This morning, I texted my baby sister to congratulate her on her new job.
“So excited!! About time I finally got a career. lol,” she replied.
Like a lot of young people her age, my sister has cycled through a few educational choices and service industry jobs. Last fall, she hit on something that stuck, powered through the program and was offered full-time roles by both organizations she interned with. And while she might wonder why she couldn’t have clicked into what works for her sooner, I know she’s happy to be there now.
I heard a similar story from a Forbes reader who reached out to tell me how a piece I wrote about (not) following your passion resonated with him. After a decade trying to make it in the entertainment world and having his quality of life suffer for it, he was making a change to go back into IT and to enjoy his acting efforts without having to rely on them to pay the bills. He was happy with his decision, if a bit rueful about how long it took him to arrive at it.
The time you spend figuring out where you need to be isn’t wasted time. It might feel that way because the older, wiser you of today is judging your more youthful self, a self who had less information, fewer life experiences and different priorities. He or she wasn’t slowing you down, but trying to find a path to today without much of a map. The further you get from that person, the more difficult it becomes to understand his or her motivations, but that younger you was doing the best he or she could under the circumstances. Believe that. In another few years, today’s you will seem equally quaint by your future self’s more evolved standards.
You weren’t ready to be who you are today five years ago. Those years were an investment, not a write-off. Enjoy the ROI. Skip the guilt.