Pursue a Lifestyle, Not a Career


Remember when you were little and your teacher asked what you wanted to be when you grew up?

Do you remember what your answer was?

I remember mine.

There were multiple actually. Some of my most notable were a violinist, a pianist, a CIA or FBI agent, a theatre teacher, a Broadway star, a photographer, and the first female President.

When we're young, we're encouraged by our teachers and our family to dream big and dream wide.

You want to be an astronaut or a ballerina? What a great idea! How neat would that be?

But as we get older, the expected answers for this question change. You're still encouraged to dream, but are reminded that the dreams should be practical.

You want to be an astronaut or a ballerina? You know, there's a lot of training needed to be successful in those fields. Are you sure that's really what you want to do?

Sometimes I wonder why the question "What do you want to be when you grow up?" never revolved around anything other than career.

If I'd just said "happy", what would my teacher have said?

I didn't pick consulting as a career because I knew it would make me happy.

I went after a career in consulting because it fit my major, it paid well, I thought I could be good at it, and it was the practical thing to do.

Please don't get me wrong, I realise that jobs are important. Jobs are how we make money, feed ourselves, keep a roof over our heads, etc. Yes, job's are important. But they aren't the only, or in my opinion the most, important part of one's life.

It wasn't until I'd been living in Washington, D.C. and working for a year and a half that I finally picked my head up and thought to myself, what the hell am I doing?

I was doing really well at work but I was becoming ambivalent towards it, so I was traveling four days a week for a job that didn't make me excited to get out of bed in the morning.

We had friends, sure, but we were going out a lot and living only for the weekends just wasn't cutting it anymore. D.C. didn't have the same appeal it used to either.

I remember after one particularly frustrating day at work I sat in a parking lot and called my Dad and basically said "I don't know if I want to do this anymore. These people are frustrating, I don't feel like I'm getting anything out of this, and part of me just wants to quit but I don't know what I'd do instead. I feel stuck."

How many of you have felt this way at some point? How many of you still do?

It's the never ending battle between practicality and the dream or the pursuit of happiness. It applies to everything; jobs, money, love, family, etc.

"You have a steady job and reliable income, you should consider yourself lucky. Why would you give that up?"

"You've been together for years and you make a good team. It just makes sense for you to take the next step, don't you think?" 

"You want to travel your whole life? What about when you want to start a family? Be realistic."

I think the real turning point came when I started thinking about what I want my life to look like rather than what I want my career to be.

I thought about it nonstop and eventually I came up with a list of three simple life dreams:

  1. Live in another country.

  2. Find someone to share it with.

  3. Have a happy family with kids that are curious, ambitious, and happy.

Notice how not one of those dreams is remotely career-focused? For many, I'm sure something career related would end up top on their list. Which, by the way, is absolutely ok! For some career is synonymous with lifestyle; it just happens that they aren't synonymous for me.

Living in another country is a dream that settled into place six years ago after I spend a summer studying abroad in Todi, Italy. We spent our days either in class or touring nearby cities, drinking wine at the town's only bar, Bar 1.2, soaking in the summer sun, and spending time with our host families. 

I remember knowing with absolute certainty that I could easily live in another country at some point during my life.

After looking at that list, suddenly achieving dream #1 became my number one focus. 

I was researching jobs abroad left and right when a series of events led me to meet a Partner from my company who lives and works in London.

After we met, I called him up and asked "How do I get to London?" 

A series of interviews later and I was signing a contract to transfer to our London offices.

Wait a second - I thought this was an article about pursuing a lifestyle Victoria, not a career.

It absolutely is.

If I'd wanted to make the most money and climb the career ladder faster, I would have stayed in America. 

Instead, I'm fulfilling a dream; it just so happens that my company would rather move me than lose me in order for that to happen. 

I still don't jump out of bed in the morning excited to be a consultant, but I do jump out of bed every morning excited to be waking up in London.

Here, I'm working on building the life that the 19 year old girl with the big dream used to picture while gazing at the Italian countryside.

A life where I see, do, and feel as much as possible, surrounded by people who make my life shine.

The other two on my list will come with time, I know; one step at a time and all that.

I guess the best we can all do is to try to make each step count.