Everyone talks about how the 20s are supposed to be the time of our lives. And that's largely true. But it's not all wine and roses.
Among all the freedom and youthful exuberance, so many people spend that decade struggling through the chaos of having absolutely no idea what their passion is.
And when we've internalized the desire to find an occupation that aligns with our values, sounds cool to talk about, and provides us with existential fulfillment, it can be difficult to identify the perfect fit.
So we hum along rather aimlessly.
Thankfully, some people do find their vocation and hunker down. But for others, it takes a little longer.
Perhaps struggling to locate that ideal passion, Redditor wibly_wobly_kid asked:
"People who discovered their passion at a later stage of life, what is it and how did you figure it out?"
Many people talked about making a career switch when they least expected. For the longest time, they new they didn't enjoy their work, but they didn't know what to do instead.
Hiding In Plain Sight
"I went to college twice in my early 20s for journalism and communications, but never graduated. I spent the rest of my 20s in a dead end food service job, miserable and angry at myself. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life"
"My extended family has lots of little ones (cousins having cousins) and every time there was a family get together, I always found myself playing with and entertaining the kids. One day, my uncle pointed out how good I was with kids, and did I ever consider working with them? I laughed it off but later thought 'hey, I have nothing better going on. What's the harm in researching a bit?' "
"I found out I could become an early childhood educator, working in daycares or kindergarten classes. So I applied to a couple of colleges and got in right away (applied on a Monday and got accepted the Friday). I quit my dead-end job and focused entirely on school. I made the dean's list all 4 semesters (something I have never done), and aced all my classes."
"I had a placement at a daycare/before and after school card place, and they hired me right after I finished my placement. So now I'm working there and happier than I ever was in my 20s"
Never Too Late
"Law. I was 45 when I went back to school. I'd worked blue collar jobs all my life, was a high school dropout. My daughter started taking paralegal classes and I thought, 'I could do that.' "
"So I got my GED and signed up for a 2-year paralegal certificate program through the local community college. Fell in love with law. Also discovered I was good at it. I had several professors who were lawyers tell me I'd be wasted as a paralegal and should go to law school."
"So I transferred to a 4-year school. Worked full time through undergrad and graduated with honors. Got into law school. I graduated law school at 55, oldest in my class. But I'd gone from being a high school dropout to a lawyer in just 10 years."
"Passed the California bar first try and I've been a public defender ever since, which is the only thing I ever wanted to do with it. I'm 60 now but I'm healthy and energetic and have a lot of years left. I love what I do, I'm very good at it, and it's the best move I ever made."
Every Week an Achievement
"Was 39 when I took a temp job in a social services type industry. Just basic stuff."
"Realised after a couple of years that I'd circled back to my idealistic 17yo self's plan for my career. Spent the previous 20 working sh** jobs I hated."
"Turns out it's really important to do something that aligns with your values. Finish the week feeling like I've contributed to society, rather than working to screw people for money."
Others discussed the passions they've discovered outside of their working life. These won't bring home any income, but their importance to life satisfaction cannot be understated.
"My dad discovered his life's biggest passion at 67. Mountain climbing. Serious mountaineering."
"He climbed Kilimanjaro and Whitney just months apart."
Plenty More Shredding In Store
"I started Rollerskating (on ramps) just before I turned 40 , it's never too late to start, you just need more safety gear :)"
"I've been doing it for years now I'm in my mid 40s and still rollin. It makes me a bit sad I didn't start when I was younger, but I reckon i've got another ten years left in me."
Moving the Needle On Women's Pockets
"Sewing/tailoring clothes. On a whim I took a class at a local community center and got hooked. After learning some basics in the class and following some YouTube videos I can make a passable pair of pants/trousers and basic shirts. I'm lucky that my local library had sewing machines you could check out so I didn't need to commit any real money early on."
"The best thing to come out of learning this new skill was making a pair of pants with actual pockets for my wife. Guys, you have not seen joy until you see your wife get a pair of functional custom pants with human-sized pockets. I thought her head was going to explode she was so happy."
Keep an Ear Out for Jingles
"I always wanted to learn an instrument that wasn't academic related."
"Over COVID lockdown I picked up the guitar."
"I picked it up pretty quick. So I learned the drums."
"Now I'm finishing building a music studio. I wanna write commercial jingles and just throw a bunch of sh** online for fun"
Unexpected, But Sounds Awesome
"I'm 31, but one year ago I discovered camels. Now I own three. I love them 🥰" -- ZhenHen
"I assume you are not talking about cigarettes, so how does one acquire not only one but three camels? Where do you live? How much did they cost? I'm very intrigued." -- dufresne90
"When you're into camels, every day is Hump Day." -- HolIerer
And a few put a finer point on the nature of that work vs. hobbies dynamic. They assured that one's professional career doesn't necessarily have to provide all the fulfillment they're looking for.
