I know this is too long, but I don’t know how to transition and I married a man who was succinct so I didn’t have to be, so I am banking off of content interest for you to keep reading. But I don’t feel entitled for you to keep reading if you are bored – I just couldn’t figure out how to edit this down further and I really needed to write you after reading your blog.

I have spent the past 20 hours in three days reading your blog. I’ve probably read over 50 posts or so, and they all revolve around the self-acceptance and fulfillment or career change categories. I am very interested in reading your homeschooling and parenting categories soon since I am almost 63% sure I will be going off birth control after my husband and I come back from our China trip in 2017.

I am 28 years old (ticking clock and parents aching to be grandparents working against a fear that once I have kids I will always think “what if” if I don’t figure out “what I should be doing” now) and feel like I’m in a job that wastes my potential. I know I shouldn’t blame the job, but I blame myself for being too weak and scared to leave this job that is a 5/6 on your test for “do you have a good job“… so I tell myself I should shut up and be grateful.

I am an ENFJ, but sometimes I test as an INFJ. I think I’m 50/50 on the Introvert/Extrovert thing because I love helping people at work, but I get tired of being constantly around them (so I work virtual and in-office) and I am very independent and need an escape to think.

This also may depend on at what time I take the test. If I take it around holidays when all my free time is taken up rushing to and from family events which I am very bitter and guilty for feeling bitter about right now, I test as an INFJ, but when I’m taking the test while I am at work or was just around cool people, I am an ENFJ. I love my family, but I can’t say no to family events because we live 2 hours away and it’s not like I see them every day… so perhaps I am just a guilty and bitter ENFJ with no family boundaries.

I am a programmer analyst who changed from being a systems analyst last year. I have been caught in analysis paralysis on my next career move for over 3 years. I have been at this company since my 2010 college graduation.

My company likes me enough to keep me even when I had a quarter-life crisis last April and said I am about to quit so they gave me a coding job I asked for to replace my database job but it didn’t get better because I don’t like data, I like reading about research based on data. (TBH I think they keep me because I’m fun, not because I’m good at coding) But I thought I should make myself get a degree in something I was bad at because it would be a good character building experience for me. And because it would fulfill both my parent’s expectations (and I had no time to think of any for myself) I think that was a big mistake.

The only part of my job I like is when I am helping people find answers to their problems. But I don’t want to learn the code anymore to be the answer to those type of problems so I don’t see how I have any more use here except to keep doing a mediocre job at learning to code and then giving people sort of knowledgeable advice about something I don’t really like. But I end up feeling good I helped them and that keeps me going. Sort of.

My dad is a successful engineer and manager and loved us based on achievements (grades, contest wins) and my mother was a very emotional and creative best friend who raised me to “get a degree” because her husband would definitely marry a woman with a degree if she died. My parents are still married after 36 years and are quite happy with each other for what its worth.

My friend is abused and I have been helping her through her issues. This makes me feel fulfilled and interested because it presents a challenge where I need to convince her to make better life choices to get away from the abuse. I looked up “victim advocate” job on indeed and apparently a master’s degree is required…. so I dropped that idea because having to get a masters degree for that sounds stupid since I’m already doing a great job at helping my friend now. I actually ended up counseling many coworkers about their relationship issues or lack thereof these past 5 years. I’m good at getting people to open up. But to be a psychologist I’d need a doctorate and I’m 28 with a ticking clock.

I tried to go to art school and business school at the same time. The art school because I wanted art and the business school because I thought it was the smart and practical thing to do to support that art.

I felt mentally raped by art school as they were all crazy drug addicts who thought my representational art was kitsch and their over-sexualized abstract art was high brow. I saw no other options in art. The school gave no other options to be a different type of artist. So I quit. I did something practical that I thought would give me a stable income so I got a business degree in computers. I am sort of a happy person in general but existentially miserable.

