I sat alone in the parking lot under an overcast spring sky, reciting out loud what I was going to say, over and over and over, the same words spilling forth in my car. Finally, hands shaking, I dialed the number.
“I think I need to withdraw my name from consideration for this position.”
I had interviewed for a position that would have opened doors to further career opportunities; the manager and I got along great, and he seemed ready to hire me, but I had to confront the truth that I’d been fearfully avoiding for months: I didn’t want to be in this industry anymore. I wanted to be a music fan, but I didn’t want to be a music maven.
Heartbreak isn’t only caused by broken relationships, you know. Broken dreams can cause it, too. And I was heartbroken.
Because for five years, I had set my focus on a career in the music industry. I had done the industry internships, read the industry articles, reached out to the industry people, built a strong foundation in college that would hopefully prepare me for my first job.
And then six months after college, I received that coveted first job. But I was—and I say this with zero melodrama and a deep acknowledgement of my comfortable life—miserable. Not because of the company or the people. In fact, I loved them both, and I still do. It was a solid first job in the industry, serving me well as a springboard to future jobs with more responsibilities, like the one I turned down with a shaky voice on that cloudy spring day.
But why—when this was what I had wanted all along, when I had popped a bottle of champagne in hopeful excitement the night I received the job offer—did I feel so empty every day?
I had planned my music industry career because it’s what I thought I wanted, ignoring the fact that I love music simply because I love the experience. I was attracted to the glamour of the industry, to the idea behind it, rather than to the actual thing itself. How often do we do this in all areas of our life, falling more in love with the idea of something than the thing itself? How often do we let ego choose our careers rather than purpose?
It was hard to accept that this dream I was chasing was a misplaced one, a dream that was never truly mine. There’s something self-deflating about realizing that your dream—that thing you talk about and write about and imagine as your future—isn’t really your dream, as if you don’t really know yourself after all. And what is more unsettling than realizing you may not really know what you want? I mean, I am me and you are you, and we spend time in ours heads literally always… how could I not actually know what I really want?
But as a career mentor once told me, you won’t know what job you love without learning what jobs you don’t love.
And that first job provided me this experience, opening my eyes to the truth that this wasn’t my ideal career after all. So I eventually quit that job, closing the door on a dream I had held tightly to for so many years. Just like any goodbye, I questioned whether I was making the right decision and mourned the dream’s end, but my new path has offered me a purpose that was lacking in my former pursuits.
In my decision to quit, I found a freedom that comes when you open yourself up to possibilities beyond the narrow trajectory you’ve packaged your dreams within. Because maybe dreams are more a whisper than a shout, more a gentle wave than a whitecap. Maybe it takes wading through your false ideas about what your dreams should be to discover the quiet, yet authentic dreamings within you. We so quickly tag the word “lifelong” to dreams, thinking that anything less than that must not be legitimate, not recognizing that dreams are just as fluid and ever-changing as the heart that holds them.
You may land your “dream” job and realize it’s not your dream at all. As you change, so will your dreams. And that’s okay.
Photo by Emily Blasik.