Oh, the Places You Will Go: An open letter to those in a quarter-life or midlife crisis (Part One)

Oh, the Places You Will Go: An open letter to those in a quarter-life or midlife crisis (Part One)








“You have brains in your head.

You have feet in your shoes.

You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”

–     Dr. Seuss; Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

Before I begin, let me just say that this blog entry, and the two that will follow, are not for everyone.

If you have never hoped for your place of work to burn to the ground…this is not for you.

If you have never held up a verdict as a juror, just so you wouldn’t have to return to work…this is not for you.

If you have never prayed to break your arm on the job, gotten drunk during your lunch hour, or crossed your fingers to get laid off…then this is DEFINITELY not for you.

This time a year ago, I sat at a desk in an office where I was afraid to be left alone.  My fear was partially because of the mice which inhabited the office and partially because of the crack heads that frequently walked in from the street.  It would take me approximately 1 hour on Monday to complete a week’s worth of work.  The remainder of the time, I sat, I blogged, and I wondered how I ended up in my own personal version of  A Nightmare on 63rd Street.

I worked for a person who exemplified every quality befitting the spawn of Satan. He told me once that he felt “called” to be a public servant and unfortunately for me, I was there to bear witness to the making of a tried and true Chicago politician.  He was eloquent without substance.  He asserted his ideas without ever being held accountable.  What he lacked in integrity he compensated for in pinstriped suits and red bowties.  He was the culmination of everything that I hated about the field in which I worked.

I would sit at my laptop and look at its blank blue screen for hours, trying to retrace the exact moment where I made the decision to succumb to a career that had turned into a nightmare rather than one of my dreams.  And as much as I hated to admit it, I knew that I was completely responsible for my own misery.

 “I’m sorry to say so

But, sadly it’s true

That Bang-ups

And Hang-ups

Can happen to you.”

I chose the job.  I had options.  In fact, I took a five figure pay cut to work there.  It was the job that I prayed for while still in graduate school and now that I had it, it almost sent me into a full blown depression. In full melodramatic fashion, I was angry because I felt like I had done everything that I was supposed to do – go to college, go to graduate school, aim to be of service, buy a house and a dog – but somehow I ended up with the crappy end of the stick.  I felt stuck…no, I felt trapped, and I didn’t know how to see my way through my situation.   I was about to turn thirty and I was married with a kid – a quarter life/mid-life crisis could not have come at a worse time.

A part of me also felt duped.  I was the youngest of two straight – laced, tax paying, pension drawing parents who surely smoked their share of marijuana as teens. I wondered what I had done wrong.  I had smoked just as much pot and had just as much education.  Something wasn’t adding up.  Like so many others their age, my parents brought me up within a paradigm that would simply not exist by the time that I was their age.  This epiphany led me to feel both condemned and liberated.

I found myself at a chasm in my life.  On one side was the option to capitulate to my current career which would likely result in my moral decay, make me an alcoholic, but would give me a decent pension to draw on until one of our governors bankrupts the system.  On the other side was the unknown, which would either result in the realization of my purpose in life or would force me to sell my hooters for gas money or even worse…diapers.

In the end, I made the bet of my life by betting on myself.

“And when things start to happen,

Don’t worry. Don’t Stew.

Just go right along.

You’ll start happening too.”

The decision to follow my passion was not an easy decision…it never is.   The trouble usually is that when you make the decision to seek a life more worth living that you expect change to happen immediately.  And sometimes it does…but most often it doesn’t.

After months of doubting, praying, fasting, and listening I left my job.   As I walked out of the office for the last time, I expected the heavens to open up and for a publisher to seek me to write a novel.  Didn’t the writing world know that I was effing awesome?  That the next Emily Giffin or Elizabeth Gilbert was about to hit the scene?

Not quite.

The truth that I am realizing is that the road to your dreams is extremely difficult.  There will be more reasons to give up then to move on.  Like the Egyptians who reminisced on how good bondage was once Moses had helped deliver them from slavery, the security of your past can keep you from the promises of your future.

God and the universe will also test you, to see if you really believe yourself to be the person that he already knows that you are.  For that reason, believing in yourself – even in the face of insurmountable doubt – is the most important thing you can do.  When you begin to see yourself as God sees you, and as the universe has designed you, then miracles begin to happen.

“Somehow you’ll escape

All that waiting and staying.

You’ll find the bright places

Where Boom Bands (or Kanye West) is playing.

To be continued…

(Tomorrow’s Topic – Advice from people who changed their lives and paved their own paths.)


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  • This is definitely for me! I've done everything your intro lists except the jury duty thing (and that's cause I've never had jury duty! Lol). I can totally relate! Great (and funny) post! :-)

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    Kay Smith is a Chicago-based freelance writer and blogger who focuses on race, politics and urban culture. Having worked on public policy at the state, regional, city and community level, her opinions have been featured in the Chicago SunTimes and a host of news websites (under very mysterious sounding pseudonyms). Follow her on Twitter @kaywillsmith or contact her at kaywilliamsmith@gmail.com.

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