I’m 33 years old now. And I like different music from when I was seventeen. I also like different tv shows and different food. I can carry this list on for a while, but you I think you get my point. It’s fair to say I’m a very different person from my younger self. Sure, there is still a lot of stuff which I liked then and which I like still. But for the most part I’m different.
But when I was seventeen and I finished my high school I was asked to make a choice to define my future. The same choice everybody gets at that age. It doesn’t matter if you’re going to study some more or if you’re going straight to work. You have to choose something. But at that point in life it’s almost impossible to know what you want to do for the rest of your life. Even though I envy the exceptions to the rule, those who really do know what they want to do with their life when they are young.
In my opinion this is a fault in our schooling system. Children are being trained to be mediocre. To fit into the system. I’m Dutch and in the Netherlands the grading system goes from one to ten. A five or lower means insufficient, so sixes or higher are the way to a diploma. In schools the attention is on the fives and lower. If you score one nine, two sevens, three sixes and a five the focus will be on the five. Let’s make that a six.
What we get from that attitude is that the nines become eights. And also, the five may become a six one day. So we get a mediocre student. If the attention would be on the nine. To make it a ten. Than the five would probably become a four. But fuck that. It’s clearly not something that kid will ever wanna use anyway. However if you could make him a ten in that other subject, he just might excel in it. And learn to love it. And we might just give his future a flying start.
Back to when I was seventeen. I wanted to be a pro football player. For real. But I never played football and I can’t kick a ball straight, so that was not an option. I also wanted to be a Formula 1 driver. But there were only twenty two jobs in that profession and they were all taken, so that wasn’t a viable option too. I thought about studying to become a chemist, but my school counselor told me there was a very low job expectancy in that line of work, so I decided not to do that either. I pondered and pondered and my graduation year passed by. Until weeks for my final exams I still didn’t have a clue.
At one point I talked with a friend of my parents. He was an accountant and he told me they were always looking for talented people. They would offer a fulltime job (with wages!) and they would pay for further schooling. I was good with numbers, and I didn’t know what else to do. So I applied at his firm. And I got the job. And so it happened that I started working as an assistent accountant at the age of eighteen. I didn’t take summer holidays after my exams, because they needed someone as soon as possible and I could use the money well.
A fun fact in this story is that I didn’t take economy classes in high school. So I didn’t know anything of bookkeeping at all. Luckily I’m a fast learner so I settled in in my job and during my time off I followed an education to become a proper accountant. It took me about five years to realise I’m not accountant material at all. I still like numbers, but I don’t like the job. It’s kinda boring and you need to keep studying all the time. I prefer it when my time off is actually time off. And not study time.
So after about five years I was faced with a choice again. I was older and wiser, but at age twenty three I still didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. So I took the safe road. I quit my accountancy job to become a assistent controller at a large company near the town where I lived. Big leap huh?
Nah. It’s almost the same job, but with a nuance because you don’t need to write down all your minutes in a day so your small clients can get a big invoice. It’s basically the same work, but just for one client. And since accounting was the only kind of job I knew I was good at, I chose this path. I was ambitious and I wanted to grow on. And the money was good too. And even though I didn’t like my new job much, I was actually quite good at it.
A big change
But apparently I did grow from when I was eighteen, because this time it took me only four years to realise that I really did not want to do this kind of work anymore. And I was lucky, I thought. Because in my time in this position the company took a new software system in use. During the implementation I was the one who should figure out how to set up the financial side of the software. So I spent a lot of time with the consultant and I learned what other job I could do. I could use my expertise from the past nine years and I could go for a totally different job and also be in a different environment every day. So I applied for a consultancy job at a financial software company and I got the job. Yay!
From accountant to controller to consultant. Finally a big change! Or not? See what I did there? Instead of being an accountant, I now got to explain software to accountants. And I could set up software systems so they could work more efficiently. So I took all my knowledge with me and spent all my days in the accounting branche yet again. No a big change after all.
I can go on and on about me switching jobs until the point of my burnout. But that would be a repetitive story and I’m sure you get the point of these examples by now. If not: I always took the safe path. The path I knew I would be good at so I could excel and grow. So I could earn more money and get more status. I already spent an entire blog on that subject. Also you surely have something else to do today besides reading this article. So I won’t. I’ll skip to the end.
What I love to do
I’m 33 years old now. And I finally know what I love to do. At least for now. I recently discovered I really love making videos. I love vlogs and I now finally have the courage to actually make them myself. So please check them out on my YouTube channel and when you’re there, don’t forget to subscribe! Karma points for doing that! I even love editing videos. I simply love everything about it. It makes me happy.
When I make a video I can’t wait to put it online. To share it with the world. Not because I’m hoping for good critics or compliments. But because I simply love watching them myself. For the first time in my life I’m proud of what I make, however amateurish it may be. And for the first time I don’t need approval from others to feel good about myself. And also after I’ve uploaded one video, I can start on the next.
I also came to discover I love writing. I don’t love it as much as video, but I really like it. So I try to write on a regular basis. Mostly just blogs for this website, which you are reading now. Thanks for that!
Trial and error
In the last few months I’ve also tried other things. The first thing I tried was marketing. I came from a sales position and I always liked social media. The gap from sales to marketing, besides the jargon, isn’t really big in my opinion. And the money is good in that industry. So I did it again. I thought I was making a life altering decision.
Turns out I just took a safe path again. The one adjacent to the path I knew I was good in. And it worked out, even though I started as a freelancer with no portfolio (which I did because no respectable marketing company would hire me). A couple of months after I started I did a gig for a festival which I really like and I got a job for a client which brought me to the summer Olympics in Rio. I even drank beer with Bernie Ecclestone! That’s as close as I’ll ever get to being a Formula 1 driver I guess.
I didn’t love marketing. It was ok, but I didn’t want to settle for ok anymore. I’d learned too much about myself during my burnout. And I knew that selling my dreams for money wasn’t what I was going to do anymore. At age 33 I finally learned what was important. I needed to take a real big step this time. To find something to do, which I would love doing.
I do what I love
For me, it turns out, one of the most important demands for my new job was that I could practice that job anywhere in the world. I love traveling, but work takes up so much of your free time and limits you in doing exactly that. So I needed a job which could be done from anywhere in the world. That limits things.
Next to that I really wanted to do something creative. For so many years I’ve smothered my inner creative with ambition and vanity. So I wanted to know if my creativity was still alive, but I think I already knew. I heard the screams for attention for years, even though I pretended not to.
When I stripped down my ego and my layers and masks against the outside world it turned out not to be a difficult choice at all. I instantly fell in love with video. And even though I can’t call it a job yet – I think it’s only a job once you start earning money with it – I think it’ll be my job soon. Until then I’m in the exceptional position that I have a wonderful girlfriend who pays the bills. And that we chose to live a life which costs less than a ‘normal’ life. So we are able to afford that I’m not making any money. At least for now.
So that gives the most important thing in life besides health and love. Time. I now have the time to learn something completely new. I have the time to master a new trade. And the time to build something for myself. To know what I love to do and to do what I love.