Making a career

The past several weeks have been a blur of resumes, cover letters, meetings, phone calls, waves of hope and despair. Every now and then I surface to take stock of what I know for certain so that I can calm down a bit and focus on the little things.

In the process of launching a new online portfolio, I uncovered so many projects from the past that had somehow escaped my mind: unedited Film Club movies, websites that never launched, unfinished music I was creating. And so many completed projects that I was once proud of that are now just sitting on a hard drive.

I don't spend a lot of time looking backwards. I can't decide if this is good or bad.

One thing that I've found myself dwelling on lately is the concept of a career. More specifically, my career. I'm 36 years old and still don't really know what I want to do when I grow up.

Maybe this is a good time to reassess the importance (or lack thereof) of actually figuring that out. I've been fortunate to have been presented with a host of possible directions for my professional career, and I'm grateful to everyone who has taken time to help.

As I mentally live out each of these possible futures, I find myself searching for the difference I can make. I'm not sure if it's integrity or hubris, but I'm not content to spend my time chasing dollars. My general feeling about money is summed up by a quote in the film "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory":

There's plenty of money out there. They print more every day. But this ticket — There are only five of them in the whole world, and that's all there's ever going to be. Only a dummy would give this up for something as common as money. Are you a dummy?

When I was younger and more idealistic, I liked to think that I would somehow change the world. Now that I'm a bit more grounded, I feel that even more. And it's only when I allow myself to look back that I can see the change I have made. It's hard to see while it's happening. It doesn't look like anything. It could be a small project, a connection you make with a new person, a piece of software you publish. And you move on. And if you don't look back, you might not notice its significance.

And then someday, when you're exhausted from fighting whatever battle you're fighting, and you can allow yourself to actually reflect on the years, it all hits you at once. And it's overwhelming.

I think we all hold a secret fear of dying with the regret of leading an insignificant life. But we don't really want to talk about it.

So I'm trying to come to an understanding of just what makes a career. If I could figure that out, maybe I would have some direction. Or maybe I have the right amount of direction already. Maybe I'm just meant to not figure it out.

This blog got so existential! Sorry about that.

So, what's your career? Why do you do the things you do? And give me an answer that doesn't involve something as common as money.

Comments

Because it matters.

Molly
Mar. 27, 2014, 5:09 p.m.

To connect people.

Josh
Mar. 27, 2014, 5:15 p.m.

Dave, one thing you aren't is insignificant. Never have been, never will be. I probably have a better perspective on this than you do so you'll just have to trust me on this. Through the years you have made a significant impact on people and things, and they are all better because you came along and shared yourself with them. I think if you were in a position to keep doing that then you'd be a happy fellow.

Nancy H.
Mar. 27, 2014, 5:39 p.m.

Consider be a full-time filmmaker. You're super skilled and crazy talented, and I know you could make it. Or if not, you'd be a great film professor.

Holden
Mar. 27, 2014, 5:56 p.m.

I'm a Pike, so that means I get bored easily and need growth, change and opportunities for learning. And I'm a "helper." I like to help, feel like I'm making a difference even if it's just the little things. My job does that for me. It's not money that drives me, but the feeling that I've done something that will make a difference for another person. Seems like we might be related or something.

Sarah (A)
Mar. 27, 2014, 6:23 p.m.

And, you should be making movies.

Sarah (A)
Mar. 27, 2014, 6:23 p.m.

Why do I put in the very long hours - because of the people I touch and who touch me. That is where the real joy is found. Keep sharing your passion and you will figure it out. Besides, one of my classmates was 70 when he graduated with his Masters!

Juli
Mar. 27, 2014, 6:39 p.m.

I am currently trying to decide what career to take as I attention college this fall. Everyone always asks "What are you going to do?"
I don't know what career I will take. All I know is that I want to change world. In all seriousness! I want to touch the lives of people around me by doing what I love. I think that is what you should do. "A picture is worth a thousand words", right? You love to shoot and film! You will inspire others by your art. Like Nancy said, if you share yourself and what you love to do with others, you will impact more people than you could ever realize. You inspire me, and countless others by the energy and joy you put into your drawings, designs, films, photos, blogs, etc. So don't stop inspiring us!

Rachael Mc
Mar. 27, 2014, 8:09 p.m.

Dave, I hardly know you and only know of you and the cool things you do from "Joe Day from the Internet". I really liked your post - it's strange how life can creep up on you and all of the sudden you realize that you're in the 30s, have a wife, kids, and a house, but don't know what the heck you really do.

My epiphany came last year - "what the hell am I doing?" I had everything that should make a career man happy - a good paying job, good benefits, and being challenged. Then that job and I parted ways rather suddenly.

I've looked back and asked myself the same questions you have here - What do I really want to be when I "grow up"? What difference will I impart on the world when I depart this mortal coil?

Again, I really don't know you and you don't know me, but I like to think we're two people who not enjoy being fathers, but enjoy "growing up" with our kids. If I can't invent the next cure for cancer, land a rocket on Mars, or something else crazy like that - the one thing I can do is be an awesome dad and know that my daughters will always love me and compare me to future boyfriends and everyone else they meet.

As I reflected last year, it's amazing how many people that your life does touch, and sometimes unknowingly, you impact their lives. Friends, family, heck - even a random distantly-connected stranger on the Internets. I ended up reconnecting with a group of people that did what I like to do for a "job" and who all have fun doing it, at the same time I adjusted and expanded my volunteer work to programs that directly benefit my girls and boost their enjoyment of growing up.

Hold that to be true and follow your passions - jobs come and go...party on Wayne, party on Garth.

Man from Great White North
Mar. 27, 2014, 8:42 p.m.

I am 65 and am in a new career as an artist. Life goes through cycles and you don't have to be limited to one "career." You are blessed with an abundance of talent that can lead you in many directions. The one criteria that stands out among all others is your desire to make a difference. As I have followed you since the creation of Humzoo and consider many of your family my extended family, I have been amazed at the way you have touched so many young lives, from your two amazing children to all the young high school kids. Our kids need good role models and certainly hope which ever path you choose that you can continue to be that role model and share your infectious desire to explore the possibiliities.

Dannie Pipes
Mar. 28, 2014, 4:46 a.m.

I make a humble amount of money. Just enough to live on, but I love my students, plus the people I work with. I think often about looking for a more lucrative job, but will more money make me happy?

VikingIvan
Mar. 28, 2014, 7:06 p.m.

My children love you and are inspired by you. That is the golden ticket.

Fawn
Apr. 28, 2014, 5:48 a.m.

Dave, I too have been reflecting on life and career and happiness....being shoved out of the nest like a not-quite-ready-to-fly baby bird will do that to a person, I have come to believe. All I can say, is be happy and content knowing YOU MADE A DIFFERENCE. You probably don't remember me but I watched you work with a student of mine several years ago and the change in that kid after spending 20 minutes with you was nothing short of witnessing what life is all about...sharing our gifts and talents so that others can find their gifts and talents. Godspeed!

Liana S.
Jun. 22, 2014, 6:44 a.m.