From one of your posts, I tried to remember my greatest feeling of accomplishment and super fun or peaceful moments as a child. So I remember interpretive ballet dancing on stage many times and enjoying it, mostly because I enjoy moving around and also knowing people are being entertained by it. Now I pursue wushu, a performance martial art 3 times a week. I remember setting up house for dolls with friends in a low hanging camphor tree. We climbed and jumped off the branches. We were at home there.

I now live in a stilt house on a lake built from wood and fixing it up feels good. I liked helping my grandmother with her chicken and rabbit feeding chores. I also remember laying in a meadow by a forest in really soft grass and it felt awesome. I currently have 5 chickens and think 15 would be even more fun – so I guess I’ve done pretty well in actualizing my childhood aha! moments. I realize this and feel more ungrateful that I am still complaining about my career.

I know you’ve heard this before… but I think I still want to be an artist. After all the career books and repetitive analysis I have done in the past 3 years I look back on my notes and I keep coming to this conclusion. I make some art, but I feel guilty about it because the art doesn’t make money to help support myself or my family so its only for myself. Then when I catch myself feeling like this I become scared to death I will become my mother. She is too guilty to do anything for herself and never tried to capitalize on her natural artistic talents.

Right now I just want to sit the work computer down and go to my art desk and make art. I have been in the flow state with this before. But I would be a bad employee if I did that. But I’m not a bad employee if I type this long winded expose of my life to you after reading 50+ of your posts in the past 3 workdays.

But am I cut out to be an art entrepreneur? In 5th grade, the kids liked my art and commissioned different Pokemon, and I drew them and received fair compensation. I was proud of how well I could make Pokemon drawings and sell them for 25 or 50 cents but then a jealous kid told on me and the teacher said I couldn’t do that in class. I was so guilty I did something the teacher said was wrong so I quit.

I am a people pleaser to my own fault, and I don’t want to die having pleased everyone but myself. I’m scared because now I’m 28 with a ticking clock and probably have maybe 2000/10000 expert hours of art combined under my belt. I want to draw pictures of awesome stuff, have people see it and love it and want it, and then pay me for it. So then I can buy everything plus health insurance with it and feel worthy. I know there are successful artists that do this. But they are all already successful. I’m just starting out. It was easier to explore when I was a child and had no adult responsibility or a baby clock.

I want to ignore people (INFJ) but I just can’t (ENFJ). Women have it harder than men in these existential crises because of babies. And I still want babies too.

If you got to this part of the mail, my question is what do you think I should do? I would love to know your opinion about my situation. I finally feel braced and ready for any hard truths I may hear.

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9 replies
  1. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope Trunk says:

    I think you should go to China on your trip as soon as you can, and have kids as soon as you can, because you’ll never know what you want from a career with kids until you have the kids, and you’re going to be in your career without kids for less than a year. So right now your career doesn’t matter that much. You are in a waiting period with your career.

    Also, I think you’re an ENFP not an ENFJ. An ENFP is the only type that could imagine being as many people as you imagine yourself being.


    • Jessie L
      Jessie L says:

      Let me just say that you are awesome and I love the advice you give. As a hardcore myers-briggs fan, I had to weigh in. I would actually disagree about the ENFJ/ENFP thing. I’m definitely an INFJ (just finished your INFJ course, by the way! It solidified a TON of career direction problems I was having) – and I have always been obsessed with different career options. It comes from intense introspection, but also because it’s almost like a third-person view of our emotions (due to extraverted feeling in Jungian theory). “I did this thing, and it made me happy. I did this thing, and it made me sad. But what do I actually like?”

      INFJs (and ENFJs) are also super future-focused, and we mentally walk down every future path to see where it leads. I think this is a very different experience than what I imagine an ENFP goes through. NFJ being a fully thought-out, “where does this lead? Okay, now what about the next option?” vs. NFP “I like this, but also this! and this!” But I’m not an NFP, so I could never say for sure.

      I have had almost 100% of the exact thoughts as the questioner. Almost scarily similar.

      Plus the fact that they bring up they like helping people with their work and answering questions. That is like crack for INFJs. And I can definitely see why she’s stayed in that job for so long if that was an element of it.

