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Finding Direction When You’re Not Sure Which Choice Is “Right”

“Sometimes the wrong choices bring us to the right places.” ~Unknown

Like so many others, I am a recent college graduate who is still living at my parents’ house and working my minimum wage high school job as I scour the web for opportunities and get one rejection email after another.

However, I don’t know how many others I can speak for when I say that I didn’t see this coming.

I graduated with a nursing degree and heard from more than a few people in the field that there was a shortage and jobs were plentiful. I had no back-up plan because I was so sure my Plan A would work out.

I was essentially blind-sided each and every time I got a rejection email because it meant I still had no direction.

The most terrifying part of all of this, though, isn’t the uncertainty about the future and complete lack of any idea where I’ll be six months or a year from now. Although it is pretty scary at times, there’s also an excitement to not having committed to a career yet and being able to have these kinds of options.

But of course I haven’t acted on them because the primary, overwhelming fear du jour is that of making the “wrong” choice.

One of the most freeing moments of my post-grad life was when I realized that no one can say what is the “right” or “wrong” decision for me.

What’s right for so many people (getting a job, getting engaged, putting down roots in one place) is certainly not right for me, at least not right now. So what’s to say what I want to do is any crazier?

Just because it’s not what someone else would do, that doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

And even if it doesn’t necessarily create a linear path from where I am now to where I think I want to be ten years from now (flight nursing in Seattle, in case you were wondering), who’s to say that where I think I want to be in the future is best or where I should be anyway?

For months, in the midst of tearful breakdowns, I would beg and plead for someone to tell me what to do; but any time someone gave me advice, I turned it down for one reason or another.

I think deep down inside, I know that I should follow my heart—that I’ve been turned down for so many jobs, jobs which I thought I was well-qualified for and sure to get, because I wasn’t supposed to get them.

I’ve had too many experiences with fate to not believe in it, and it has a funny way of directing you to where you’re supposed to be.

It seems to me that it’s better to make a decision and try something than it is to do nothing while waiting for an obvious sign—which, by the way, will never come in the form of a billboard or an instruction manual.

I wouldn’t say that I regret these past five months, but here I am with little to show for it when at least if I had, say, gone to Europe for a couple of months, I would be equally as unemployed and equally as far from a job as I am now, but I would have a life experience to show for it.

Who knows, maybe my travels would lead to a job more quickly than applying for another 50+ jobs online would?

I’m not saying that I have the biggest metaphorical cojones, but I have found that times when I have taken a chance and strayed from the norm (for example, doing a semester abroad in college when my advisor said, “Nursing majors don’t really study abroad.”) have led to some of the best, most rewarding experiences of my life.

It seems to me that the happiest people are those who don’t let practicality dictate their every move.

Think about it: it behooves the economy and the workforce for people to be held down by thoughts of paying mortgages and taxes, and working their forty hours a week; after all, if we all followed our dreams, would there be anywhere near as many people sitting behind desks, filing paperwork day after day?

Anyone has the chance to realize their dreams and truly do what they want. It just requires a lot of courage and decisiveness. What’s “practical” is almost completely in the eye of the beholder.

Would you rather look back on your life and say that you were capable of dreaming up amazing things or that you actually did amazing things?

I doubt I’m going to wish I had entered the workforce sooner. So, starting today, I’m going to make a list of the things I had dreamed of and just pick one.

Because as long as I’m the one choosing, as long as it’s something that I really want to do, and as long as it makes me happy, I know it won’t be the “wrong” choice.

A week after I wrote this, after continuing to weigh options and be indecisive, I decided in one day what my next step would be. Ironically enough, in the same day, I talked to a nurse recruiter at a local hospital and got a response from one of the WWOOF hosts I had contacted. (WWOOF stands for Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms.)

The nurse recruiter said she could get me in for an interview on a medical/surgical floor. “Med/surg” (general medical conditions and patients who are recovering from surgery) is not my first choice of floor to work on, but it would provide a new nurse with a wide set of skills that would be applicable if and when I did move to my first-choice floor (ER).

However, it would mean compromising on both the area of the hospital I want to work in as well as my plan to leave my hometown.

I almost let the practicality of it win, thinking that a year wouldn’t be that long and at least it would be a paycheck, but the whole thing just felt so wrong. I can’t imagine there will ever be enough practicality in the world to make me choose something when just the thought of brings me to tears.

Then I got the WWOOF email. Almost immediately I decided that this was what I was going to do even though it’s probably the least practical of the options I had considered. I’ll be spending a month volunteering at a hostel in California in exchange for a place to stay.

My tentative plan is to network and maybe spend some time volunteering at a local hospital to see if that leads to a nursing job in the area, but honestly, if nothing comes of this experience career-wise, I’m okay with it.

The experience will be (more than) enough for me, and in a month’s time, I’ll just decide what to do next.

I fully stand by what I’ve said I would do, and I have no doubt in my mind that it will be worth it. Sure enough, my parents, my friends, and my coworkers all think I’m crazy.

But in my experience, when people think you’re making the “crazy,” unorthodox choice, it usually means you’re taking a chance that will likely pay off. 

