What Am I Doing With My Life? I Need Help With My Life.

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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:

21 Frugal Pantry Staples List on a Limited Budget

Practical Budgets For People Bad With Money

How To Effectively Overcome Credit Card Addiction

3 Signs When Frugality Isn’t Worth It & What To Do

Why You Still Need An Emergency Fund While In Debt

How Soapy is Geoarbitraging in China

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.

Related: 4 Profound Things I Wish I Knew Before Adulthood

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.)

Related: Don’t (Nicolas) Cage Yourself In Financially

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.

Related: 11 Surprising Downsides of Being a Successful Vlogger on YouTube

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.

“Save money and money will save you.”

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.

Related: Launch Your Own Dog Sitting Business! – Make Money on Rover With These 15 Pet Sitting Tips

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.

Related: Why It’s Important to Find Meaning Before Wealth

(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?

Related: Debt and Depression – Why I’m Proud To Be A Grown Up Tattletale

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.”

Related: Is Financial Illiteracy an Excuse for Being Broke?

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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43 thoughts on “What Am I Doing With My Life? I Need Help With My Life.”

  • Wow that is a tragic story about your friend.

    My biggest concern now that I am getting to the point where I am considered wealthy is that my daughter may feel entitled and not try create her own success.

    So many studies have shown that generational wealth is lost about 70% in 2nd generation and about 90% by 3rd generation.

    It’s a hard line to draw between spoiling your child which you want and trying to instill sound financial practices which entails them not having everything they want.

    I have been using the opportunity when I drop my daughter off to school (about 25 min ride) to have her as a captive audience and talk about finance. I tell her about passive income streams which is what I focus on and how that it will one day free her from a w2 job if she does it right

    Well hopefully your friend comes to her senses. She has been given an amazing opportunity to turn her life around but it really is up to her (you can lead a horse to water….)

    • How old your daughter? Thats so cute, years later she will tell people “I had father-daughter-finance talks for 25 mins every day with my dad!” Hahaha. I assume she’s interested in this stuff? What is her behavior with saving and spending? I think she will be just fine!! Children learn by example 🙂

      “So many studies have shown that generational wealth is lost about 70% in 2nd generation and about 90% by 3rd generation.”
      I’ve read that too! Kinda depressing!

      • Hey Lily, sorry just saw your question. My daughter is 12 years old, just finished the 7th grade. So far she seems to be interested in it. I think she sees the life I am leading with the nice house, fancy car, etc. and sort of realizes that maybe she should follow my lead if she hopes to have it for her adult life as well.

        I’m very happy that her school actually has a finance class requirement in high school. I wish that was a requirement when I was growing up. It definitely should be a requirement for everyone in high school/college so that it sets people up for success.

  • I’m so sorry to hear about Soap’s predicament. Her parents must be in a difficult situation too.

    I tried to imagine what I’d do if I were Soap or her parents, but there’s no easy answer. It seems like Soap is trying to pursue her dream of freedom and starting a profitable business venture, but things are just not working out for her.

    I’d suggest she go back to school, but based on your description of her enrolment history, that in itself can also be a big challenge.

    I think you wrote a great guide for Soap. I hope she will figure things out soon. It must be frustrating for her and her family.

  • these aren’t easy answers but the best lesson i took away when the going got rough was to NOT MAKE IT ANY WORSE. if you’ve dug yourself into a hole, stop digging, as they say. i recall working long and crappy hours at my own botched up “career” and not having much time or energy for a social life but having extra bucks from working so much. i had to decide not to just go and spend that dough on crap that was meaningless to me and buy a future where i wasn’t trapped in that hole any longer. sometimes it’s hard to see the opportunities right in front of you.
    freddy smidlap recently posted…Painting Sales and Portfolio Details

    • Oh Freddy, totally forgot to mention, Soap is a very self-destructive. That was one of my first impressions of her! She’s completely sweet and smart but self-destructive and thwarted!

  • Yikes! It doesn’t sound good for Soap. She’s getting too old to keep this up. You’re right, it’s cute when you’re 20, but not in your 30s. Her parents are trying for tough love, but they keep bailing her out. Everyone knows they’ll come to her rescue. It’s not effective that way. Anyway, I hope she figures out what to do with her life. Good luck…
    Joe recently posted…Being a Stay-At-Home Dad Is Easy

  • Man that’s a tough situation everyone is in over there in the Soaps household… parents are trying their best but it’s clear the failures happened long before this situation, Soaps is trying to find her way but ill equipped, unfortunately our society isn’t particularly sympathetic and the solutions aren’t obvious (at least to me). Just rough all around. 🙁
    Jim Wang recently posted…Blue Nile Diamonds Review

    • Exactly Jim, I remember 4 years ago, her parents wiped her debt and we lost contact for a year and when we got back in touch, she was $30k in debt again and she didn’t know what she spent the money on. So her parents aren’t exactly keen on wiping the debt again.

