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Gina Ciliberto Headshot

I Don't Know What to Do With My Life

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"I feel like I'm stuck in terms of not having a career, not having a path," said a friend via Skype. "I'm having a hard time figuring out what I want."

It wasn't the first time I'd heard that qualm that evening. Earlier, a different friend had expressed an identical sentiment: "I'm so tired of searching -- searching for a place to live, searching for the right career, searching for someone to love," she texted me.

At the core of most of my friends, myself, and Millennials in general, there seems to be this common, controlled lost-ness. We find it easier to rule out what we don't want career-wise than to pinpoint what we do. For educated, well-rounded humans, we shouldn't be so bad at discerning.

The problem isn't laziness: We're active and we're good at lots of stuff. We've been privileged to explore our passions and whims; our hobbies range from woodworking to mountain biking to taxidermy, all of which my friends seem to perform with surprising finesse. Our liberal-arts degrees boast impractical but insightful titles like "Religious Studies," "Conflict Resolution," "Philosophy." Our travels (read: "hands-on education") span entire continents. My friends have taught English abroad, studied everywhere from Argentina to Morocco to Mongolia, worked with apes in the African Sahara, started non-profits, written books. They are the most ambitious, engaged group of people you've never met. It's just that tunnel vision has never been their (our) strong point.

And, even as we narrow our career paths, presenting ourselves as prospective employees with direction remains a challenge. What are marketable skills derived from travels and humanitarian interests? Is it really useful that we can speak French, Latin, or Malay? Yes, I learned a lot from au-pairing in Italy, but does that make me a strong candidate in the professional realm?

I wonder if Millennials wouldn't be better off -- less stressed about our own lives and more attractive to potential employers -- if our options were more limited, if we weren't groomed to thrive on variety. No doubt, many of us have been enormously lucky to be able to pursue various passions throughout our lives; this post is not a complaint for that freedom. It is, however, a critique of the jack-of-all-trades mentality we've come to prize. We're passionate, we know who we are and what we like. But, I wonder if a slew of passions comes at a price in the professional world. For many of us, the question of where we want to end up is as mysterious as the query of where to begin.