The Search for Professional Purpose


The Search for Professional Purpose (or Millennial Idealism)

Something I wrote a while ago but never posted.

What do I do with this precious and privileged life given to me. What can I make of it and how will I spend each day? What is pulling me forward towards dedication, love and energy?

This question bubbles inside me like a volcano of anxiety, thoughts gurgling and churning in to more and more confusion until I erupt in to fits of rage and desperation.  I always recover, waking up to believing I’m one step closer to knowing.

My ego believes there is a huge energy source inside me, untapped potential. Shame. All my amazing tangible and intangible skills wasted, idle, unchallenged. Am I not special? Can’t somebody just tell me what to do next? Where are you now that I need you? I sound like Justin Bieber.

I turn to Google – ‘Follow Your Passion, Multipotentialites Can Do It All, Millennials and the the Privilege of Choice.’ ‘Make 20k a Month and Travel the World’, Instagram stars, Youtubers… paralysis by analysis.

No passion to follow here. All of my interest are squashed by the intense need to be the best before I even start. I get excited at first and then expect gratification too quickly. I’ve already begun to judge it and I decide it’s not for me, never truly delving deeper because I’m concerned with gratifying myself rather than investing in my growth.

I can’t do normal. Perhaps I’m just too effing lazy. At least I’m not afraid to break away from the cycle and try something else with no guarantee. I’m not afraid to leap. Unlike the others clinging so tightly to stability, dulled by purposelessness.

The problem is, I can always earn money. Enough for groceries, gas and even a dinner or two out. I’ve got my handy-dandy gig, that thing that backs me up and hold me back all at the same time. That thing I’m so so good at, teaching tennis. I have pricing power, demand and unsurpassed expertise. It’s the thing that saves me from going in to deep depressive spirals. The tennis lesson that pulls me out of myself – and for an hour I’m an expert, fully engaged, dynamic and powerful.

If it’s so easy and I’m so so good, why don’t I just make a bloody career out of it? The obvious solution. I can’t allow myself to rededicate to this sport, not after all the pain I went through to disengage and redirect my life. So I’ll half-ass it and add it to my list of ‘hobbies’ along with all the other unfinished projects, ideas, blog posts, half-edited videos and e-guides.

They say it takes former athletes 6-8 years to adjust. “Adjust”- to what? Do we just finally give in to mediocrity? Do we give up and say this is what you are supposed to feel like – living for weekends and not pushing to our limits or being pushed to our limits?

But studies show just how bad we are at predicting our own happiness. We are so good at deceiving ourselves. We are bad at predicting what actually makes us happy.

We’ve replaced religion with meaning and purpose in the workplace. Achieve a higher purpose, find meaningful impact.

Sometimes I wish I suffered from some physical or mental ailment that would allow me to escape this self-inflicted pressure of ‘being something.” Is that sick? Does anyone else wish for a handicap to bail out of expectations?

Job interviews. “Excellent, interpersonal, entrepreneurial and leadership skills” true but resume jargon so my application won’t get trashed. They see Princeton, they see pro tennis. I speak well, I’m  professional. I’ve perfected this act. Of course they will hire me but I hate the job before it even starts. Consultant, Digital Marketing Manager… yuck. My body has a mini convulsion when she says 9-6 working hours. Why would anyone want to be trapped in an office for that long? I’m revolting to get out before I even begin. Hire me so my ego is satisfied. Please don’t hire me so my heart is relieved.

“Everyone hates their job, that’s why it’s a job” – every investment bankers mantra. “Being a loving good person and helping others is truly being successful” – every housewife’s hymn. I don’t believe either of them.

Back to the drawing board, where I’m so comfortable. Quitting another job, “It wasn’t what I wanted.” I love that feeling of being relieved of responsibilities. Why does it feel so good?

Quitting is the only thing I believe that gets in the way. Not conventional quitting (like all my jobs) but mentally giving up. Staying at a job and giving up mentally but showing up to work is worse than quitting and trying something new. The former is failure the latter is my path to success. I guess I just have to embrace the pivots.

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Neha Uberoi

Neha Uberoi is a mental health professional, social entrepreneur and former professional tennis player.