“What Do You Want to Do?” | My Thoughts on Emilie Wapnick’s TED Talk

Wearing: Madewell T-Shirt and Imogene + Willie Jeans
Wearing: Madewell T-Shirt and Imogene + Willie Jeans

Madewell White T-Shirt | Imogene + Willie Jeans | Photos by Zachary Gray

I don’t know if it’s some sort of unspoken reality or if it’s merely a manifestation of my own insecurities, but every other day it seems as if someone new is asking me “what I want to do in life.” Even though I’ve been out of college for six months, the question still follows me relentlessly. And not only is it a daily struggle to put together “presentable” answers for others, but it still feels as though I’m on an endless journey of finding those answers for myself. It’s a tough decision. Everyone keeps reminding me that I have to pick one path, that I have to stick with it. But how can I? When there are so many things that I want to do and so many feats that I have yet to accomplish.

As someone who only likes to feel vulnerable around a select few people, this is a constant topic of conversation for Sam and I. So the other night while I was sleeping, Sam sent me a TED talk by Emilie Wapnick titled “Why some of us don’t have one true calling.” I watched it the next morning as I got ready for work and suddenly this unfamiliar affirmation fell over me like a giant wave of relief. I didn’t realize it then, but this was the affirmation that I had been searching for for so long. It was watching that TED talk, it was hearing Emilie speak, that for the first time in my life I felt like it was okay to not have one clear-cut career path or life plan in mind. Finally, I didn’t feel like it was strange to still be deciding. Finally I didn’t feel like a complete failure for wanting to be well-versed in design and art and communication and writing. Finally… I felt like it was okay to want to be more than just one thing.

I think that in so many ways society has the right intentions. Our culture wants us to be good at something. It wants to see us succeed. Just think about it: why are there so many stories about the comeback kid?  However, I think our culture is also perpetuating an extreme disadvantage for us by stating that we can only live out one true destiny or individual calling. Just because that’s the way that success has looked in the past, doesn’t mean that that’s what it’s going to look like in the future. We, the “multipotentialites” as Emilie puts it, are making way for a new type of success. We’re creating it ourselves and we’re not limiting ourselves to someone else’s box. Call that reckless. Call that naive. Honestly, call it whatever you want to. But I will not stick myself inside one mold or category just to appease the needs of someone else. Either allow me to grow and grow with me, or find someone who’s satisfied staying the same. xx, t.

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