I spoke to prospective students and their families on behalf of my university’s business school last weekend. After my first session, a mother pulled me aside to first, congratulate me on my accomplishments, and second, let me know that she hopes her daughter grows up to be just like me. I understand that this was intended as a huge compliment but frankly, it terrified me. What about me should someone — anyone — want to emulate? Do I even want to turn out like me?
Admittedly, she only got to see and hear about a small fraction of my life in those four minutes I was in front of the room speaking. My shoes were great, my hair and glasses made me look clever, I was assembling a speech from dozens of carefully crafted phrases I had come up with the evening prior, and I only spoke on my most impressive achievements. Of course mothers want their daughters to have my resume and my vocabulary and my shoes, but my life? Surely not.
I am creative. I don’t have musical talent, I don’t have any painting skills, but I do have words. I am proud of the words in my head and the way I assemble them. I get perfect scores on thirty page papers and win university awards for the essays I write, but I am going to become an accountant. I will be sifting through spreadsheets and writing up little reports using lame, precise accounting jargon for, potentially, the rest of my life. I may be acting a bit ridiculous about this inner conflict I’m feeling. It may be a bit like thinking that everyone who enjoys baking should bake for a living. However, it may be exactly how it seems: a young girl with thoughts and feelings to share with the world who is settling for a job that drains her zest for life but pays remarkably well.
In less than three weeks, I will be going to watch Bo Burnham perform in San Francisco. He’s definitely one of my favorite comedians and I am almost uncontrollably excited for the show. I started watching his YouTube videos in high school. Since then, he’s had two shows on Comedy Central and is starting his second national tour any day now. The kicker? We graduated from high school in the same year. That doesn’t make me feel the least bit unremarkable. Anyway, it got me thinking about the way fame works. I won’t even bother trying to figure out how the vain and talentless manage to go so far because I personally have no idea, but for those with talent, I believe there are three paths one’s life can take.
First and luckiest, you get discovered by some bizarre chain of events and you are able to live off your talents and share them with the world. Great. Second, you become the starving artist—you refuse to give up your craft and barely get by for the majority of your life. Third, you have worthwhile artistic abilities but never expect to get that big break, so you refuse to put forward an honest effort to hone your talents and settle for traditional career path instead.
I do not believe I am in any way talented enough to be famous for it, but I can only hear “you should write for a living” so many times before I begin to wonder what the hell I’m doing in accounting. Maybe I’m in that third category. I’m just one of those people who are too rational to pursue a dream with the odds of success being so slim.
The title of this entry is as plain as it is because, unfortunately, answerless questions are all I have right now. No matter how much professors and family members and random mothers think I’ve done everything right, I can’t help but be scared that I made a wrong turn somewhere in life. I know exactly what I am going to do, but I have no idea what I want to do. I really hope I got it right. At the very least, I hope that that I haven’t missed my chance to get it right one day.