Today I had lunch with a friend who reminded me that the majority of people never figure out and do what they want to do. Instead they are caught jumping through a series of hoops and ticking off a series of socially-approved boxes. Get into a good college (Ivy League). Get a prestigious high paying job (tech, wall street, consulting, law, medicine). Get graduate degrees at prestigious universities (MBA, JD, MD, PhD). Get another higher paying prestigious job (in the same industries). Buy a house, nice cars, fancy expensive clothes, the newest tech gadgets, a yacht or whatever other status symbol is most relevant in your social circle. Get married and have 2.5 kids.
Perhaps at some point, wake up with a mid-life crisis because you realized, however briefly, that you have been living someone else’s life, living by someone else’s rules and desires. And then you buy your fancy new car/vacation home/trophy wife and go back to burying these uncomfortable thoughts and just living as though in a dream.
Part of growing up is coming up with your own set of boxes to tick. Part of growing up is recognizing that what society says you should want, what your parents say you should want, what your friends say you should want, what the media says you should want, these are all separate from what you ACTUALLY want, and what would actually make you happy and fulfilled.
Don’t sleepwalk through life. Wake up. Confront uncomfortable truths. Take risks and experiment with what you might enjoy and what you might find fulfilling. There is no safe path. The “safe” path proscribed by society is the one guaranteed to land you into a midlife crisis. Do not be the lemming that follows the herd off the cliff. You can see the cliff coming up. STOP. Go a different direction.