I might have control issues.
I whipped my eyes left to right, and back again across the screen, scrolling down as I absorbed details about the implications of the tarot cards drawn before me. My lack of self-trust and surrender sometimes leads me to seek comfort and a sense of control through the occult (false or not, I don't think it really matters if things are just gonna go how they're gonna go—but it's basically a xanax substitute). Last year I was going through various crises and began integrating tarot into my morning routine. One morning, I observed that in all of the resources (blogs/readings/etc), the explanations were broken down into two categories: love and career. It made me wonder, "is that all we're reduced to? Is this what life is; an obsession with being loved and making money?" I guess the trend could be attributed to both experiences impacting our chances of survival, and having elements outside of our control (read: other humans). As a result, people feel a stronger need to understand what the heck is happening with that fuckboi/hiring manager who hasn't replied. You're probably not going to ask the Universe if you're going to win next week's pickleball match against your neighbors. Or maybe you would, IDK. Tell me in the comments.
We're gonna focus on the career bit. There's a preoccupation with finding our "purpose," or vocation in life. There's so much pressure to figure this out ASAP so that you can go on to maximize your time in this world and realize the most fulfilled version of your life. The ideal is finding something that puts you into a state of flow, which comes from an activity with the right proportions of skill and challenge. The skill piece comes back to your natural talents, and the challenge piece relates to the skills that you're motivated to develop (I'm not sure if it has to be intrinsically motivated, but I'm sure it helps to already be drawn to a skillset). Both of these pieces are directly tied to who you are as an individual. So then, in a society where you have to trade time for money and make a "living," your identity is deeply embedded into how you earn your money. On top of this, we've decided your earning potential is an indicator of status, and thus another aspect of your identity in this lifetime.
Yet, "what do you do for work?" is usually one of the most boring points of conversation when I'm out on a date or meeting new people, despite my earnest interest in exploring the person in front of me. Somewhere along the timeline of human history we created a discrepancy between the activities that bring us the most enjoyment, how we spend our time, and how we earn money. For better or worse, we've collectively prioritized certain skillsets and challenges to solve, over others.
If you're a westerner like myself, you might've heard of Marc Winn's popularized mistranslation of ikigai, which assigns the Japanese concept to a theory for finding one's purpose by Andres Zuzunaga, a Spanish astrologer (lol leave it to a yt fella to confuse and appropriate a concept about finding joy into a capitalist program). The mistranslation looks like this:
What disrupts the original flow formula (skills/challenge = flow state) is the presence of two new factors: what the world needs, and what you can get paid for. Now that payment is a necessity for survival, people start to prioritize the needs and preferences of others, creating an imbalance in how we invest our energy. Unless you have financial privilege and self awareness, it's unlikely that you'll be able to operate from the original formula for flow. We'd have to operate from the new formula: skills/challenge + economic demand = occupation or identity (I'm not a math person, please don't come at me for this made up formula, but you're welcome to share a better formula to illustrate the point 😇).
So now we're at my identity crisis.
To much frustration, I give a shit about what other people think.
This results in the majority of my career decisions centering a projection of what I think would satisfy other people's opinions of me positively. Of course I took my own projections as reality (surprise: they're not) and operate inauthentically when I don't have the space to zoom out and process things more clearly (AKA everything leading up to turning 31 years old). I was—and sometimes still am—afraid of what it would mean to not be someone who excels at a trade society rewards. I was—and sometimes still am—stressed about ensuring that I realize the full potential of the skills that I identify with, in this lifelong pursuit of a "fulfilled" life. I've found these objectives at odds, leaving myself confused and stressed.
Maybe the resolution is to separate career from a fulfilled life?
I don't mean to give up aspirations for aligning career and life fulfillment, because I still believe finding the right balance of skill, passion, and demand is possible. What I mean is to release the need to attain this balance in order to feel satisfied in life during the process of finding it.
Let's return to the history of "ikigai" as a concept. Before it was misinterpreted by a guy who watched a TED talk, ikigai had a much more simple definition: a reason to live. This could be as profound as your "purpose," or it could be a small joy, like finding pleasure in a slice of cheese or taking a walk outside. Returning to this original definition releases a lot of the weight associated with occupying your one "true" purpose to enjoy life. In the journey of finding where we fit in the world, we can still have these smaller pleasures along the way. Without the heaviness of "WHO AM I SUPPOSED TO BE IN SOCIETY," or, "AM I DOING THIS RIGHT," to live an enjoyable life, there's more room for play and exploration. There's wiggle room to be a sell-out in the pursuit of finding out what brings you joy. There's wiggle room to test out different careers before you find one that clicks, and even if you don't find THE ONE, life was still good along the way.