      Anyway, this is probably totally out of place for me to word barf like this. Love your writing Penelope, thank you for your INFJ course, and thanks for giving us new ways of thinking about things.

  2. ellen
    ellen says:

    ugh i think Penelope is right about the ENFP, I am an ENFP and this was like reading my own thoughts (but different). you might as well try art because if you don’t you’ll be my age (42), and mad at yourself that you waited that long. good luck xoxoxo

  3. jessica
    jessica says:

    Can your husband support you when you have kids? If so, have kids and do art. If not, stay in your career for the money and do art on the side. Pursue both vigilantly for they serve dual purposes (one for money, one for enjoyment).
    Really, it depends on your financial situation. If you are having kids this year or next, that changes everything for a few years. If you have to work, you will be working and taking care of kids with all of your time.
    You’re best bet for yourself is to learn to make decisions for yourself and take that responsibility. You’ll learn more and won’t be as stuck.

  4. Wendy
    Wendy says:

    OP, I think you should just pony up for a hour’s consult with Penelope. She would be better able to get a feel for your type, after which the chances are higher she’ll be able to help you find an answer you like and find helpful.

    But yeah, if you feel like having kids and you’re emotionally and financially prepared, then Penelope’s right that you should just have the kids. You’ll probably have to quit your job anyway, and who knows, maybe after that you’ll be able to work from home on your art.

    Also, I’d like to suggest you look into illustration, not “art”. Illustration IS an art, but using the word “illustration” narrows it down to a field within the arts that’s considerably more sympathetic to the type of art you like to do. It’s also somewhat easier to succeed under the banner of “illustrator” without art school connections than it is to do so as a contemporary (i.e. gallery) artist.

    Hope this helps!

  5. Anoel
    Anoel says:

    Interesting, she sounds like a NFJ to me because she is so concerned with making others happy instead of doing her own thing. But ENFP is possible I guess. As an INFP, I don’t care about making others happy very much because ultimately you need to be happy with your own life as no one else is living it for you.

    I definitely would try to stay home with your kid (go more minimalist to make this happen) and focus on making art from home as you don’t want to lose the what if of not having kids and not pursuing what seems most important to you right now. You seem like a perfect candidate for making art and selling it on etsy including doing commissions for people. You could also do art lessons for other kids in your area as a side job eventually. If you like teaching kids (or adults) you can go back to school with just a masters degree and that could work. Also Marriage and Family Therapist only need a masters degree and internship so after you have kids you could look into going back to school for that.

    I don’t know where you live but you sound like a perfect candidate to teach at a coding bootcamp since you love teaching others but only know the basics (or at least don’t want to know more). If there’s none around where you live, there’s online only versions and you should look into getting a job with them as that’s something you can get paid for asap and you may be able to do part time when you have kids.

  6. Pirate Jo
    Pirate Jo says:

    Are you sure you would be “a bad employee” if you sat your work computer down and went to do art? Essentially it sounds like they are just paying you to be available. Those of us with an ingrained Protestant work ethic find that a difficult idea to get our heads around. We think we should be WORKING every hour we are on the clock, and anyway we like that sense of “flow” that you mentioned that comes from being busy. But really, your employer just doesn’t want to lose you, so they let you work remotely and be available to solve problems when those problems come up. If you adjust your expectations to what they want, is it really so bad?

    I’m in a situation like that right now. I work from home and most of the time there isn’t any work to do, but I keep the work laptop around and remain available in case they need something and then I go do art. (Not drawing or painting, but needlework. I make some beautiful, fantastic things that I am really proud of and enjoy every minute of it.) When the laptop makes that little noise that says someone needs me, I attend to it immediately, and they are very happy with me.

