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“I have no idea what to do with my life.” -Soaps
Bleh news Internet Friends. I wish I had a better Soapy update for you guys today.
For those of you who are new here, this is a brief synopsis of my friend, Soap. She is one of the many colorful characters I’ve noted from my life.
I added this portion so no one is missing a piece of the puzzle:
Soap is one of my best friends. She is also the daughter of a very affluent, multi-millionaire family. She grew up in Salt Lake City, UT. Her childhood was what one would call pure opulence and she had many privileges most people can only dream of.
Her sister is married to the wayward son of a Chinese billionaire and Soap herself…well, she is in her 30s with a drinking problem. She has terrible health and cannot hold down a stable job. At age 30, she started with $80,000 in refinanced consumer and medical debt and some unpaid taxes as well.
Although her parents can easily wipe the debt away, they think it would be better for Soaps to learn how to manage her own finances by learning to live frugally and focusing on her career and education. Both of Soap’s parents fall under what you call, the sensible rich.
Soapy’s parents immigrated to the United States from China in the 1970s. They’re open minded and highly educated (in contrast to my own immigrant parents). They educated themselves, worked very hard, and became successful engineers and then entrepreneurs within two decades. Now they want to pass on their successful international trading business but to no heir.
Soap was the only heir of choice but she repeatedly declined to learn her family’s business. Now her parents have stopped asking. To Soaps, her parental life work has no appeal what-so-ever. It is not how she wants to live her life, even at the guranteed of wealth.
Read the previous posts in Soapy’s Odessey:
And here is the update since we last left off:
Since her main source of income can be done via Wi-Fi anywhere in the world, Soapy went to China to curb her living cost and get herself out of debt faster using a millennial secret weapon called “geoarbitrage.”
Unfortunately, she became annoyed with the lack of sanitation and bleak progress, she skipped town and work for fun with a friend. This is when I lost communication with her for several weeks. I would have been more concerned except Soaps does that a lot. She eloped across the world with some guy once.
All that is guaranteed is she will come out of it in even bigger trouble. Then one day she sent me a text, and I quote:
“I’m disabled.” (Seriously what the f*** kind of an update is that?)
I think she was exaggerating but man, can she employ an effective cliffhanger.
Then another message a few days later that things became so bad and she’s so broke that her parents had to come bail her out (yet again) and she is now in their custody.
“Life with my parents is so posh, too bad they want me to go back to school.”
They booked a ticket for her back to Canada and now she’s back to the same old, same old.
Her mom gave her a choice, to continue on the treadmill of poverty or return to the United States for a comped education and all the spoils that come along with living with rich parents. It may sound like an easy decision to most people but you have to consider “an education and W2” may not be the goal of someone who dreams of freedom and instant riches. More schooling is not for everyone (myself included) so Soap is dragging her feet.
(P.S. She attended several prestigious schools at one point or another throughout all the years at her parent’s insistence but in the end some crazy accident always happens leading her to withdraw from uni.)
Some people think I’m making her up. She is really a brilliant creature, a central Beat lore character. But a lot of her core problems are related to normal, boring people like you and me.
“What Am I Doing With My Life? I Need Help With My Life.”
Yeah…that’s a good question.
Instead of arbitraging as planned, she has even less money and her $80k debt has grown to over $100k thanks to new taxes due. Back to being stuck in between a rock and a hard place…Soaps ask me:
“What should I do with my life? I’m wasting my life here.”
Boy, is that a good, 2-ton loaded question. Her mom wants her to get her life straight and figure out what she wants to do with herself. Mom is currently paying all her bills but that won’t last forever. She wiped off Soaps tax bill last year but that’s more an “I don’t want my daughter going to jail” thing.
Update over, let’s get to the meat:
1) It’s Not Just You!
Everyone goes through this phrase. This is a GOOD question to ponder! Did you know that 70% of Americans hate their jobs?
At least this intent shows an awareness that what you are doing is not where you want to be. That’s good!
In the same sense, there is absolutely nothing wrong with pondering what you should be doing with your life. The majority of people have been here, asked the same question, and fought the same demons.
Self-identity is immeasurably important; congrats on joining the club.
2) The Arrival Time Is Different For Everybody
Have you ever noticed some buses are always late and some stick closer to being on-time?
I struggled from age 18 to 25 trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. At 26, I had an inkling and at 27…I would like to think I might have the answer. Which is totally YAY inducing but man, age 18 to 25 was a big chunk of my youth just to “build” up to this point.
There’s also no “correct” timeline for self-discovery. I guess like height charts, there is a suggested chart that correlates to age. Ideally, people want to get the self-discovery thing out-of-the-way by the time they go off to college and decide on a major.
After that comes the 20s, this is the accepted prime time for soul-searching. It gets less and less cute from there to be “soul searching” as you move into the 40s and beyond.
Unfortunately, that is rarely the case, especially if you’re a free bird like me and Soaps. It took people post-FIRE to find out what they want to do with their life.
That’s my husband’s plan. He is running up the career ladder but only for that freedom date so he can spend a lot of time figuring out all the fun. (This is why it’s super important to SAVE your money kids.)
3) Lay Out & Funnel Your Options
I would say do it on a piece of paper. Do it map style. I love writing things down. My entire computer desk is full of scrap paper. It’s full of lists, visual idea maps, interconnected thoughts, and scenarios.
When I’m faced with a multi-layered problem like “what to do with my life” I scribble and flush those things down and tape them to the wall. Then I make another one and edit them as fit.
Don’t do it in pencil. I write mine in pen (multi-colored) so I can see my thought process. If I had an eraser, I would erase one of every 2 words and nothing would get done.
