What Andy Wants

How do you decide what you want?

It’s a question that is very much on my mind at the moment. And one I really, really don’t know the answer to. I’m not sure I ever have…

As many long term readers will know, I am going through a prolonged period of instability, which is just about to take another twist. In 6 days time my job here in Chichester will come to an end. Along with that, I will very soon after lose my current place of residence and, realistically, any real reason to stay in this part of the world.

I don’t know where I am going to go when I leave here next week.

Bemoaning my current predicament to a friend on Facebook chat this morning, I was asked “What do you WANT to do?” That is a reasonable question, given the circumstances. I didn’t have an answer for it.

This is not a recent phenomenon for me, although it has got profoundly worse in recent years. I can’t remember ever really knowing what I wanted, in the sphere of work at least. I made decisions based on where I wanted to live, what values I had and what I thought ‘God’ wanted. That narrowed down the options somewhat, and I picked what looked most attractive of whatever was left. Although, even then I often didn’t, as so much of life is out of our control – so I applied for what looked attractive, and chose what I got…

I do know times when I have known clearly what I wanted, and what I didn’t want. But they haven’t always led to good choices or outcomes. I really, really wanted to marry Andrea – and held on to that desire even when circumstances should have prompted some serious re-evaluation. I have had a strong desire not to work for big corporations just to make me or others rich. Which is why I have no capital and little in the way of savings.

But I’ve never really known what I’ve wanted to do with my life. I’ve never been able to chose a ‘career’. I’ve been interested in many things, but never enough to want to chose one above any other. I’m ‘interested’ in sustainable development; green building practices; social entrepreneurship; politics; polemics; writing and editing; filmmaking; photography; international development and relief work; engineering; farming; permaculture; alternative energy projects; project planning; business systems and operations; music; sound engineering; land management; rural economy and intentional community (among others). I think I just get paralysed by the options…

I know enough about myself to know what I am good at, and what I enjoy doing, but that doesn’t always help. I have a real dichotomic split between my creative side and my analytical side, which exists in constant tension. I love to write and take part in creative processes, especially collaborative ones. I have had a number of jobs that scratch that itch somewhat (including my soon-not-to-be-current one), which is great. But most of the time that is at the expense of my more analytical side, which loves to solve problems and create processes and build something (even if that something is only a process). I have yet to find a job that allows me to both as the major part of the role. So, eventually, inevitably, I get frustrated in every job I do, and try and leave for something completely different…

Sorry, I think that last paragraph is essentially irrelevant to the topic in hand. The question is of wanting. What I want is a job where I feel fulfilled, in a context where I am known and appreciated. Preferably in a wider context which doesn’t leave me isolated, as Chichester has done. In fact, scratch that preferably…

I just have no idea what that looks like in practice.

I’m not sure I even know what wanting looks like. How do you know what you want? Do you? Is it just me that has this problem, or do we all do?

The friend who asked me the question this morning has spent the last few years being terribly frustrated because he did know what he wanted, but couldn’t find work in the relevant field. Very frustrating for him – but he held on to his desires and kept plugging away, and seems to have got there in the end. Which is great. But I don’t even know what it would look like to have that desire. How did he know, so strongly, that was what he wanted to do?

Desire is a funny thing. My strongest desire at the moment is for a significant other, and that is probably only so strong because I am lonely here in Chi. It’s a pretty primal desire, really. Not one that helps you with career decisions. Probably not one that is helpful to listen to too strongly at all: if I did pay too much attention to it, I think it would muck up my relations with female friends even more than they are already… [I think I am probably a confusing friend to have if you are female, but that is another story, for another time]

This is another stream-of-consciousness post, I’m afraid. I’m not even going to read it before I post it. I guess I’ll end with a question or two: Why do I not know what I want? Am I not self-aware enough to be aware of the decision? Or do I just ‘think too much’ (as I’ve been told in the past)? How do you make decisions about your future? Know your desires?

One thought on “What Andy Wants

  1. Simon says:

    I’ve been exploring this over the last year or two. For me it seems to stem from passion, or a lack thereof. For much of my youth I found that I had all of my passions crushed or bruised or found following them utterly discouraging.

    As a result I’ve done much the same as you, making the most attractive choice from what I see as the options. I’m definitely trying to shift my mindset to a place where I allow passion back in but for a whole host of reasons that are complicated and somewhat personal I find this something I’m fearful of.

    Good luck with your journey.

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