Am I building a résumé or a life?

Am I building a résumé or a life?
Photo by Andrea Leopardi / Unsplash

Imagine you’re standing on a dock overlooking the ocean. On either side of the dock are two ships. To your left is a ship called S.S. Serene that leads down the lazy river. Lazy isn’t a derogatory term here; it merely represents the smoother route. To your right is a ship called S.S. Ruckus that heads toward the storm. This ship will take you on a voyage that won’t be easy.

Which do you board?

Each has its own merits. If you choose S.S. Serene, you’ll enjoy smooth sailing. You’ll go slow enough to appreciate the water’s beauty. You’ll be able to savor life. If you choose S.S. Ruckus, you’ll have adventure. You’ll prove your courage. You’ll brave the storm.

Being smart and driven is a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it opens doors. It gives you opportunities. It raises the likelihood of you ‘succeeding.’ On the other hand, it comes with expectations. It comes with pressure. It comes with a reputation to uphold.

When you possess these qualities, there’s a lot of advice out there that tells you to board S.S. Ruckus—advice that claims enduring a hurricane is the only way to a fulfilling life.

I’m facing a decision at the dock right now. To my left is a career that looks obvious, simple, serene. To my right is a career that looks tumultuous, stressful, scary. At the moment, I want to turn left, but is that because I’m being lazy (in the derogatory sense of the word), or is it because that’s the life I want?

I keep returning to the question: Am I building a resume or a life? In other words, what is influencing my decision as I stand on this dock? Am I trying to impress other people or am I trying to make the best decision for myself? Do I want an impressive LinkedIn profile or do I want to do what makes me happy?

I fear turning right, only so I can brag about the fact that I did. In my eyes, that’s a poor reason to do so. Life is so short. It’s worth savoring. I fear turning left because it’s easier. Am I choosing the path of least resistance or am I being blown into it like a leaf in the wind?

What do I consider the wrong reasons?

  • To impress people
  • For ‘job security’
  • To feel like I’ve ‘made it’
  • To make the most money
  • To feel important

All these reasons really just come down to ego. Why do I actually want to board the rough ship? Is it because I desire the challenge? Is it because I want the path less travelled? Or is it to stroke my ego? Is it so I can tell people about it? Is it so I can prove to myself I’m worthy of boarding that ship?

Regardless of which I choose, there will be points along the journey where I look longingly back at the shore where the other ship remains docked. I’ll wish I had picked the other ship. If I board S.S. Ruckus, I’ll yearn for the easier life I could have had. If I board S.S. Serene, I’ll wish I would have challenged myself more.

At this point, I don’t know that there is a right answer. All I know is that whichever ship I choose, I’ll look back at the dock every once in a while and smile at the boat who didn’t take me. Then, I’ll turn back to my voyage because this is the ship that did. And that’s a beautiful thing.