It’s easier than trying to trap and think this through in your brain, which right now, is a cold dark pool of water and a lot of good things could drown in it.
4) Be Realistic
Play to your strengths. The tide is going somewhere and it would be wise to not fight it but work with it instead.
Everyone pondering the “what should I do with my life” conundrum has either absolutely no idea or more commonly, at least 2+ options that they’re struggling between. It could be should I go back to school vs stay and work OR move away from home vs stay in the town I grew up in.
I tell Soap she is not going to become the Chinese Paris Hilton or an Instagram celebrity even though that’s what she dreams about doing. It has to be at least somewhat realistic and being an “Instagram” celebrity is not for a broke 30-something-year-old woman currently under $100k of debt.
I’ve always wanted to be a professional dancer but that’s not on my “what am I doing with my life?” hit list. It’s not realistic.
5) It Hits When You Least Expect It
Like…has anyone ever told you life is a total troll?
I’m usually against the impromptu “cashing out my cash savings and drive down to Mexico to figure out my life” thing because that’s just reckless mixed with anxiety mixed with escapism.
A lot of times, the answer to what you want to do with your life comes when you’re NOT digging out your brain to find out that answer.
It’s important to enjoy the ride and make sure the pillars of your life is taken care of. (Just as long as you’re not in Soaps position, that’s a bad ride to get stuck with.)
6) Cover Your Basis
This advice might be a bit delayed for Soaps but the best offense here is defense. You don’t know what to do and you have no idea when you will know what you will know.
Does that sound like an upper hand to be offensive and aggressive with risks?
Of course not.
In blinded situations like this, the best thing you can do is play it smart and cover all the basics. Offer yourself as many avenues of freedom as you can. You know what money buys? Freedom! That means living a debt free life, saving an offensive amount of money, maintaining your health and making sure your support system is strong.
7) Gather Insight From Others
Speaking of support systems, the old mantra of surrounding yourself with successful people may sound like something a Mean Girl would say but there is a lot of truth to it. Gather insight from the social circle you admire, most people are too polite to not care, plus they will be flattered you chose to go to them for advice!
The fresher the eyes, the least explored the perspective.
Come to think of it…the biggest realizations for me this year came from my husband (2), Soap (1), and Amy (1). The light bulb went off like a blast of light and all I needed was perspective!
8) Don’t Fear Work
Anything that’s decently good looks like a mountain of work before you start. I have at least 3 life “works” and not a single day goes by that I don’t want to tear my hair out. There are a giga-million little things to do on that list. But as I step back and remind myself that I’m young enough that there will be time for me to chew off the workload, I feel a little better.
I use age as a comforting excuse to keep going and keep working. It works well enough, being 26 does leave a lot of room for betterment. If you’re fearing the workload, it’s probably wise to give yourself an excuse and keep the faith alive
The most disappointing thing is when a person won’t choose a certain route because the road looks too long. (That’s probably why I want to throw a brick at anyone who bad mouths saving money and compounding returns.) But I would hate to be anyone nearing the end of the road realizing they don’t have any life left to even work anymore.
9) You’re Going to Fail (Just Like Before)
That’s going to be a hard win. I’m assuming the “I need help with my life” statement probably stem from high feelings of failure from anyone who has uttered those words. It’s not going to be last time failure is going to strike. There is nothing more effective than hitting rock bottom to get someone fired up.
10) Start With a Hobby
When I was little, I remember all the grown-ups kept saying “everybody is good at something.” I never heard of that saying when I was growing up in China. I kept hearing it in the United States, it’s an American thing?
I was a pre-teen but I remember going, “pfffffft, what a load of millennial participation trophy crap.”
LOL. OK, not in those exact words but my little brain was skeptical of that statement back then.
Well, the older I get, the more I think they could be onto something. This world is sooooooo big. There are sooooooooooo many things to do. If you don’t have anything you’re good at, chances are you haven’t had the run-in or opportunity to try enough things yet. There’s a lot of obsessions people choose to focus on with their time. If you could find a way to monetize a side hustle or hobby, then you’re on the way to easy street. You can start a hobby at any age and scale up from there. (I had to tell Soap that drinking was not a hobby.)
11) Life Doesn’t Have to Have Meaning
Oook. This might be an unpopular opinion but not all lives can have meaning. Imagine the convicted criminal who just got out of jail after 40 years of confinement. He’s just trying to live and adjust in the real world now. Did his life have meaning? Not really.
So if you are having nightmare rushing to find something to do to give your life meaning, maybe bring it down a notch and open your eyes to your surrounding. In a way, we’re all just raindrops.
(Suuuuper important: don’t ever allow anyone to assign meaning or value to your life without your permission first.)
12) Find Your End Goal
….and go back from there. If you don’t know what you’re doing and need help with your life, envision your ideal life first. This is a common exercise that flushes out a person’s inner desire and forces them to create a map to it going backward. I use the “OK, I’m 105 years old and on my death bed. Am I satisfied with everything I’ve done?” What could I do to improve given that I’m happy as long as I’ve attempted to better my destiny?
13) Learning is Not Optional
In no way do I recommend anyone who cannot find their meaning and mission in life to just throw their paws up and go “I quit!” There are some days where I have a lot of problem with my parents and it usually stems from the fact that they’re “closed bulbs.” They say, “I’m too old to learn this” and “There’s no point in learning that.”
It cuts against my grain because although I’m their by-product, a good life for me revolves around the pleasure of learning every avenue to whatever sparks my fancy at the time.
Readers, if someone was struggling with the same question, what would you tell them?
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