Ever encounter a blast from your past that you then discover is totally relevant for your future? I have. Yesterday I was digging through some old paper files and I ran across my "Candidate's Page" from college. Ever heard of that? Although I'm sure it is not required anymore, it was necessary to complete one before you could graduate from college. The instructions at the top of the page say it should be a short story of your life, listing your family background, your precollege education, personal achievements, leadership abilities, and work experiences. It should be typewritten and in narrative form, and is limited to one page.
As I read my words from so long ago, I immediately noticed three things. 1). I wasn't a half bad writer. 2). I was pretty focused as a kid. 3). Oh, how things have changed. Back then social security numbers were also your student id numbers, and mine is right on the bottom of the page for all to see (steal).
As I find myself at a crossroads in life, I thought it might be relevant to share some highlights from this old page that really hit home with me. Most people write letters to their younger selves, talking about what they'd do differently now that they have gained perspective. In my case, it would have been more appropriate to have written a letter to my future self, reminding me of what I knew so long ago, but maybe would forget along the way.
The first line of my Candidate's Page: At eleven I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to be when I grew up.
Don't you think it is kind of ironic that I chose When I Grow Up as the name of this blog?
The second line: I started my own newspaper and called it the Charlotte Street Reporter. It sold for 10 cents and folded after two issues. Not exactly the New York Times but... (I was a writer way back when, and Charlotte is the name of the street my parents still live on).
At the very end, after listing all my accomplishments, internships and work history, I say this:
Since I've been at CMU I've learned a lot about myself and how to get along with others. I've learned to be independent and to make intelligent decisions. I've also learned that my biggest goal in life is not just to make a lot of money, it is to find a job that I can do my best at and be happy. I guess I was a pretty smart kid at eleven, I knew that the writing field was where I belonged.
Talk about knowing what is in your heart from a young age....makes me wonder if I had uncovered this Candidate's Page a few years back, maybe my own words would have sparked some immediate change of direction in my life. Maybe I would have started blogging sooner, started re-evaluating my happiness, and began to figure out where my true path leads.
As I watch my own children begin to choose their future paths, I'm relieved to learn that at 20 years of age a person can indeed know what is in their heart. As crazy as that may seem, you can know even then, what makes you the happiest. The trick is to stick with it, and not to settle. To keep on the path of uncovering and discovering what makes you happy, even if ultimately that journey brings you right back to where it all started.
The good news: it's never too late for any of us to get back on the right path. It might be difficult, even scary, and totally out of our comfort zones, but in the end what if it turns out to be the best thing you ever did? Wouldn't that make it all worth it?
So "cheers" to my future self! To more writing, to rediscovering the passions in me, and to finding what makes me happy. The confidence, and optimism present in my words from 29 years ago is starting to bubble up to the surface. Watch out world, here I come again (or maybe finally).
Have you figured out your passion(s)? Please share them with me.