T Nation

Decisions, Decisions

I believe I’m in the midst of an early-life crisis. Day after day, I find myself struggling to figure out what I want to do with my life. This is the first time I’ve gotten philosophical. It’s scary. I’d love to do something ballsy, like move out west and pursue my dreams. It’s just that I don’t know exactly what my dreams are. Sometimes I think I’d like to be a model or an actor like Brent Nelson. Or a writer. A comedian. Obviously, taking that path is risky.

However, the academic path doesn’t interest me nearly as much as it once did. I am sick of all the bullshit I’m being fed by egocentric and/or grossly incompetent professors. Course material is garbage, grading is arbitrary, and going to class and doing homework really cuts into my sitting around time.

But then I tell myself I’m being lazy. I should take those dreams and shove them up someone’s ass because they’re ridiculous fantasies. I should get back to school (I’m off this semester for medical reasons) and get my BA or MBA in Management. Fuck, I don’t know what I want or what I should do. Where’s the Paxil prescription? It can’t be very far off.

If you so desire to add some insight or attempt to crawl into my head, lovely. I think the mere fact that I expressed these thoughts to someone other than my dog has proven to be a carthartic experience.

Have you ever thought of doing a couple of years in the Military? I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life when I finished HS. But I knew I didn’t want to go to college right away. I joined the USAF, saw Europe, and twenty years later retired at the age of 37. I have never regretted it.

I think a lot of people go through this during the first two to three years of college. There seems to be two kinds of people - one is the kind that knew what they wanted to do from the zygotal stage and then there are the rest of us who don’t have a damn clue. Those that new what they wanted to do since they were a gleam in their father’s eye seem to do well in college because they have a purpose.

Me? I finish in the top 2% of my class in high school, score a 1600 on the SAT and quit college after two years, a 2.75 GPA, and a lack of attendance award. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, and I didn’t give a damn about college. I also had some depression issues that were partially related (and partially related to disowning myself from my parents). But I took a year off, figured out that a degree would beat working in a grocery store, got myself mentally healthy (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) and went back to school.

My suggestion? Go to class, do your work, go through the motions (if you do all of that, it is rare that you will ever get less than a C, and ‘C’ stands for “diploma”), get your degree in something remotely useful (or not if you think you’ll really enjoy English or Sociology) and then start deciding. 11 out of 10 people (yeah, I know that’s illogical) don’t work in the field that their degree was in, so there’s no pressure to get one in any specific field. If you find out afterwards that you want to specialize, that’s what grad school is for.

Also, ask all the questions you need to to figure out what you want to do. During college, I didn’t know how much I didn’t know, because I didn’t know, you know? :slight_smile: If there’s something that you think you may remotely be interested in, find out as much as you can about how to do it.

Also, don’t take advice from internet hacks who should be working out instead of typing you a message. Oh wait…

I think my biggest fear is that I’ll end up like my father. The guy is miserable. His parents wanted him to go to law school and he begrudgingly did. He’s very successful, but he hasn’t enjoyed a minute of his adult life. He hates being a lawyer. He’s now a finalist for a judge position. If he isn’t selected he says he’s going to move to a farm in Montana and fall off the face of the earth. Or something like that. I’m determined to not let that be me. Whether or not that will happen if I finish college and get a “regular” job, I don’t know. I suppose I can take steps to avoid my father’s fate. Yet, I still have these visions of greater things for myself, a life that doesn’t so closely resemble that of your average overweight, undersexed, cranky American male.

I’m in my 5th wonderful year of college. The reason I’m here for a 5th year is because I hate this crap and don’t do a lot of what I’m supposed to do (in order to pass). I can’t wait to get the fuck out of here.

However, I do like to work. I have interned with Black & Decker HQ for the past 3.5 years. I went back to work whenever I had any decent amount of time off: winter, summer, and spring breaks. I like working. I hate school. My mom has given me that “treat school like it’s your job” bullshit. Sorry, but that doesn’t cut it for me. Regardless of what grade I get, the world will go on. However, the opposite is true in “the real world”. In the real world people and your company depend on you, and that’s the kind of pressure I need and thrive on. But that’s just me. My GPA is a complete polar opposite of my true work ethic.

I guess what I’m saying is don’t think that because you are miserable or confused now in college means that you will be later when you finish.

Answers come with time and experience.

