What happens with your life when your dreams change and you have no idea where to go next?
When I was a little girl, I always dreamed of having a career performing on stage. I was a great singer, took tons of dance classes, and even taught myself how to play the piano. As I grew older, I continued to hone these skills, performing every chance I got.
In college I studied classical music. I received awards and scholarships to study with renowned teachers in Los Angeles, and within six years of graduating high school, I had a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Music with a concentration in Vocal Performance.
I took a year off of school to prepare auditions for yet another round of rigorous study in a doctoral program for music. This would position me well to be able to perform and teach music at an elite level.
When Your Dreams Change
I thought I was on my way. But halfway through my degree, I had what they call a “quarter-life crisis” (it’s real folks). All of sudden my dream of a life in music didn’t seem like a dream – it seemed like torture.
You see, during my schooling, I (somehow) found time to get married to the love of my life. I’d always wanted a family, and a stable home life. The more I moved through my doctoral degree, the more I realized that may not be possible.
I was slowly, and painfully discovering that my dream career couldn’t provide me the lifestyle I desperately craved. My marriage was suffering. I was discovering I’d never have the job stability in teaching that had been promised, and that if I wanted to perform full-time, I’d have to move to Europe – across the globe from everyone I loved.
I was in a real pickle. I realized that my “dream career” wasn’t my dream after all. Over the years, it had changed. But now, I was left without any idea what to do moving forward. No additional skill sets to acquire other work. No identity without the title of “musician” or “professor”.
What To Do With Your Life When Your Dreams Change
In the years since this crisis, I’ve discovered I wasn’t the only 20-something experiencing this torturous quandary.
If you’re in a similar position, with no idea what to do with your life when your dreams change, there are a few simple steps to follow to set yourself off on a new path.
1. Don’t panic.
I’m definitely a hypocrite for listing this, so I trust you to learn from my mistakes, BUT – whatever you do, don’t panic. I’ve learned that even the people who seem to know what they’re doing in their lives, have no idea what they’re doing in their lives.
Not only that, but not every chapter of our lives is meant to last forever. I believe I was a musician for the exact amount of time I was meant to be a musician. I’m grateful for the skills that I have, and I still have opportunities to use them. In fact, I enjoy it more now than I ever did before.
But now, I have a different purpose. Life happens in seasons. They come and go, and change all the while. Nothing is ever really stagnant. We are always changing, evolving, and growing. That’s not something to fear – it’s something to celebrate.
2. People Might Put Pressure On You to “Figure Things Out”. Tell Them to Go Away.
There are people who feel out of control in their own lives, and so they tell other people how to live their lives (know anyone like that?).
As much as they may have good intentions, you’re allowed to kindly tell them that you’re working on it.
You already know you need to figure things out – it’s a work in progress. Finding a new path in your life is not something that happens overnight, for most of us. It’s a process of self-discovery. And it takes as long as it takes.
Trying to force things to happen faster than they can happen is a special kind of insanity that will make life a lot harder than it needs to be (like when you’re late for work, and you’re yelling at all the other cars who are stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic with you).
It takes as long as it takes, and that’s ok.
If you want to find a new dream for your life, you have to first know what you want, and what you don’t want. You can guess if you like, but I’ll bet that’s not the most efficient way of figuring it out.
Ask yourself this: “what’s something I’ve always wanted to do/be/see/try?” Is it graphic design? Is it standup comedy? Is it wildlife photography? Also consider: “what kind of lifestyle do I want to live?” and “How do I want to feel from day to day?”
There is literally an infinite number of things you can try to see what you love and what you don’t. And once you find something that resonates with you, stick with it! If you want a new dream, you’ll have to commit to something.
4. Invest in yourself.
Once you’ve found your “thing”, it’s time to hunker down. Give yourself a chance to be a beginner again. It can feel weird to be nearly 30 (or 40 or 50) and starting over, but hey, seasons come and go, right?
Take some time to hone your new skills by seeking mentorship, education, or new experiences that will help you grow. In this day and age with the internet, YouTube, and the online education biz, you can pretty much learn anything you could possibly imagine, within an amazingly short span of time.
Don’t beat yourself up about starting over. Don’t waste time worrying about what others think.
You are where you are.
You’re growing, learning, and blossoming into the person you were meant to be.