Sometimes, we just need to punch the clock.
Earning Free Time
"PSA: you don't have to be passionate about your job. Your passion can be a hobby you do in your free time. I don't think I will ever find a vocational passion."
"Used to think I was broken because of that but really there is no requirement to be head over heels about what puts money on the table and food in the pocket!"
Career's Moving, Still Painting
"Late 40s here. Got a book called Learn to Draw in 30 Days about 4 years ago. Then about 3 years ago I heard about #the100daychallenge where the goal is to create art every day for 100 days. I never stopped and made it a goal to hit 1000 days."
"In that time, I won contests, got about two hundred commissions, raised over $5000 for a charity, and had a great time. When I hit the 1000 days back in December, I decided to go back to college and get an art degree. I signed up for classes and talked with my manager at work to see how much they would pay for college, she was excited that I was going to get a business degree and said she'd work on getting all of the classes covered."
"Free college became too tempting to pass up so now I'm planning on getting the business degree and then on to law school because they'll pay for that too. I just finished my first semester with a 4.0 and I'm on day 1136 of my non-stop painting journey."
So if you're still looking around for your passion and feeling discouraged, rest assured that it might come your way when you least expect it.
And life is long, my friends.
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Thankfully some of us aren't totally enveloped in the complete dystopia that is the USA job market.
Some of us actually love going to work every day. (Or working from home every day.)
Who are these magic beings? They live among us.
Yes, it's true. Someone YOU know loves their job.
Don't believe me? Take a look below...
Here were some of those answers.
I think up and draw cartoons. Every day. A syndicated comic for newspapers. Only learned to draw at age 43 so it's been a cool midlife turn. I'm one of those handful of people trying to be at least a fraction of what Gary Larson was/is.
Virtual Yet Practical
Matte painter for film.
It's fun and lives at the intersection between having to have artistic talent and technical experience. Honestly sometimes it can be maddening as I come from a creative background (traditional illustration and sculpture) so certain programs are like going from speaking French to speaking Chinese.
But all in all it's fun to see your work when it's composited into a film and get to see the shots before any VFX goes in.
Frankly it's surprising just how many movies use VFX and I can assure you it's almost everything you've seen including smaller independent films.
-Insert Jurassic Park Theme-
I make replicas of dinosaur fossils for museum display. The company I work for does full sized replicas, but I primarily work in the division that creates teeth and claw replicas, and a few scaled down skull replicas, for gift shops.
Carpentry Became Her
Facilities—a glorified janitor.
The position has morphed, I started by cleaning floors and toilets. Now so many of my creative strengths are used. We're updating our campus, so we build furniture, construct new walls and stages, choose paint colors, engineer unique solutions for an aging campus, and so much more. I've learned electrical, concrete work, welding, sound engineering, drywall, installation of floors, ceilings, doors, stage backdrops, you name it. If something needs be be done, we get it done. I love it.
Come Back Broadway!
Before the pandemic shut everything down I was a Broadway dresser! I got to work backstage on some awesome shows with pretty costumes and be a part of the magic, it was such a rewarding feeling.
I'm a Meteorologist. I look at weather all around the world and work directly with Fortune 500 companies to help them prepare for natural disasters.
Considering I've wanted to be a Meteorologist since I was 5, it's a dream come true and I feel blessed.
Sexy Librarian Status
I was a college librarian for 21 years up until recently and loved my job. Interacting with students, faculty, technology, having access to any normal article or book, having a sense of helping appreciative people. It was a dream. My commute was 7 minutes. Decent pay, good benefits. (I can't do chats. Sorry! My iPad can't handle them.)
Everything is free.
I don't have to sell anything.
People come in because they want to be there.
I get to help people who want to be helped, or provide and environment where they can chill and relax.
They only owe money when stuff is late.
A Hard Time For This Work
I'm a social worker. Currently I work with seniors who live alone with a disability and have no family to take care of them. I plan on getting my masters and becoming a therapist. After working construction for 8 years and getting a degree in business I said screw it and followed my passion regardless of what everybody in my life said. I am so. Glad. That i made that decision.
It was really hard to get myself into the mindset that it's not too late. Once I was there though, I wasn't leaving. I put my foot down and was determined. Went to a community college, got 12 credits, working an entry level social work job and will be applying for my masters once this shit show of a pandemic is over... or maybe when i cave and decide to do online classes. Either way I feel like i'm living my dream, even though i'm not nearly where I want to be... yet.
Art Isn't Easy
Freelance illustrator and graphic designer.
I've always liked the idea of making things that are useful to people in any way, and I always try to apply this mentality into my work. Not to mention that stimulating my creativity is something I've always enjoyed, and something this line of work requires on a constant basis.
Of course, creative blocks are an issue occasionally, but it's still something I truly enjoy.