No, nobody but you can answer those questions, and even you may scratch your head occasionally in wonderment at all you can be, and all you will be; and most importantly, all you have accomplished to date.

Not having an 'exact' life plan doesn't mean you are adrift. And really, these career and psychoanalysis tests just help you focus on yourself.

When I was 18 I took a career test that said I should be a mechanic. LOL, that was so seriously off; me and greasy, manual labor do not go together - even then. But what the test told me about myself was I like figuring things out, seeing how one thing interacts with another to form a whole; I like studying and learning new things; and I don't need to accomplish an end result, I just need to understand all the components.

Turns out those are all qualities inherent in a social worker. (Plus a healthy dose of nosiness.)

I don't know what your major(s)is, but I bet you cold do anything with your combined degrees from LCSW, criminal psychology, to pathologist. Your Bachelors, Masters or Doctorate will take you far because you have the drive to grow, learn, and become whatever. It is the boon of youth to be able to explore differing careers without "settling" for one. If you get bored in one profession, look around and find something else exciting. In today's job market, diversity of job experience is a desirable commodity.

That quote is awesome. I need to put it above my computer to look at when I feel a bit lost :)

Thank you for joining the House of Horrors challenge. I look forward to reading your writing.

.......dhole

Wendy Luane Barber said...

Hello Wendy Lu 2! Wonderful post. Yes, part of a good life is to enjoy the journey. Each day doing something you love or are interested in. Yay for you! I will also be joining you for NANO. It is a challenge and not a competition. You inspire me.

Denise Covey said...

Hello Wendy! Firstly, I'm so delighted you've signed up for our Halloween challenge. Can't wait to see what you come up with!
I enjoyed your post. I, too, am looking forward to my fourth NaNo!
I like to enjoy the journey of my life, rather than worrying too much about the destination. I love the quote you shared. D

Yolanda Renee said...

Nice to meet you Wendy, especially through the RFW challenge. I look forward to your post.

Finding the answers is all in the journey. Thanks for sharing.

Sarah Mcdougal said...

I love your blog! I am your newest follower and was hoping that you would stop by my blog and return the favor! ;-)

www.enjoyingtheepiphany.com

Thanks,
Sarah

Charmaine Clancy said...

Congrats on plunging!

Wendy Lu said...

Lynda - Thank you for stopping by and for your good luck. I need all the luck I can get, plus time and coffee and sanity LOL

Donna - You are such a sweetheart. You know, a couple of my friends call me Wendy Darling because of Peter Pan. :) I am a Journalism and Psychology double major. I'm doing my best to search the answers for those questions, but at the same time I'm trying to be okay with not knowing everything at the moment. And yes, the career tests did help me learn a little bit more about myself - nothing I didn't already know, but it made those things clearer to me. Thank you so much for your thoughtful advice and valuable insight...it means so much.

Wendy - So good to hear from you! Looking forward to NaNo-ing it up with you and the rest of the writing community! Today I
decided to buy myself one of my favorite bagel sandwiches - ham, egg and Cheddar cheese on a toasted tomato basil bagel. It was something small to help start my day off right, but it was still something!

Denise - Thank you, I'm so glad I found out about the Halloween House of Horrors challenge on Donna's blog. I just posted my entry last night (sorry for going past the deadline). It was a lot of fun to write.

Yolanda - I appreciate you coming to visit my blog! I've met so many great people through the RFW challenge. I'll check out your Halloween excerpt asap.

Sarah McDougal - Thanks, dear! I'll come visit you right now. :)

Charmaine - Thank you!

~Wendy

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