The question comes up year after year. The one which excites you as a small
child. The one which seems to hold unknown opportunities: “what do you
want to be when you grow up?” For a long time, I answered this question
with the first thing that came to my mind. Originally, it was a baker, then for
a while it became a pediatrician, and since the last couple of years, it has
been a shameful “I don’t know“. The tired question has
turned prospects that excite me into ones that confuse and overwhelm me.
Suddenly, what I am going to do with my life has become a competition with an
arbitrary deadline to meet.

I am currently seventeen years old, going into my last year of high school.
It seems natural that I would have an inclination to the general field I may be
interested in — medicine, law, engineering, business, design, etc. And, of
course, I have thought about every option, ruling out some along the way, but I
still am not certain about the path I will take. I have seen the same anxiety
surrounding this decision on the face of some of my peers and friends,
especially when there are teenagers with their entire career path and
retirement plan sorted out. I am here to assure you though, that no matter how
behind you may feel, no one really has anything figured out.

I guess the divide comes in what people say they will do and what
they will actually go on to do. I have heard the same ambitions again
and again: neurosurgeon, anesthesiologist, cardiothoracic surgeon. I may be
biased because of the community I am a part of, but where are the kids saying
they want to be a stock clerk, a medical assistant, or a marketing specialist
(some of the most common jobs in America today)? There is that divide. Across
the course of receiving an undergraduate degree, 80% of students will change
their major at least once. This is not to say that 80% of people cannot
accomplish their goals, rather they may have simply changed their mind and
discovered that it takes experience to realize what they are cut out for.

I have nothing figured out… and I take pride in that. Although it is scary
to admit to the expecting adult expecting on the other side of the question, I
am working on accepting it instead of feeling ashamed. I know they are waiting
for me to say that I want to be a doctor just like my grandfather, and my
father, and my brother, but not meeting their expectations is just another
opportunity to change the world in my own separate and unique way. I want to be
an example to the teenagers who are scared to say “I don’t know”, or
even to admit their true passion. Life is too short to go around adhering to a
norm when there are so many other possibilities out there. The girl who wants
to be a gynecologist may become an RN. The guy who thinks computer engineering
is his passion may find a love for law. Your friend who has their life planned
to the tee may change that plan five times before settling. You are not
inferior to those with a ‘plan’, you are aware enough to know that making big
decisions like your career choice are ones that will take plenty of ventures,
knowledge, mistakes, and changes. No one writes your life story except you. I
personally am sure about only a few things: 1) I have high ambitions and
expectations for myself, whatever I do I want to be great at it. 2) I want
to help people and make a difference, which I understand can be done through
many avenues that I have not yet explored. And, 3) I have skills and interests
which will lend themselves well to certain fields, but I am not obligated to
put these into a precise plan to share with the world. That is it.

Thinking about your future should be exciting and fun. When it becomes
stressful and you feel the weight of the next ten years crash down on your
shoulders at once, take a second to step back. You have plenty of time not only
to build a successful career but also to build a character that you are proud
of. No matter what you end up doing in life, merely ensure you are doing it for
the right reasons and with a passion that comes directly from your own heart.
And, if you are not yet sure what that passion is… the world doesn’t end. We
must first discover ourselves before discovering how we will contribute to this
spontaneous, messy world.

Happy Living x

“I stopped caring what other people thought of me when I realized most
people don’t even know what to think of themselves.” -Kylie Francis

Published by Ria Pai

Hi let me introduce myself. I was born and have lived my entire life in a beach area as a child of two amazing parents who immigrated to America from India. I love art, music and writing so I try to combine the three. I enjoy deep conversations on a number of topics from politics, to friendships, to fashion. I’m a natural perfectionist, but sometimes find this to be a bit overwhelming. I love mangos, dark chocolate and tea. I make art whenever I get the chance…painting, songwriting, dancing, and writing are all forms of art to me. Since I live in a warm area, I cannot stand any weather that is below 60 degrees Fahrenheit and always find a way to swim in anything from pools to the ocean. I have one dog, a Lhasa Apso who I am envious of because he does nothing but eat, sleep, and lay around all day. I experiment with my style. I am horrible at geography and sitting still, and it’s not uncommon to find me with paint all over my hands. I like to wear bold clothing and I always find a way to wear the same white sneakers with any outfit I can. Hi, my name is Ria, nice to meet you.


  1. Dear Ria, Bravo! No, you don’t have to know all the answers! Have fun exploring. If you want a more guided exploration, I can suggest a great book “Designing Your Life” (Burnett, Evans) It’s actually a course at MIT. They also sell a workbook. I used it for my retirement planning. I also highly recommend any book by SARK, but her revised latest book is about to release, “Succulent Wild Woman”. She’s highly inspirational. Hope these recommendations help! Sending love-Sandy


    1. Hi Sandy!
      Thank you for your kind comment. I will definitely check out the book recommendations, they sound wonderful. I am glad you are enjoying reading the blog posts 🙂


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