I’ve been thinking about vocation a lot lately. Like many other people my age, I want my job to matter in some way. It’s not essential, but it would be the icing on the cake. It’d make waking up and coming in to work that much easier.

From what I’ve read and heard and seen, one of the most difficult and yet rewarding facets of your career (do I actually have one of those?) is finding a place where all of you—the constellation of your skills, your interests, and your personality—thrives. It’s a dream we all have, of discovering the role or the company where you find deep meaning and value in your work.

Of course, there’s no straightforward path to the promised land. Finding your place can take decades—or it can happen right out of college. Some people stumble into their vocations unaware; others pursue their passions with laser focus. This variation is illustrated in the seemingly endless interviews across the internet featuring celebrities and CEOs who each tell a different story of how they eventually arrived in their lauded position. One theme is clear: there’s no map to orient yourself, no guide to consult or recipe to follow. Everyone must make their own way.

From where I’m sitting, way back here at the beginning of everything, it can be a little disconcerting. I want to find my place now; I want to marry my work with my values and my talents. But it doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes you have to go through a few different job titles at a few different companies before you really start to get your groove.

At least, that’s what I assume.

And in my case (as always), I’m paralyzed by the options and what ifs before me. What if I became a graphic designer? What if I focused on writing? What if I was an editor? I spend so much time and energy trotting down these paths in my head, trying to juggle all the disparate factors involved: Would I need to take more classes? Would I need to relocate? Could I freelance on the side? Do I even want to freelance?

I know most people must go through something similar at the start of their careers. Unless you have everything completely figured out (and even if you do), then life will inevitably surprise you. Unexpected opportunities will crop up. Unforeseen losses will strand you on strange shores. Unknown fields and subjects will delight and intrigue you. Who can say where you’ll be in five years? In ten?

The problem for me comes when I spend too much time contemplating (read: worrying) and not enough time doing. Sure, I can calculate the risks, weigh out the pluses and minuses of different career tracks, but nothing will come, no fruit will be borne, until I take an actual step.

That’s the part that scares me, of course. Taking a step—it feels so concrete. So binding. If I take a course or two in graphic design, then decide to go another route, then those courses will have been wasted! (No—learning something new is never a waste.)

So this year, I need to stop fretting and put aside my fear. I need to take chances, try new things, and learn (perhaps by trial and error) where my next step will be. And in doing so, I’ll be that much closer to my vocation.

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