What’s Next?!?

With the exception of the last three years, I have been in school, in one form or another, for my entire life. As I look back over the twelve years since I returned home from my LDS Mission to Leipzig, Germany, they are full of personal growth and accomplishment. During the last ten years, I have (1) learned and taught German; (2) studied Yiddish; (3) learned (some) French; (4) attended (and graduated from) Universities in Idaho, Utah, England, and Michigan- some more than once!; (5) chosen and begun a career that I generally enjoy; (6) helped bring four wonderful children to our family; and (7) obtained a more sure testimony of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ than I ever believed possible (in spite of nagging doubts that always tempt the mortal mind). The last ten years have seen personal growth on a scale that I never imagined possible prior to my mission.

During that special time in my life, I was never content to sit around and let things happen. I was never content to just stick to the status quo. I was never content to continually run standing still.

I am not sharing this to brag, boast, or impose myself in any other way on the blogging communities of which I am part. I am sharing this to lend context to what comes next.

As 2008 begins, I feel somewhat deflated. At the heart of this deflation, occurring gradually over the last few years since I graduated from law school in 2004, I have been haunted by the following two-word question:

WHAT NEXT?!?

Unlike the previous ten years, since then I often feel like a human hamster, continually running in my exercise wheel. Running to stand still. Where is the next frontier for me to conquer? The next barrier to break through? Is all that remains for me to bill my way into partnership, trying my best along the way to learn to balance family, church, and career? To maintain the status quo without falling off the bandwagon?

I ask the advice of those who have been, or are headed towards, where I am. What have you done to continue challenging yourselves? To not be content with the status quo? How can I possibly experience as much personal growth over the next ten years as I did over the last?!?

I can think of things I want to do: read more; exercise more; learn Spanish, Latin, Greek, and/or Chinese; see Asia. But my energy is so sapped at the end of a long billable day that it’s all I can do not to come home and sink into mindless oblivion in front of the TV. During the night, there is always a child who needs a drink, has a cold, throws up, has a bad dream, etc., etc.

I am not old yet (I will be 33 later this month), but I feel tired and drained, harboring a disembodied ambition for an unknown something.

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6 Responses to What’s Next?!?

  1. john f. says:

    It might be worth thinking about such phases as getting progressively longer. For instance, you highlight the last ten years as a phase that you feel is now complete or transitioning into the next phase. The phase before that might have been a five/six year stretch encompassing high school to the end of your mission. (Of course I am conceiving of the boundaries of your phases in an arbitrary fashion just for the sake of this comment — only you can gauge what your life phases have been.) Perhaps the next phase does not require a view of just the next ten years but is substantially longer — whereas you have identified the last phase of your life that has brought you to this point as a 10 to 12 year stretch, the next phase may well be 20 to 25 years and encompass your career. The longer period of the next phase could help bring perspective that new responsibilities and goals are now part of your life that weren’t present in the last phase. Also the activities you are engaged in (family, work, church) have milestones based more in personal relationships than checking courses off of lists and obtaining degrees. Also, in terms of work, continued progress and growth will come more as measured advancement that takes much longer than plowing through another master’s degree.

  2. Eric Nielson says:

    I might suggest turning more attention to your children. Help them be successful. Raising children and being a truly great father can be one of the most difficult and challenging things one can do. But the focus needs to come off you and your accomplishments on more on them and theirs.

    Gods work and glory is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of us (his children). So after He has accomplished whatever He need to accomplish for Himself, he turned His life’s purpose over to our success. I think there is a parallel in parenthood.

    I’m not sure this is what you were looking for.

  3. Jordan F. says:

    Eric:

    This is precisely the sort of thoughts/insights I am looking for. I have thought about that before, but have not been able to articulate it so concisely or well.

    Your words are helping me see things more clearly for a moment. You are right- as I re-read this post I wrote last night, it is entirely focused on ME- MY accomplishments, what will I do next, etc. Your comment has reminded me that now is the time to finally drop the obsessive compulsion with MY needs and see to the needs of others, most importantly, my family!

    And such things take much more patience and time to develop than a two year masters’ program, etc., as John wisely points out. It’s time to put away the checklist that helped me through education and focus on things that can’t necessarily be marked off a list one by one in some rote fashion.

  4. John says:

    I believe the the most important decisions of my life were made and accomplished in the ten years between 18 and 28. I graduated from high school, went on a mission, went to undergraduate school, got married, started a family, went to professional school, graduated, found a job, and………… That was pretty much it for momentous decisions and goals. I felt like coasting for a while, and did. Continuing ed. here and there, a few random church callings, etc.

    I was seriously feeling sorry for myself and started engaging in the “what if?” game. What if I had moved elsewhere, what if I had specialized, etc. It’s a part of getting older and reflecting on life’s choices. Now, as I get older, as my family grows to include not only sons and daughters in law, but grandchildren, as life long relationships bear fruit in mutual respect and comfortableness (for lack of a better word), as the accumulation of years of experience leads to more assurety and comfort in my profession, some of that angst I used to feel has gone away. Now, the “what ifs” are largely replaced by the laughter of a grandson bouncing on my knee, or welcoming handshake of a former deacon, teacher, or priest come home to visit, now bringing their own families.

    Life is good.

    John

  5. Jordan F. says:

    John:

    Your comments mean a lot to me. The “what if” game is something I engage in far too often. Your comment here has helped me put a name on the sort of dissatisfaction that led to this post (the “what if” game, partly). I am glad to hear that things turned out well for you and that you are happy.

  6. john f. says:

    What is hard to know growing up is that part of what makes getting older difficult is the awareness of doors that have closed permanently. It is better not to dwell on some of those except to the extent that it can make you a better person today and tomorrow by learning from past experiences.

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