Twenty-Five, Titles, and Tough Questions

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“So, what do YOU do?”

This use to be a question that I only heard asked in movies. No one REALLY asks people what they “do”, do they? Well apparently, once you are approaching or have surpassed age 25, they do ask. Several people will ask. And how you choose to answer is solely up to you. “Duh”, right? Not necessarily.

See, I’m guilty of not always giving the right answer to the question of what it is that I “do”.  For most of my life I’ve replied by stating whatever school it was that I attended. But that makes no sense! I didn’t “do” high school, or undergrad, or even grad school. What I did was so much more important than where I did it.

And even at 25, I still don’t always get it right. I’m still guilty of telling people where I work, or what my official job title is. And since I’m not a doctor or lawyer, my title doesn’t always reflect my work. But I do it anyway. I do it because once you’re 25 no one cares about your work; they only care about your title. Because 25 means that you should be settled in your professional career with the rest of your life figured out, right? Wrong! Sure, it’s great to have goals and some sort of timespan for reaching those goals but sometimes – most times – age 25 is NOT when this happens.

As much as I wanted to think that my fears of or resentment toward turning 25 were justified, they weren’t. The truth was that my idea of what 25 looked like was dependent upon what everyone else said. Even now, if I’m not careful I’ll water down my work as to not make a big fuss over something that might not really be a big deal. But what I do is a big deal. Heck, I am a big deal! My “playing small does not serve the world“. And if there is anything that absolutely needs to be done by age 25, it’s dropping all negative and destructive self-talk.

No matter how entry-level my position is, it’s still a “real job”. I get real experience, doing real work, helping real people, and I can see real results.  So, when I feel myself starting explanations of my work with “it’s only…” or “I only…”, I stop and start over. I reintroduce my work. I reintroduce my significance to this world.

My job title does not validate my work.

My employer does not dictate my career.

My age is not indicative of my professional maturity.

What I say about my work determines how significant it is. What I tell others about my current situation or future plans determines how accomplished I am. So the answer to, “Am I where I should be? Is THIS what I should be doing at 25?” is yes! Because 25 is subjective and looks different for every individual. My goal isn’t to keep up with the Joneses…or those Kardashians. My goal is to be happy, authentic, and purposeful.

After all, I am defined by what I say I am– NOT what others think I am not.

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