I’m about to graduate college cum laude from Miami University in Oxford, OH. Ever since I was little, I was going to be a doctor, a medical doctor. Well, now that I’m about to graduate, I’m not going to be a medical doctor. I’m starting my Ph.D. program at Washington University in St. Louis this summer. I went into college as an engineering major, switched to teaching, switched to botany, then added zoology, then settled with a B.S. in Biology. See how many times I switched? I also was thinking about a math major, a classics major (Greek/Roman lit), a psychology major, etc. It doesn’t matter. My advice is get an education, no matter what it is in. It shows you can think, whether you buy into it or not. Jared NFS was right. 2.0 = diploma Heck, you could even get on as an ROTC person, have them pay for your education, and then get to travel the world like Phatman said.

We all go through this, bro. Colin Powell spoke at my school when I was a sophomore, and it was such an inspiring speech, my roommate joined the Marines OCS program the next day. I would’ve done the same, but I am engaged and don’t want to put my fiancee through all the travel (and war now). If you want, you can PM me and vent or just talk. I’m open and honest, and have been through exactly what you’re going through. Stay strong, bro.

On the plus side - questioning is good. Take time off if you need to. The military is actually not a bad option if you don’t mind the structured environment. They will teach you a practical skill that you can then apply towards a career. Say, for example, you might be interested in becoming a doctor. But you’re not sure. Go into the military, become a medic. If you enjoy it, the skills you’ll learn as a medic will give you an edge in med school.

BTW - I’m a lot like your dad. All through high school all I wanted to do was go to medical school. But I hated chemistry and sucked at it. Got to college and thought that since I could not become a doctor, why not law? It was almost a career by default. Practiced law for 7 years and hated it. Two years ago I took some computer programming classes hoping to break into IT. Really enjoyed programming - a lot. But the economy tanked on me. Now I work for a legal publishing company. The good news is that I don’t have to practice law anymore. The work can be interesting at times and I get to work from home. However, the pay sucks. After all those years of grad school and all those student loans, legal secretaries make more than I do.

I believe that it is easier to get a divorce than it is to switch careers. But, if you told your parents (or most adults for that matter) that you wanted to get married at the age of 20, they would think you’re nuts. They would tell you to wait. Yet 20-year olds are expected to decide on a major. If they’re undecided or think about “taking break” they’re told to stay in college and to make up their minds. True, your choice of major doesn’t necessarily matter - if you have an unlimited budget for education. College costs big $$$, and at some point you’re gonna need to get out into the real world and make money.

Bottom line - if you feel you need a break, take it. Figure out what you want to do and start fresh. The sad thing is that there are lots of people like your dad out there. If I had to do it over again I would not have gone to law school.

  You mean there are more of Me out there? 

  What a relief...

  I went to college for 2 years. Aside from the girls, I couldnt stand it one fuckin bit. Liberal teachers, geek students debating who's the best etc etc...

  I also knew theres no way in hell Im going to be working a minimum wage job that I hate. 

  I knew I loved a few things:

  1.Travel - Italy, Australia, England, Florida, Brazil, Hawaii, Azores, Spain, Germany...
  2.Airplanes - I love flying and I love aircraft. Whatever I do for a career will either involve aircraft or be SWAT.

  I also knew I didnt want to spend 4 years in college working a crappy job. And I knew I LOVE working out, martial arts, fighting.

  Id met a few Marines and National Guards after 9/11, and I thought thats some real neat stuff. 

  So I put all these pieces together. Travel, Aircraft (not just any aircraft but the best in the world), girls, girls and more girls, intense physical training, and it was obvious what I want to do is join the Marines.

  With the high scores on my ASVAB I can join as a crew chief - the guy in charge of the whole aircraft, knows its systems inside out and repairs them. If you're a crew chief for a CH-46 , or a huey, you fly when the aircraft goes out on missions and you are the door gunner. 
  I can also choose to be a navigator on an f-15.
  Or Military Police. If you're doing a good job they'll offer you SWAT training which is not only challenging and neat, and its extremely valuable as most P.D.'s would love to have you on board.
  I could join as a Nuclear and Chemical warfare specialist (I think thats the title). I'd be the guy responsible for goin over to Iraq and determining if they have WMD on suspiciious areas or not. 80 grand/year once you carry that skill over to the civilian side.
  I cant be a pilot, but to state the obvious, any airline would hire you on the spot if you have military experience flying high tech aircraft, under the discipline and commitment of the military - and under stressful conditions. It's called grace under pressure, and it's what makes Marines with a skill that much more desireable than someone else with a skill.

  If you have a college graduate with a B.S. in Aeronautics, and he applies for a job as a jet engine specialist with only light experience from a 6 month internship at Pratt & Whitney; and another one who just came out of the Air Force, did 4 years active duty under the rigors of military life, who did his job wether it was in Germany , Spain, or Kuwait, and worked as a Jet engine specialist on a C-5 (the biggest plane in he US military, 2nd biggets in the world, 6 inches short of the antonov), which would you hire. Honestly? 