  • Yikes, that’s tough… I’ve had my fair share of ups and down, but that’s just the reality of life. I truly hope your friend can finally start taking responsibilities for her actions and control of her life.

    This is one of my biggest concerns for my daughter, being so concerned with setting the family for success, and financial comfort, sometimes i worry as to how do you avoid kids from being to privileged? I feel like it’s a very fine line between being there for our kids and providing for them, vs enabling bad habits.

    But even when i take time to think about it, how can i really say no to my daughter? Jeez tough
    Half Life Theory recently posted…My Millionaire Older Brother Thinks FI Principles are Dumb

    • A very fine line indeed! I get concerns like this every time I write a Soap post. Everyone is afraid for their children, I’m having an argument with my husband right now about disciplinary actions. (I’m the disciplinary one.)

  • In some ways I wish I was in Soapy’s shoes. She is in an enviable position. Many people in the world can’t even ask the question “What should I do with my life?” because they have such limited options.

    Taking a step back, Soapy should realize that there are so many things that she can do with her life. She is still relatively young. She has sensibly rich parents that are supportive. She has SO MANY options and opportunities. The world is her oyster.

    If I were Soapy here’s what I would do with my life:
    1) Stop drinking to the point where it become a problem
    2) Get in better health… without health, we are nothing
    3) Become more financially responsible

    I know the above suggestions are vague and it may be easier said than done… but that’s what I would do if I were in her enviable shoes 🙂

    • She is in a great position! There are so many advantages – free education and housing?! Sounds awesome. But she is a free spirit and none of that is worth it to her without freedom – which I think is a veryyyyyyy very special characteristic that I totally admire in it’s “raw” form.

      Better health isn’t really possible. She has the immune system that..she should live in a bubble and I’m not joking. She should be prescribed a bubble.

  • Soap is such an interesting character! I want to meet her some day. Out of everything you listed, my favorite is “Life Doesn’t Have to Have Meaning”. If the end goal of your life is to maximize happiness, there are many ways to do it. Ignorance is blessing. Sometimes the more someone has to ponder, the more stress it may induce. When you know what to do, go chase your goal. When you don’t, no need to stress over it and just go with the flow. A day lived happily with hope and excitement is a day well-spent no matter you have found life’s meaning or not.

  • Great advice here Lily! Ah, Soaps. Girl needs to start loving herself for real, in that deep inside sort of way., so she no longer harms herself. I wish her well!

    P.S. Thank you for the mention. Glad I could help! 🙂

  • Lily,

    There is so much great stuff in this article. First, the headline – ultra relatable for a lot of people, jumped out at me among dozens of others. Second, Soap is an amazing character possibly by sole virtue of your writing, the way you are honest and ruthless about her flaws while obviously rooting for her to succeed. Third, this might be the best sentence I’ve read all year; I nearly leapt out of my chair in agreement: “This might be an unpopular opinion but not all lives can have meaning.” I’d take it a step further and say no life has meaning, and that’s perfectly OK. By some ennui, perhaps exacerbated by modern lifestyles (though I bet I could find an ancient Greek debate claiming this exact idea and blaming their modernity for it), there’s an awful lot of fruitless purpose-searching happening. Lots of people need to (re)read Siddhartha, probably should be an annual ritual like the Spring Cleaning that I only seem to do a quarter of every three years.

    Cheers

    Jack

    • Wowza!! Thanks for a boat of sweets Jack!!! Such a nice thing to read at 3 AM haha. I’m surprised at the response of the live and meaning thing. I thought I was going to get flamed for it…for being hugely negative. 🙂

  • A LOT of people in the world go through this similar struggle. Not knowing where your place is in the world, and not knowing what it is you actually want to do with your life while you’re on this planet. Unfortunately, the majority (in my opinion) never actually answer this question in their lifetime. But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing…

    I once had a professor tell me that “No matter what…Re-discover yourself every 5 years.” I didn’t understand it at the time, but over the years I have come to really appreciate it. You will never know what truly makes you happy until you get out there and try everything that you can! And when you think you have found your happiness, go try and learn something new to see if that makes you even more happy!

    I hope your friend can discover her inner purpose soon, and move forward!

    • Omg I think you just blew my mind Sean O_O ” “No matter what…Re-discover yourself every 5 years.” I shed a new idea and a new goal every year telling myself this is “it” — of course it’s not it. NO one knows what they’re doing. Holy crap I can hug you!! I use to beat myself up for jumping around on my “ideal goal.”

  • Anyone who doesn’t struggle with understanding their place in the world is not leading a thoughtful enough life, in my opinion.
    With that said, it’s certainly possible to overthink it too. Or, in the case of your friend, to leave a trail of destruction behind you as you flounder around trying to find those answers.
    I’ve done more than my fair share of struggling with these questions over the years, and have left some damage in my wake – I understand where she’s coming from, and wish her the best of luck in finding her path forward.