    You want to have kids, but feel you need to be earning money to feel “worthy.” As long as your husband is on board, it doesn’t have to be an either/or. Maybe your company would let you work part-time remotely, or maybe you could adopt some of Anoel’s excellent suggestions above. If you taught an art class or two at the local school, or hosted a class at your home, you could help kids discover joy in the same thing you have found joy in. You could get on your husband’s health insurance plan and make enough to pay for one of your household bills like the property taxes. That’s not “unworthy” and if your husband wants kids and you are taking care of his kids, how could he complain?

    You say you want to please yourself and stop worrying about pleasing others, but I think helping other people IS what pleases you. That is fine, but you will have to give it some thought and draw up some boundaries. It’s easy to cross the line from helping someone solve their problems to just getting sucked in by them.

    For what it’s worth, I enjoyed your post. Although your writing takes little detours, they are interesting and add color – little stories of their own – but then you pull it back to the main narrative. I loved your story about drawing the Pokemon characters for money in 5th grade. I’d like to box your teacher’s ears, though. I hope by now you realize there was nothing wrong with what you did – it was the RULES that were wrong, and your teacher.

  7. Katie
    Katie says:

    Ditto to almost everything stated in the original post: “What should I do with my life?” I ask my husband this question every day and I think he is sick of my constant wondering and states to me “just live your life babe.” But what does that mean ?!!! And how do I know if I am “living?”

    I am also a 28 year old, married, loved art and was a dancer most of my life. Went to college because it was expected and I now work in healthcare as a dietitian specializing in diabetes care/insulin pumps/etc. I enjoy helping people but healthcare is a hot mess for so many reasons – employees spread thin to not effectively care for people, conflicting recommendations and clinical guidelines, horrible communication because employees don’t have time to converse face to face enough (which I value), so many things fall through the cracks…I could go on. The patient suffers and the taxpayers suffer and what are we really accomplishing as a whole? Our nation is super unhealthy.

    The differences between the original author are that I already have a child (3 years old) and Penelope was right – fulltime was too challenging/not worth it. I was working to pay for daycare to have someone else raise my kid. And she was always sick from damn daycare germs. So now I am part time (20-25 hours per week) but I still feel like I am working to pay for the part time daycare/preschool and a little $ left over. I still question if I am “living” even with reduction in hours spent working.

    It appears to me the majority of us don’t “live” because we are stuck in societal norms and I don’t know how to do what we are (quoted from a previous Penelope post).

    So I read Penelope’s answer which I loved. In a nutshell, what I took away was travel, and have the baby. Which I agree with. Always choose traveling- it fulfills me at least. I traveled a lot prebaby and continue to travel as often as money will allow. And I now have the baby (3 year old) and potentially ready to have another.

    So I guess I would like to add onto the original post – what do I do now as I had similar situation, and I already have followed Penelope’s advice. I am about three years past that advice. Now what do I do with my life? I see my options as have another baby or not, change jobs or not (or career), and move/relocate or not? The one my husband and I are most debating is moving. I have read a lot of your posts about importance of living close to family once you have kids. But the tricky part is what if your both sides of the family potentially will cause more stress than help/more burden than joy? We love them and they love us, I just forsee issues occuring if we choose this path. And maybe I am overanalyzing all of this and I just realized I am totally rambling, but I do too love Penelope’s answers and perspective. So please give it to me straight too: what should I do with my life, now three years past the original author’s post? It seems something needs to change but I can’t put my finger on it, and I am completely overwhelmed where to start. I realize I can’t predict the future but would like to make decision that seems most appropriate given the information at hand.

    Sincerely, lost

    PS – I am obsessed with your blog and tell everyone I know to read it. I have a sister with Pervasive Development Disorder and I love her raw-ness/ insight, which is one of many reasons I love your blog.

  8. Yvette
    Yvette says:

    I think the positives of being near extended family is support for the parents as well as the kids, so maybe it depends on what the problems are. Kids don’t need to be around dangerous people, (and neither do you,) but eccentric loving relatives are a joy for decades. (Safety first.) Also, I found parenting and house chores exhausting, for like a decade. Working 25 hrs / week on top of that, sounds like a lot to me but maybe, if it includes a really short commute and flexible hours.

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