 Same thing if you'd like to be on a SWAT team for a P.D. Or if you worked as a counter-intelligence specialist in the Air Force, or the Marines.

 Obviously the Marines arent for everybody, but I encourage you to check out the 5 military branches: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard. If you're not big on getting deployed to the front lines or for prolonged periods of time I would consider the Air Force or the National Guard only. In the Air Force reserve youll have a short boot camp, get sent to a couple months training on a very valuable, highly marketable skill working with aircraft, building bombs, as military police (which comes with the possibility of going through Ranger training and wearing those cool ranger tabs), cryptologic linguist (the toughest job youll ever get, learn all sorts of languages and decode stuff), intelligence... Then come back and serve only 1 weekend a month, 2 weeks a year. Youll be able to volunteer for special missions which are mostly humanitarian, and most deployments last a few weeks in Germany, Spain, Azores, any AF base in the US, Japan...You could make a living from volunteering for deployments until youve seen the whole world, had chicks from every corner of the world, and said 'Its time to settle down'. Then you can find a high-paying job, settle down, and just stop volunteering for missions (which means youll be called only when needed - you wont be gone for nearly as long as the army and Marines, you wont be in the front lines or near them, eat better food, and be among the first to come back)

 Looooooooong post! Hope this helps!

I’m of the firm opinion that about 90% of all young people should NOT go to college straight out of high school. College is a great opportunity, and no matter what anyone says, the stats are clear about earning more money if you have a degree than if you don’t. And money DOES translate into happiness in life (up to a certain point, obviously). Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

I graduated high school at 18, screwed around working for a year, realized I wasn’t meeting any new women, went to college for that express purpose, stuck it out for a year and a half, then joined the Marines at 21. Four years later I got out and still didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I worked construction, did a little free-lance writing, temped, etc.

Finally, at age 27, I decided that since I had a brain I might as well use it. So I went back to get a degree in Japanese (which wasn’t offered so I went for linguistics instead). College at 27 was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life. The women were young (and smart!), the courses were interesting (whereas they’d been god-awful boring when I was younger, hmmm…) and the work wasn’t difficult at all. Whenever I saw my classmates (who were mostly 19) bitching about having to read 400 pages a week, I just thought of the 21-hour days I’d spent in the desert humping .50 cals around… Kind of put things into perspective for me. And I could see them fucking up left and right when it came to their classwork. Just a matter of maturity.

What it comes down to is: you can ALWAYS go back to school, no matter how old you are. And if you’re a little older you’ll get more out of it, guaranteed. So if you don’t know exactly what you want to do, hell, drop out and get a job for a while. See a bit of the world. When you’re ready to come back you’ll know.

Good luck.

Hey man, I still feel like that sometimes, and I’m down to my last two courses before I get my computer engineering degree.

What has kept me sane was looking around for other things that I truly did enjoy. I’ve taken creative writing, a ton of government and politics, history, etc. I’ll be taking grad classes in gvpt once I graduate, now.

But if you’re thoroughly disgusted with academia, college does afford you opportunities to explore all sorts of other things you might end up loving. Get out there and see what’s what, and see if you can’t make your life more bearable that way.

I still feel that way sometimes and I’m in my early thirties. I think everyone sometimes questions what they’re doing. Read Chris Shugart’s article, “Kill Yourself”, in one of the paper T-mags (number 7 I think). Your whole life’s in front of you. Things tend to work out for the best. Good luck.

CMC – I believe you’re asking yourself the wrong question first. Instead of asking yourself what you want to do, ask yourself how you want to live.

I always ask this of the college interns we get around here – How do you think the people who are doing what you’re in school to do live? The answer is always some distorted view, no where near reality. Here’s an example from the engineering world. A survey was taken at a group meeting with the interns outside the room: What year car do you drive? The data was plotted, with the average being 8-9 years old (not even a bell curve, more of a spike with a few outlyers). The data was then removed from the chart, and the interns were brought into the room and asked to draw the curve that they thought represented the survey data. They invariably drew a curve centered around 2-3 years old. These college guys thought we drove new cars!

What’s the upshot of this? Whatever you’re taking, go out and find some people who have been doing that for 10+ years. Look at how they live, not just their income (most any paycheck will look impressive to a poor college student). Look at their debt load, their family life, do they own or lease their cars, what kind of vacations do they go on? Are they happy? Do they spend enough time with their family? If you can honestly say you want that life, then fine, pursue your path. If not, you need to change.

That series of questions is only because you’re already on a path.