Photo by Desmond Kavanagh

Avatar of Stephanie Eller

About Stephanie Eller

Stephanie Eller is a recent college graduate from South Carolina. As she continues to look for a job as a Registered Nurse, she is taking some time to travel and is currently WWOOFing in San Luis Obispo, California.

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  • KellyC

    I absolutely love this post and admire your courage! Thank you so much for writing it. To be honest, I’ve been feeling quite down and stressed… because I’m graduating soon but not exactly sure what to do….. I’ve always wanted to go to grad school right after graduation….. but I decided not to…. I started to ask around and hoping to have an answer for my own insecurity of the unknown future…. this post really helps me a lot! I will now follow my heart and will still go back to grad school once I am ready :)

  • liang

    very enjoy, thank you so much!

  • http://twitter.com/fox_sara Sara Fox

    I have been frustrated with the lack of jobs. I am part of the long term unemployed (over 6 months). I have a MBA. I have applied for over 100 jobs, most of which I am told I am incredibly over-qualified for. Its particularly more worrisome because I have kids I have to care for. The past several months have been a roller coaster of emotions, but I feel I will end up where I need to be in the end. I have incredible support from my boyfriend to keep me going. So I keep applying for jobs and in the meantime, I decided to do something for me. I started writing. I started a blog for my experience with challenges of living with people with ADHD. I’m also writing a book as a part of NaNoWriMo. These things have given me life and happiness. I’m not sure where they will take me, but I’m enjoying the process and trying to just take one day at a time.

  • http://www.madlabpost.com/ Nicole/TheMadlabPost

    “Just because it’s not what someone else would do, that doesn’t mean it’s wrong.” — You said it! Enjoy your time in California. May it bring you lots of new and amazing experiences that you can later reflect on and be proud that you took action on making something happen that is right for you at the time.

  • http://twitter.com/hellsz_fury Anika Rahman

    I felt I was talking to myself when I read this! I am going through such a similar phase (and hoping this is just a phase). Graduate, Bio and Chem major with no jobs, applying to what feels like hundreds of postings each day, self doubt and pity and what not. I read somewhere that any action is moving forward so if I have to get back to apply to even one job per day, I am still not wasting my time..well hopefully. This was a beautiful post. Thank you

  • http://www.christopherbloom.com/about/ Chris Bloom

    +1 for “Just because it’s not what someone else would do, that doesn’t mean it’s wrong.”

  • English Lady

    There is a TS Eliot ( I think?) quote which goes something like -
    ” Just because you’re going the opposite direction to everybody else does’nt mean that you’re the one going in the wrong way”.
    This has sustained me many times when others have decried what I am doing.

  • friend forever

    Stephanie,

    It was an amazing post! What you wrote is exactly how I think!

    And, I am proud of you and I congratulate you and appreciate you for the honesty with which you wrote the article. Writing that you ‘are going through something’ is more scarier than writing about something that you are ‘over with’. Thank you sooooooo much for sharing this. Experiences make us stronger. And today, along with you, I will make one choice that is in sync with what my heart desires and wants.

    Lots of love and all the vrrrrry bst for your future!

  • alison

    congrats on your decision! i totally relate with feeling stuck and/or indecisive. what i have realized is that NOW is the best time pursue a dream. life becomes more and more complex…so no mater what, carpe diem! have so much fun in cali.

  • http://twitter.com/GwynMinerva Minerva Gwyn

    Great post, Stephanie. Thanks for sharing your experience. I’ve also been looking for a job for months, and I hadn’t expected it would take me so long to find one. It’s been shocking and terrifying, but it has given me the opportunity to learn and grow. What you said about “I can’t imagine there will ever be enough practicality in the world to
    make me choose something when just the thought of brings me to tears.” stroke a cord with me, as I have faced similar decisions several times in the last few months. They’re always tough to make, but I guess that while we are in the storm, we can only hope that our gut instincts will take us in the right direction, even if they don’t seem very logical. :) Best luck!

  • Stephanie

    Glad you enjoyed it!

  • Natalie

    Brilliant!! It reminds me of a woman called Kath Kelly wrote a book entitled ‘How I lived on a pound a day’ I believe at the end of the year she worked on an organic farm in south west of England where she met her future husband. I’m not saying this will be what happened to you but to branch way out of your comfort zone will, I imagine, bring you great joy and the opportunity to meet people you would not normally have met. How inspiring and I wish you great happiness along the way. x

  • Natalie

    The book was actually entitled ….
    How I Lived a Year on Just a Pound a Day

  • Stephanie

    Thank you! I can definitely relate, especially to feeling like you’re wasting your time applying to one job after another. Honestly, what makes me feel the most at ease about it is the idea that everything happens for a reason and that I’ll get the job I’m supposed to when I’m supposed to. It’s hard to see now what that reason is, but I have to have faith that in retrospect, it will make sense. Hang in there, Anika! Whether you get a job or decide to take another path, I wish you the best of luck!

  • Stephanie

    Thank you for your kind words, and I wish you all the best as well!

