Know Who You Are

I’m going to make a first time attempt at something in regards to my blogging style. I’m going to try to be inspirational.

Anyone who has read my work on other sites knows that I don’t do inspirational. I’ve always viewed inspirational blogging much in the same light I view television. It’s a nice thing to have, and it can certainly help us find something to do for a short time. However, much like I’ll choose having slightly better quality food in my house over cable and Netflix, I’d rather make my blog posts thought provoking and fact-filled rather than inspirational. If my posts inspire you, great. If not, that’s fine too.

The longer I’m out of college ((I finished grad school in 2010 and my undergrad program in 2008)) and in the working world, I find that there’s a thirst for inspiration and motivation. This isn’t exactly a surprising finding in some situations, as employees are driven by what they need at a given time. For example, a new hire at a company has a desire for knowledge and a want to do and learn everything about their job. A talented new hire may pick up on things quicker than one with less natural talent, but with time it’s the want to seek out knowledge and obtain it — along with hard work and showing up — that can put someone ahead.

After a few months, the motivation to learn wanes. This isn’t necessarily because knowledge has dried up. I’d postulate that more commonly it’s because there’s a decline in the amount of information being learned quickly beyond the initial few months at a job. While the best employees and learners are in a constant cycle of learning, the sheer amount of knowledge we accrue when picking up on a task for the first time far outweighs the volume of learning that we acquire straight out of the gate.

My point to bringing all of this up is to address a separate topic — the concept of a quarterlife crisis.

During our teen years and early twenties, we’re experiencing great change on numerous levels. Those changes, be they social, psychological, sexual, sociological, economical, intellectual, political, or anything else that ends in -al ((I’m personally a fan of azimuthal, marsupial, and Weird Al)), impact the very core of who we are to the point where we may look back on our teenage self and wonder what the hell we were thinking. My belief is that it’s at that very point where we realize that we’ve changed so drastically from who we used to be that a quarterlife crisis is possible.

Take a moment and think about the person you were ten years ago. What words would you use to describe yourself?

If you’re like me, the words that you use to describe yourself ten years ago likely look very little like the words you’d use now. Sure, there are some traits that have transferred through time. However the current version of me wouldn’t blindly follow what my family says just because I’m related to them. By the same token, past me was blissfully naive of the pitfalls in the world around me professionally, personally, and romantically.

You’re not going to have a map giving you directions to for the route to changing into the future version of you. You didn’t have directions to change into the person you are now…why would you think that they’ll magically appear now that you’re older and wiser? There certainly are things that your education and life experience will better prepare you for now than when you were a teen. However, just like someone who has reached six months at a new job, you’ve learned many of the basics of how the world works. You’re still learning now, but you’re not learning the amount of information you once did. Your responsibilities and demands on your time, combined with your preexisting knowledge are all going to limit the volume of information you can learn.

For some people, that’s fine. For others, including myself, that’s an incredibly depressing concept. Not only are the demands of our lives limiting our growth in learning, but because of our very close proximity to ourselves, it can be hard to see the bigger picture (This sentence may or may not apply to you depending on your opinion of the existence of out of body experiences, which I find is directly influenced by which Jim Carrey movie is your favorite)). It’s the classic example of not being able to see the forest for the trees.

So how do we help ourselves see what we need to learn? Relentless self-inventory? Myers-Briggs testing? Peyote induced spiritual journeys while listening to Journey?

I wish it were a simple answer. If it was, I could be sitting at home doing nothing but raking in money from solving the complexities of life ((not to mention swimming in dollar bills like a cross between Scrooge McDuck and the Wu-Tang Clan)). It’s not that easy. Life is hard. Then you die. Inspiring, right?

What I do think truly helps is to find a mentor. Find someone who is wise about areas of life that you’ve identified you lack a skill set in. This person doesn’t have to be older than you (frankly, they could be younger depending on what you’re seeking mentoring in), however it does have to be someone who fulfills three qualities.

  1. They are willing to help you improve yourself as a person
  2. They are able to see who you are in the near-term and what you want to (and can) become in the long-term
  3. They are willing to provide that assistance through a balance of candor and support

Beyond that, what you seek out in a mentor is largely dependent on what you’re looking to learn. Have a child on the way? Seek out someone who has been a parent before. Trying to become financially stable? Talk to your friend who has their life together financially. It doesn’t matter if the mentor is someone you already know or someone who is just an acquaintance. If they’re willing to help — formally or informally — they can be your mentor.

You can continue to grow and learn as a person, just as you have your entire life. All you have to know is where to look.

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