Patience is a long, long road
Patience is a long, long road

You know a harmful lie I was told? (I’ll bet you were told this one, too.) Ready? You have to figure out what you want to do before it’s too late.

That’s terrifying.

It’s also baloney. Read on.

It’s okay to take time to find who you are what you want to do

Just today, I was having a lovely conversation with some folks on Twitter. One confessed she’d entered her current career because she’d been told to, and wished she’d worked with books instead. In reply, someone else said this (slightly reworded to protect identities): Everyone told me to be a teacher, and I did that for a while before realizing it wasn’t where I wanted to be… and I stopped.

Okay, so I know how privilege can play into this statement. If you’re shackled with student loans or something with little wriggle room, of course you can’t just stop.

But we’re talking about a much more long-term goal here than just stopping, aren’t we?

We are. We’re talking about trajectory.

You Are Not Trapped

Trajectory is very different from position.

Position: where you are now. The dot on the map. The place you’ve come to after all your striving and questioning and fighting.

Trajectory: the path along which you travel. No, that does not mean goal.

You can have a trajectory without knowing your end-point.

Let me say that again: You can have a trajectory without knowing your end-point.

I’m going to refer to an excellent post I read today to go into this more deeply. If you have not encountered “19 Great Truths My Grandmother Told Me on Her 90th Birthday“, then I suggest you jump over there after reading this post.

– There are thousands of people who live their entire lives on the default settings, never realizing they can customize everything. – Don’t settle for the default settings in life.  Find your loves, your talents, your passions, and embrace them.  Don’t hide behind other people’s decisions.  Don’t let others tell you what you want.  Design YOUR journey every step of the way!  The life you create from doing something that moves you is far better than the life you get from sitting around wishing you were doing it.

– The right journey is the ultimate destination. – The most prolific and beneficial experience in life is not in actually achieving something you want, but in seeking it.  It’s the journey towards an endless horizon that matters—goals and dreams that move forward with you as you chase them.  It’s all about meaningful pursuits—the “moving”—and what you learn along the way.

(REMINDER: this is advice from a 90-year-old woman, two weeks from her death – and if you think a 90-year-old woman had an easy time customizing her life over the past century, then you are very deluded, indeed.)

Or, to Put It Another Way

Quick personal example: I have some small musical talent, so everyone told me I was supposed to do that for the rest of my life. They pressured me to pursue a degree in piano performance, pressured me to continue on in musical education and career, pressured me to do that as my “real” job and keep my writing  a hobby, and possibly even a private one.

I listened. I obeyed. I did as I was told, spent more years than I like earning a couple of degrees, entered the field professionally, and then…

Well, I’m not in music any more, am I?

It took me years to figure out what I was meant to do. Even then, it took longer to (a) transition out of my former career into this one, and (b) to figure out just what that was going to look like. (Traditional publication? Self? Sci-fi? C. S. Lewis Lite? VAMPIRES??)

There was one answer to all those questions: keep writing. See, that’s the trajectory. The rest of the details come into focus as you go.

Give Yourself Time

Trajectory matters.

Yes, your goal matters, but you may not always be right or certain about that goal, and that’s all right.

The question is whether you are going in the right direction. The answer is that if you’re not, you can change.

You aren’t trapped.

You can start to make small changes, every week, every month, every year, that correct your trajectory.

A question for you now: what is your number one reason for not starting today? Reply in the comment section below.


A three-times bestselling author, Ruthanne Reid has led a convention panel on world-building, taught courses on plot and character development, and been the keynote speaker for the Write Practice Retreat. Author of two series with five books and fifty-plus short stories, Ruthanne has lived in her head since childhood, when she wrote her first story about a pony princess and a genocidal snake-kingdom and used up her mom’s red typewriter ribbon in the process. When she isn’t reading, writing, or reading about writing, Ruthanne enjoys old cartoons with her husband and two cats, and dreams of living on an island beach far, far away. P.S. Red is still her favorite color.