The following is a correspondence between a reader and myself, with some additional thoughts. Edward chose a path in animation but recently discovered his passion was no longer there, and now he faces the choice of abandoning everything’s he built up until now if he chooses to venture on a new path.
Hello, my name is Edward, I’m from England and I’m a fan of yours. Being white and uncoordinated I was looking up ways to dance in clubs without embarrassing myself and I stumbled across your videos, and subsequently your blog. Your articles and your sunscreen video are a source of major inspiration to me, and lead me to question the way that I am leading my life, which I can’t thank you enough for.
I’m contacting you today because I’m looking for some guidance. I realise this isn’t your job or what you do and that you don’t know me from Adam (or I, you), but I am very interested in your outlook on my situation. Will you hear me out? If not, just ignore me, I won’t take it personal. I understand that this is all a little long winded and probably boring, but if you have the time I could really use your advice.
This is the bare bones of my situation;
I’m currently in the first year of an animation degree course. Three years ago I decided that I would become an animator. I made it my goal in life, and I was fixated on achieving it. I successfully made it into one of the best animation courses in the country and I am on the road to my goal as I planned. But once I made it onto the course and began in September I’ve been feeling my passion for animation slip away. Looking back I came to realise how my choice to pursue this dream was motivated only by the fact that I was scared of being a nobody and just drifting through life.
I haven’t been enjoying the course, but I’ve been lying to myself that I have. I’ve pushed through but I’m beginning to see the life I would have as an animator as undesirable. I’ve simply ceased to feel as though it is my purpose in life. I keep telling myself that my passion will return but the longer I cling on to my denial the more I wonder; am I just settling for animation? Just because ‘it’s the route I’m already headed down’ and ‘I’ve invested too much to quit’? I was scared of drifting through life, and now I realise that all I’ve done is determine the path I’m being swept down. I thought I was following my dream but now I realise I’m just settling.
I’m very happy with my life in the town where my uni is, but deep down I know that animation isn’t my dream anymore, which saddens me. For the first time in years my future is suddenly up in the air and I realise that I may have no other choice then to ‘start all over again’. Have you ever pursued something a dream and when it was in your grasp realised that the journey to get there had changed you and what you wanted so much so that your dream wasn’t even desirable to you anymore?
Thanks for putting up with reading that, I’d really appreciate a response – I’m not expecting you to magically make everything simple or solve all my problems, I just want to know what you think about it, as a person who also chases his dreams. Thank you.
Below is my response:
Believe it or not, I trained in computer animation when I was in second year university. I was doing an engineering degree, wanted more creativity, and gave it a shot. I co-oped in the industry, found out it was a labor farm and not as creative as I thought it would be, and decided it was not for me. However, now that I do my own video projects, animation is much more interesting.
From my point of view, wanting to change when you’re only in the first year is a fantastic realization. I painfully trudged through my engineering degree, and to this day, I still carry some regrets on not changing out. I also carry the weight of staying in a job I didn’t like for many years, which I will blog about in 1 or 2 articles. Obviously, I don’t use almost anything I learned in school, and have carved my life out of whatever I set my heart to.
If you don’t know what to do, which many young people don’t, knowing what you DON’T want to do is just as good.
Before you embark on any path ask the question: Does this path have a heart? If the answer is no, you will know it, and then you must choose another path. The trouble is nobody asks the question; and when a man finally realizes that he has taken a path without a heart, the path is ready to kill him.
– Carlos Castaneda
All the best,
My additional thoughts:
There’s a well-known factoid that we’re supposed to change careers 7 times in our lifetimes, but from my point of view, especially from people who have specialized post-secondary educations, it’s closer to zero. Maybe you’ll switch departments, switch companies, or move to a dreaded (but well-paying) project management role, but for many, it all leads towards some form of monotony. If you’ve ever watched the cult film Office Space, and noticed a scary resemblance to your own office life, then you’ll totally understand.
Here’s the situation breakdown. You picked a path, built up so much momentum that it becomes seemingly impossible to turn back. Edward’s lucky. From my point of view, he’s pretty young and smart for that matter to take notice he’s headed towards many years of unhappiness. When I was his age, I saw my department councillor to discuss if computer/electrical engineering was right for me. The problem is, she also graduated from electrical engineering and did and couldn’t give me any straight answers. I think if she just told me something cliche but meaningful like “follow your heart and the rest will follow”, I may have charted a new route, though of course, I was admittedly leaving my fate on the tip of someone else’s tongue.
Similarly, I can’t tell Edward what to do. He has to take responsibility for his own decisions. I can only share my own experiences from an action point of view.
What about you? Perhaps you can’t just jump ship right away.
It’s hard. I’ve heard it before. I once had a close colleague who tasted entrepreneurship before in her teenage years and frequently tinkered with the idea of starting up again at the water cooler. When I parted ways from the company, I sought solace by asking her when she was planning to go out on his own. Her response? It’s hard.
I totally understand. As you read in my response, I didn’t break free for a long time. To be fair, I had many, many things going on the side, though engineering still consumed 80% of my attention. I seriously built up my life as a Dilbert replica, from good grades to a good education to a good company, which you’ll read about more in later posts.
So perhaps you can’t jump ship quite so quickly, but if you have the option, recognize it as a rare opportunity. You do, however, have to start investigating new avenues. Just the searching part alone will reinvigorate your soul and you’ll be happier immediately.
Don’t waste any time weighing the pros and cons if your heart has already spoken. As Edward wrote, don’t lie to yourself and deny your heart. Start moving.
Edward’s follow-up I received today:
Thank you again for the guidance you gave me the other day. I want you to know that I have since taken action and have quit my course, signed off, handed in my student card and threw out most of the work I didn’t need any more. I did all of this with a smile on my face. I was quite shocked by some people’s response to my quitting, most people have been really good about it. My tutors said ‘Good for you, that’s not an easy decision to come to and there will be people in your year now feeling the same way who won’t have the courage to quit and will finish the degree realising only then that they don’t want to work in animation’.
I don’t know where my life is headed or what will happen next, but I know now that it doesn’t matter, I’m not headed down the wrong road and if I keep searching the right one will present itself to me one day. Until then, it’s just important to enjoy the ride. I’m taking a train home soon to go and tell my parents what I’m doing, although I’m dreading it slightly, I have confidence in my decision, and that’s a kind of stability in it’s own way.
Rarely do I see people express discontent and follow through with taking action about their life situation. I truly believe Edward’s got many special things lined up for him. Perhaps you’re in the same boat. If you are, I hope our stories make you take a good look at where you heart wants you to go.
Beware what you set your heart upon, for it surely shall be yours.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson