What am I gonna do with my life?

“What am I gonna do with my life?”

I remembered those words staring at me on a paper, many years ago when I was 14 in middle school. It was at the slightly-annoying Career Guidance class where our teacher asked us to write our life goals and what we would like to be once we leave school and be grown-ups.

I gingerly wrote “art designer” because way back then I wasn’t aware that “graphic designer” and “art director” are two separate occupations, though closely related, and I didn’t know the exact terminology for the kind of job I thought I wanted…

The same teacher told me that she could see that I’m smart just by looking at my eyes. She said that one’s eyes are windows to the soul, and a measure of one’s determination. She might also said that we can be whatever we wanted to be, as long as we  try hard enough. I didn’t exactly remember how she said it, but that’s how I understood it.

The same teacher also put me to detention a couple times because I got busted drawing on my textbooks and notebooks while I should be listening in class. I can’t help it, it was a “commission” project from one of my classmates. I got paid in chocolates, candy and stuff. It was pretty neat for a 15 year old.

“What am I gonna do with my life?”

At 18 I’ve just moved to Melbourne, and I really wanted to study Graphic Design in college. I was one step away from securing my place – all that stood between me and me studying Graphic Design was one good portfolio – and at that time I didn’t feel my portfolio was good enough. It was raw, unpolished. I lack originality, I lack ideas… And they told me that every year the university would only take 10+ International students out of the hundreds of candidates. I chickened out – So I began to look for other options: Advertising. Media. Product Design.

I ended up a reluctant Industrial Design major, and learning graphic design on my own in my spare time. I was awful at it, but I kept learning. Halfway through my college course I lost motivation… I started to wonder whether I’m doing the right thing, and why it’s not making me happy. Despite all that, I managed to graduate top ten of my class. I was kinda scared of not finding a job, and I spent another 2 years studying Multimedia Design. Within weeks before my graduation, I got my first job as a graphic designer. Now I’m still working as a graphic designer slash art director. Oh the irony.

Did I regret it, not taking the chance to be in the Graphic Design program? Did I also regret not taking a Fine Art or Illustration degree instead? Looking back at everything that has happened, it was evident that everything worked out just fine in the end. Except there’s one thing that’s wrong with this statement… it’s not the end yet. It’s 2012 and I’m still breathing. I’m a lot older than 14 and I’m still asking…

“What am I gonna do with my life?”

It’s the same old question. It bugs me at night, it kept me awake, it kept me thinking all the time. I was scared because now I knew my answer. But firstly let me explain how I came to that answer…

I didn’t enjoy being a product designer – all the engineering stuff confused me… (though I always get High Distinction/A+ on all my CAD scores!)… I had a short stint at teaching, didn’t enjoy being a teacher either, I’m a shy person. I kinda enjoyed being a graphic designer but I’m not sure whether I wanna work for someone else all my life… I wasn’t sure what I wanted to be, when I ended up working in advertising.

It didn’t take that long to figure out I didn’t want to be an Advertising rockstar either… I can’t picture myself in 5 years still selling lies after lies and manipulating people, tricking them into buying stuff they may not need… telling them to be someone else they are not… all this time I was thinking, do I want to do this forever? Why am I doing this in the first place?

Sure it’s a good way to earn money, I’m kinda good at it (though I lack ambition) but I don’t know whether it makes me happy… The people in this industry, are they ever genuinely happy? Why is my twitter timeline is always filled with complaints and more complaints?  Is this time for another break from the ad industry? (My last break only lasted 2+ months, ha!) So what if I quit?

“What am I gonna do with my life?”

It brought me to another cliched quote:

“Whatever you do, do it with all of your heart”

Ultimately, I wanna do something that makes me happy. I’m easily pleased, and there are too many things that can make me happy… rainbows and puppies and whiskers on kittens among other things, but I recognized that I feel most happy when I’m inspired.

I simply wanted to be an artist.

I want to create. I want to make art for art’s sake, and I want to contribute to humanity in any way I can through my work.

All this time I knew what I wanted to be – I just don’t have the courage to take the leap of faith. It’s true that “Do what is right” and “do what makes you happy” – those two statements are always in contradiction with each other… but I now I can argue that whatever makes me happy will be the right thing for me.

I’m far from being enlightened, but I’m beginning to see the light…

“Wherever your heart is, that’s where your treasure lies”

(Random late night rambling after re-reading The Alchemist for the 2th time)

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7 thoughts on “What am I gonna do with my life?

  1. Mel…lakukanlah semuanya dengan sungguh2 dan berikan yang terbaik itu apa yg lu lakuin… at least lu gk akan sesalkan itu..
    Nb: lu skarang muterin apaan?khan dulu flagstaff garden..hehehe

  2. Mel, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I also still don’t know what I really want to do in my career life. I sure have taken a different path, really far from what I imagined in my childhood. I got depressed a lot seeing myself not making any significant progress. I tend to put the blame to my boss and complain about how company doesn’t have good intention on developing their employees. But, in fact it’s my own fault of not doing my own career planning.
    I always know that you’re a great artist way back in school. You can always find something interesting to draw about, even put me as the object of mocking in your drawings. You’re already an artist. You don’t need those fancy job title. What matters the most is do whatever makes you happy. People can say many things to you, advising you to do this and that, but it’s still your life. You should be the one who’s making the decision and bear all the consequences.
    Good luck, Mel!

    • Vid, thank you for reading and giving me your own insight. As for the career, It’s never too late to plan now and try other stuff, no? We’re still young! What do you wanna be when you were young?

      Yep… I’m an artist, but I’m still learning. I always feel that I’m not that good of an artist… I look up way too much. I need to find my own style, I definitely need to practice and experiment a lot… but aren’t we all like that? We see other people doing much better than us and we got discouraged. So yeah I’m still working on it and hoping one day I’ll get there (wherever I wanted to be).

      Good luck to you too! It’s always good to see old school friends reading my random stuff 🙂

  3. YOU STOLE MY DIARY AGAIN AND PUT IT ONLINE!!!

    O wait.. but on second reading.. this shouldn’t be my diary. I haven’t figured out what I wanna do with my life anyway hahaha..

    Congrats, by the way!

    Hopefully I’ll be in the same place as you now soon; knowing what I wanna do with my life….

    • LOL Did I unintentionally stole ur diary? I believe that everyone has a calling in life… But not everyone knows what their calling is, therefore there’s all those unhappy people doing stuff they actually don’t wanna do and thinking that “this is not myself”. We all go through a life journey to find our own calling, or something like that… which means don’t worry, you’ll find yours one day! Now I should stop being so serious all the time and trying to sound like a f*cking life coach cos I ain’t one…

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