What does my future hold?
This past summer, the subject of what I might do for the rest of my life came up frequently with friends and family, and much more often than I liked. I was less than excited to think about the subject; I had no idea what I wanted to do.
Some of my friends wanted to be lawyers; others, doctors. Some wanted to work for the United Nations and help less fortunate people in this world and some wanted to weave magnificent stories. It seemed that everyone else knew what they wanted to do and I was the only one lost and confused. Still, I knew that there were many – both young and old – who didn’t know what their lifelong aspiration is. Just like me.
Life goals are a personal thing, and so I reckoned I had to figure it out for myself. When I was younger, I wanted to be a veterinarian, a chef, a baker, a fashion designer, a model – I wanted to do it all. It dawned on me that I now had less of a clue about my future career than I did when I was a bold and daring 7-year-old. Then I thought about what a friend had asked, something that immediately opened my mind, though it seems obvious in retrospect. It was a simple question: What makes me happy?
Everything I could think of hardly qualified as a lifelong pursuit: basking in the sunshine with a glass of lemonade, dancing until the early hours of the morning, making other people happy, laughing with my friends…Wait, what was that right there? Ah, yes. Making other people happy makes me happy. This, I thought, could be a start. Unfortunately, though, short of becoming a comedian, making others happy doesn’t cut it as a profession. Society requires you first to work and make money and then to pursue your dreams. (Though, if you can do both at once, you’ve got it made.)
So I kept going. I started with where my interests lay: the visual arts. Ever since I could pick up a crayon, I’ve loved making art. You can actually still see one of my pieces in the middle of the Peace Garden at the Western Academy of Beijing – a 2m x 2m stainless steel sculpture that is definitely my most permanent work. At university, I have taken a course in sculpture and digital design, and I’m probably going to declare studio art as a major (and possibly psychology as my minor simply because it is so fascinating).
I dove into books and asked my dad, an executive search consultant, to tell me everything he knew about jobs in the creative industries. I was surprised by how little I knew about what people can do for a living. For example, I wasn’t aware of all the different jobs within marketing and advertising – or even that large groups of people worked together to come up with a finished product.
Online, I took a career quiz that asked questions about my interests and then presented me with dozens of jobs to consider. I learned about jobs in marketing, about being a designer for websites and products, for the interior of buildings and for clothing. I also learned how much competition there might be, how long I could stay in that line of work, and what skills I would need to succeed.
After looking at two dozen occupations that caught my eye, I narrowed it down to a few for further consideration: interior designer, graphic designer, and website designer/web art director. I had a special interest in interior design, I realized. I’ve always observed how rooms, offices, and hotel lobbies are designed, from space efficiency and color combinations to furniture and lighting. Sometimes, I would think about how a particular space could have been better designed. I still haven’t decided exactly what I want to do, but have now figured out roughly what I want to accomplish in life – make people happy. I also now know what kind of opportunities there are out there job-wise, and I have more of an idea of what awaits me in the real world. Perhaps the future isn’t so scary after all.
After having lived in Beijing for 10 years, Alexandra Crossman now attends Wakeforest University in North Carolina, where she is a sophomore.