  • Meaning is found in everything. Sometimes you don’t even notice themeaning you’re bringing into the world. It can be your friendships, your famlily, strangers you meet. Meaning is not finding a cure for cancer. It is in the little everyday things we do. Longing for Something bigger usually means wekeep our eyes closed and missout on the amazing things going on around us. As the past is already closed off and is Nothing we can impact, as the futuredoesn’t yet exist, all we have is the present to live full and be open to seeing greatness is everything around us.
    The CFO recently posted…Why did I start blogging and 5 key lessons learnt

  • Interesting, a difficult predicament for both Soap and her parents.

    I’m not going to lie, the behaviour seems quite immature where avoidance is the preferred reflex. However, I don’t think she should be excoriated. (I do know this is rich coming from a 23 y/o)

    I will give a heads up too, IG promoters do have their perks, however it’s a fairly short lived existence. My cousin is involved with the game. Pictures of Ferrari’s, Rolex, Piaget, Gucci etc. However little is known that the Ferrari is his Dad’s and he just used it for the Gram; the other stuff, also moved on. The scene is also well known for its prostitution too, I’ve seen some of it first hand; shady exploitation is not something I would want to be a part of. All in the name of the Gram.

    Note: This article reminds me of the dispute about the 30 y/o on the news right now.

    My views seem a bit morbid, but I do think there is a time where being aimless stops being cute. I had to grow up quick, and found building a good foundation was imperative because the world can get real ugly, real fast.

    • I know exactly what you mean Will. I’m so on the fence, sometimes I’m like…WHAT ARE YOU DOING and sometimes I’m like “Wow this is hard, I can’t get out of this either if I was you.”

      Instagram is known for prostitution?!? OK well, that makes sense. I knew I KNEW it was all fake. Oh my god, I have to tell Soaps about this. I don’t think she knows the shady stuff. I think she just hates her reality.

      I like your view Will but most people consider me morbid too. I think aimless stopped being cute right after college.

      • Honestly, I would say you’re an optimistic realist. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst. I like that about you and it’s probably my favourite thing.

        I would say on first glance people may mistake your optimism as naivety, but there’s a lot of percipience underneath it all. As for your perspective, I wouldn’t say you are particularly morbid (unless you’ve been dialling it down like I have 😅); I can probably empathise if growing up in China shape some of it though. The dog eat dog mentality is slowly changing, at least with the younger generation that I encounter.

        As for IG I’ll just say, it can be a platform where “pretty” girls can fund their ostentatious habits via unscrupulous means…

        Here’s to wishing that Soap can leave the bad habits behind and cultivate the good ones she has. I hope that she also appreciates those that are fighting in her corner too.

      • Just read it, an interesting story with a world that I may have encountered before. A place I can put up with, but not somewhere I particularly enjoy.

        Give me somewhere that I can have hotpot or BBQ with people I care about, rich or poor, and it’ll be the best place in the world.

        As for bursting bubbles… Errr… Sorry L. :L
        (Jk, I’m actually not, it acts made me laugh. I’m very perverse like that, with a dark sense of humour to boot :P)

  • I think I know what Soapy’s problem is.
    She’s grown up with privilege and she’s seen it from all angles, so she’s not impressed with it. She sees there is hollowness in it, and she’s trying to find meaning and purpose. But yet, she hasn’t rejected the bits and pieces of materialism. She wants the good things, when she finds something that she likes.
    She probably looks at the opportunities for education and partnership in family business and says to herself, “Yes, but why should I want that if I’ve already seen what it gets me?” There’s no mystery driving her with the hope that life will be all beautiful if she can just earn X-hundred-thousand-dollars a year.
    She’s seen the work-aholics and she sees how their schedules are dominated by work. She sees how valuable freedom is. And she says to herself, “I don’t have to wait until I’ve earned X-dollars to have freedom. I don’t have to submit to this. I can have freedom right now.”
    But her finances are sabotaged by her privileged non-money-aware upbringing of buying what is wanted when it’s wanted. And she’s not even aware of that. She doesn’t even realize she can scale down her material desires.
    She’s also handicapped by her bad health.
    Soapy probably sees people doing a lot of work that doesn’t sound fun to her, and she isn’t sure what she’d like.
    Work she believes in will give her meaning and purpose. It will rejuvenate her drive. What Soapy needs is to discover the kind of work she likes to do. Once she figures out what she likes, she’d probably take off. To get to that point, she’s going to have to try lots of stuff. And have grunt jobs. But it will be hard getting to that point because her privileged upbringing probably makes her think that anything that doesn’t fit a certain set of requirements that she has in her mind isn’t real work or isn’t her kind of work. She will probably be happiest with work that she can create for herself.

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