  • Stephanie

    Thank you! You’re right – now is the best time; there will always be excuses not to do something, and following your heart is rarely going to be an easy, uncomplicated decision, but whether we like it or not and regardless of how much we rationalize our decisions, time is ticking away, so to speak. Carpe diem, indeed!

  • Stephanie

    Thank you! I’m happy to share what I’ve learned just as I have learned from others’ experiences. I wish you the best of luck with the job search, and I do believe your instincts will take you where you’re supposed to be!

  • Stephanie

    I’m sure it’s especially frustrating not being able to find a job since you’ve taken the time and money to get a Master’s degree and since you do have children. It sounds like you’ve taken a good approach to your situation though! I wish you the best of luck with your writing, and even if it doesn’t necessarily take you anywhere professionally, there’s a lot to be said for anything that makes you happy!

  • Stephanie

    Thank you!

  • Stephanie

    That’s a great quote; I’ll be sure to include it among those I read when I’m in need of motivation!

  • Stephanie

    haha thanks, Chris!

  • Stephanie

    Thank you! I’m always up for a good book so I’ll definitely be sure to check that one out. You’re right, so many good things can come from going out of your comfort zone that it makes the, well, uncomfortable parts of it worthwhile. I wish you the best of luck as well!

  • Stephanie

    Thank you, Kelly! I wish you the best of luck, whatever you decide!

  • Giulietta the Muse

    Hi Stephanie,

    Wonderful story! Life is for exploring — at any age. I love that you’re doing something offbeat. It will serve you well later in life when you can see more clearly that the whole point is to get off the beaten path because the beaten path will beat up your spirit.

    My motto is to accumulate adventures and friendships not stuff. Most of us spend our lives working so we can buy and collect stuff, protect it, insure it, then sell it for 1/20th the price when we are senior citizens. It never really brings us happiness.

    Many years ago, my college adviser gave me some good advice: Don’t waste your youth working!

    Now I tell younger folks: Get a life not a career.

    Once you start doing your own thing, the energy you bring to the table will draw folks to you like bees to honey.

    There are many options out there with a nursing background.

    Traveling Nurses is a great way to see the world, get experience and earn pretty good money. You can also be a private nurse for a family or a nurse in a school or a nurse at a small clinic. Or a per diem nurse. Or a nurse in a nursing home – then you’ll meet a lot of older folks who’ll tell you that they wished they worked less and lived more.

    Don’t listen to most people. They’re still following the generic life blueprint handed out to them in elementary school.

    Have a great time!

    Giulietta

    p.s. Crazy is good …

  • Giulietta the Muse

    Hi Stephanie,

    Wonderful story! Life is for exploring — at any age. I love that you’re doing
    something offbeat. It will serve you well later in life when you can see more
    clearly that the whole point is to get off the beaten path because the beaten
    path will beat up your spirit.

    My motto is to accumulate adventures and friendships not stuff. Most of us
    spend our lives working so we can buy and collect stuff, protect it, insure it,
    then sell it for 1/20th the price when we are senior citizens. It never really
    brings us happiness.

    Many years ago, my college adviser gave me some good advice: Don’t waste your
    youth working!

    Now I tell younger folks: Get a life not a career.

    Once you start doing your own thing, the energy you bring to the table will
    draw folks to you like bees to honey.

    There are many options out there with a nursing background.

    Traveling Nurses is a great way to see the world, get experience and earn
    pretty good money. You can also be a private nurse for a family or a nurse in a
    school or a nurse at a small clinic. Or a per diem nurse. Or a nurse in a
    nursing home – then you’ll meet a lot of older folks who’ll tell you that they
    wished they worked less and lived more.

    Don’t listen to most people. They’re still following the generic life blueprint
    handed out in elementary school.

    Have a great time!

    Giulietta

  • http://twitter.com/GwynMinerva Minerva Gwyn

    Thank you! :D

  • Leslita

    Beautiful and meaningful. Thank you so much!

  • http://www.facebook.com/juan.p.camacho.505 Juan Pablo Rojas Camacho

    Awesome, thanks.

  • Ashley

    Stephanie, I love everything about your post, and it comes at such a right time in my life. Thank you for saying that practicality is in the eye of the beholder.. WOOFing is certainly the “practical” choice in my mind, too. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000732163099 Tara Crowley Rinaldi

    I hear that Sacramento, CA has a lot of opportunities for nursing. I like the advice to “Get a life, not a job.” We are so focused on getting a job that we leave our true selves behind in the rush to have a paycheck. Not saying we don’t need that paycheck, but not at the expense of ourselves. No way to spend a life.

  • Kurtis

    Hi Stephanie,

    I just ran across this blog of yours and I feel like I can relate with everything said here. I’m now at a time of my life where I feel like I should be beginning to set my roots down and start putting my life together. But the truth is, is that I am halfway through my course and I don’t want to particularly finish my course, get a job and join the workforce, all in a linear line… at least not yet. I still want to do other things and explore life, and how you said that you don’t let practicality decide for you is something I totally agree with, I’ve just never been able to articulate it in such a good way.

    I see this post is over two years old. I hope all has gone well for you since then. Thanks for an awesome read, it’s good to see I’m not alone in trying to avoid conforming to the norm. You’re awesome!

    Kurtis.