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Perpetually Seeking
I am always pondering the answer to The Question. “What am I meant to do?” The Question is loud, demanding, all too important. Growing up I embraced its significance with a dreamy fervor, stating my latest ambition with a confidence that I couldn’t find elsewhere. Several career crises later, I step into The Question's power and see the search as my Answer, leading me to create an interview project called Modern Doing exploring how others define their path.

As a kid, it was a source of pride to know what I wanted to do, to have strong creative dreams when friends were unsure or blindly following the path chosen by their parents. Problem was, my dream kept changing. When I was in my ‘classic films’ phase, I wanted to be a movie director. Another year I was the lifestyle editor for the newspaper and vowed to become a magazine journalist. I cycled through job possibilities—A&R rep, novelist, photographer—and felt the dopamine hit from imagining each ideal future.

In college, my starry-eyed visions were replaced by self-doubt and practical concerns. I backed away from journalism because of the low pay and instability of the media industry. My cognitive science major was intellectually stimulating in all the different fields I got to explore, but brought me no closer to answering The Question. There were still so many paths I could take related (and unrelated!) to the field. I dabbled in code, art direction, and translation, but didn’t pursue any singular thing too deeply, terrified of making missteps.

For my first full time job, I sought to work anywhere interesting that paid decently. I started as a marketing assistant for a luxury fashion e-tailer. Once I felt competent in my role, I began dreaming again. Was I meant to be optimizing campaigns to sell $10,000 dresses to the one percent? I didn’t think so. 

I decided to learn coding more seriously. Software development seemed like a responsible path that could provide the fulfillment I craved. Upon switching careers, everything seemed to fall into place. I loved being surrounded by other curious developers. I felt proud to be creating features that people relied on. But amid increasing responsibilities, higher pay, and a senior title, I felt the itch again. I enjoyed software engineering, sure, but was this The Answer for me? I compared myself to other developers who visibly lit up when talking about programming side projects. I had no desire to code outside of work; I wanted to write and dance and try new things.

“This should be enough,” I tried to convince myself. I had an enjoyable day job that provided financial stability and time for creative pursuits. So what if I wasn’t fully convinced this was the right path? But the urge to seek only grew. I dug into personality tests like MBTI and Enneagram, journaled, meditated, and read self-help books—all things that I had explored in previous times of seeking and were incredibly fun to explore. I thought if “soul searching” were a job, I would do it in a heartbeat. 

Of course, it wasn’t a job in itself. But could there be something there? If the act of seeking was so enjoyable, could I make that my reason for being? Perhaps I would keep searching for what I was meant to do for many more years of my life, but I could learn to embrace the spiral instead of resenting that I hadn’t reached an answer yet. In the meantime, I could talk about my desire to keep digging and find other people similarly compelled to define and refine their career path in the pursuit of meaningful work. If the main constant in myself was a compulsion to seek, then I could make that the theme of what I would create.

Over the past few months I’ve been interviewing several people on their own career paths. I want to balance my tendency to look inward by searching outward, learning from others who seem self-assured in their careers. How did they end up where they are? When were their moments of doubt? Is having fulfilling work important to them as it is for me?

I am sharing these interviews through Modern Doing in hopes that my curiosity and continual search for purpose can open up space for reflection in others. I believe all of us find meaning through our work whether through dramatic career pivots or subtle mindset shifts. And it starts with the desire to seek. 
Carolyn Yoo is a Software Engineer at 2U, living and working in Brooklyn, NY. She can be found on Instagram or her website. She is also the creator and producer of Modern Doing, a weekly interview series launching in spring 2020 that explores how people find meaning through their work.
Art used in this issue: “Blanco y Verde” by Carmen Herrera
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