The better way to do it is this: Sit down and honestly write down as many points as you can on how you want to live. Free time. Income. Family life. Etc. Then go out and find the people that HAVE that, and pick their brains. You’ll find many different educational levels, ages, etc. But find out what they do and WHY. Then develop your path from that information.

And that list of points on how you want to live IS your dream, and is vitally important to your success. $$ isn’t success if you sacrifice everything else to get it.

Do you have passion for anything? If not, stop what you?re doing take some time and find something. If you have a passion and it doesn?t conform to your families beliefs Fuck them ?It?s your life not theirs?. Life is to short to be unhappy, you need to refocus your thoughts and direction then move forward. To change is not easy but it is far better than the miserable unhappy existence you see your father living. And, that is what will happen to you if you continue down your current path in life. Get your head right, set your new path and enjoy life until it is time to change again.
Good Luck and Best Wishes

To sum everyone up

1)Find a passion that you truly enjoy
2)Run with it. Do your research. Ask questions. People are actually helpful, you just have to ask.
3)Get an education in something, as it can only help.

Good luck with your decision

When I’m being logical, I know that finishing college is a good idea. I like the program I’m majoring in a hell of a lot more than others. But I still get these romantic feelings that tell me to pursue modeling or acting or comedy or writing; fame and fortune, however unrealistic that is. And it’s probably very unrealistic.

Maybe I should consider a transfer. I’d still be in school but I’d have the benefit of a new locale, professors, friends, girls, all that good stuff. I’m going to do some research. That reinstatement letter I have sealed and ready to mail will have to wait.


U know I just asked myself…
“If u had all the money u wanted in the world and spare time, what would u do?, right now?”

I didnt fuckin know…
(beside being 220 lb eith 3% BF and a 700 lb squat;-))
thats baaaaaaad

I guess we r in the same situation - And been in the army, and allready have my useless degree…

Its all goos bro. The great Roman philoshoper Seneca (sppeled good?) once said that a man would be happy if he did whats in his nature to do. I am going to learn meditation and find out what the is it that my nature wants.

dont think I helped but…


But I still get these romantic feelings that tell me to pursue modeling or acting or comedy or writing; fame and fortune, however unrealistic that is. And it’s probably very unrealistic.

Ever hear the expression “Don’t quit you day job?” You can pursue your romantic dreams while having a job to fall back on. Granted, many people say that once you get a job you’ll be too tired for anything else. Not necessarily true - if you keep working out and maintain your fitness you should have plenty of energy for these things. Consider also that Tom Clancy worked as an insurance agent full-time while he wrote his first novel. John Grisham practiced law while he wrote his. It can be done if you put your mind to it.

When I became a father I gave up on my dreams. Decided that I had to “grow up” and go to college and become a productive member of society. Big mistake for me, and I am paying for it now. Trying not to follow my dreams led me to failure after failure until I realized that by not following my dreams my life really had little meaning, other then my family.

People too often call something risky that might not be. The whole idea of investing is putting money at risk. A little risk means a little reward, and a lot of risk can mean a lot of reward. People would call paying $600 a month on a mortgage for a house they could rent out as being risky, while being willing to spend $400 a month or more on a new car that looses half of it’s value in two and a half years.

If you truly are interested in comedy, get your feet wet. Put some material together and go to a club that has an open mike night. Model? Send some pictures out to some agencies. I knew a guy who did modeling while working. (Guys don’t make as much as women though.) Acting? Maybe try a local playhouse.

I recommend going to the Donna Reed Festival Workshop. It lasts a week in Denison Iowa. They have professional actors, dancers, models, writers, producers, directors, and casting agents come in and teach people about the business. Just go to donnareed.org. (I don’t think this years info is out just yet, but will come soon.) I went in 2000 and 2001, and plan on going back this year.

These ideas give you the chance to try different things without committing. Nothing says you can’t do these things in your free time. Just try to imagine if you could do each thing for years. Too often people think of the money they could possibly make. There are quicker and easier ways to make a lot of cash. And there are a lot of professionals that make very little money, or a middle class income. You have to do what you do because you love it.

Last year I went to a convention for magicians, and they had a group lecture and discussion about the business side of magic. They all said you only become a professional because you love performing. You don’t get into it for the money. One of the speakers is a very successful part time performer, but his main career is a lawyer.

Now if you want money, get into real estate. Lot of money, lot of free time to do what you want. (If you do it right that is.)

From the Mage: “You have to do what you do because you love it.”

Wrong! Make sure it works financially first. And having to do something you love to make money is a good way to lose the love for something. Do what works financially (and gives you the frre time you want) for money, then be able to do what you love first class on YOUR time.

If you love what you do, and it works financially, then it’s not a job.