All my life I’ve gotten into random conversations with people where the subject of our life trajectories comes up, and I always end up feeling kind of weird. This past weekend I hung out with a friend who told me he decided on his career path in high school, diligently researched colleges, applied himself strenuously to his field of study, threw himself at the best internships available, and then went on multiple rounds of job interviews with companies he had also heavily researched, and that’s how he ended up in his current job. He made a choice based on the menu of job options available in our society and then did everything he could to fit into that choice.
What about me? he asked.
This is when I felt that all-too-familiar weird feeling I always get during these discussions.
I explained that I only applied to one college, based on me just really having a “strong feeling” that I was supposed to go to that school. And during my time there I realized that if I could be anything, I wanted to be a mad poet, a rebel writer, a crazy artist, and a drunk-in-love-with-life free spirit. I also realized this choice was not available on the job menu society offered so I decided to study the things that made me happiest—art and literature and history and philosophy. When I got out of college my heart called me to explore the big city and meet as many interesting people as I could, so I spent the next four years in dive bars in Seattle, working at a bookstore by day for the little income I needed to get by.
I then detailed my next few jobs, which were a string of experiences that seemed completely random—a private detective agency, startups that failed spectacularly, and now my current business as a writing coach. Somehow, I explained, I made it to my destination anyway. I actually DID become a mad poet, a rebel writer, a crazy artist, and a drunk-in-love-with-life free spirit. Somehow, every experience I had was leading me to where I needed to be.
And then I glanced back at my friend’s face and saw that he was giving me THAT look. That confused/astounded/slightly horrified look I always get whenever I try to explain myself or my life path to anyone who is, for the most part, a normal person. This time though, instead of sighing and looking away, I smiled.
I smiled because I know myself now and I love what I am. I’m an artist and a highly creative person. I’m an INFJ and an eccentric writer. I never wanted to be Jeff Bezos. I always wanted to be Jack Kerouac. For the longest time, I felt badly about that. I thought there was something wrong with me because I didn’t fit into any of the little boxes society offers us. I couldn’t give my teachers satisfactory answers when they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. Because every time I said, “poet,” they rolled their eyes and said, “no, but seriously,” and every time, it broke my heart a little.
It wasn’t until I was almost 40 years old that I realized there is no job application for the job I want on this earth. There is no listing for it online anywhere. There is no guide on how to get it, no degree I can get that will help me land it. There is no one else who can tell me where to find it.
The ONLY things that will be of any help to me as I search for this job are my intuition, my soul and my spirit, my creativity, and a great depth of awareness around how open or closed my heart is at any given moment. My connection with nature, my belief in humanity, and my compassion for myself will also come into play. These are the things listed on my resume, made only for the Universe to read and for other poets and writers and artists to understand.
This is one of the biggest reasons all of us creative types find society so hard to fit into: because none of us are even interested in the conventional box. Sure, we might work as an administrative assistant or call center rep to pay the bills. We might even enjoy and engage in our job as a teacher or librarian or graphic designer. But always, always at the bottom of it, deep within our soul, our true job here is to be a mad poet, a rebel writer, a crazy artist, and a drunk-in-love-with-life free spirit. So, not only are we not interested in the box, we also know that the box can never hold us, and the more we try to fit into it completely, the more we can feel our soul withering and dying on the vine.
If you are an INFJ or an INFP, a writer, an artist, or a highly creative person, or just plain weird and eccentric, and you’re not happy with your life, look around and see if it’s a box problem. Namely, are you still trying to fit into one in some way? It might be a current job you’re in, a relationship that you’ve outgrown, or even just self-doubt that causes you to hold back in your writing or art. But whatever it is, if it’s a box that’s stifling you, it’s not hard to identify it. Because I’m sure you immediately thought of it as you read those sentences above.
It’s time to go through your life and clean out what’s not working anymore. Even if you don’t have a plan for what’s next, get moving on throwing out the old, outdated crap that so clearly isn’t in alignment with your true self. Look around, make a decision, and then do it.
Leave the box behind.
Lauren Sapala is the author of Firefly Magic: Heart Powered Marketing for Highly Sensitive Writers, a guide to help any HSP, INFJ, INFP, or introvert writer move past resistance to selling and marketing their work. She is also the author of The INFJ Writer, a writing guide made specifically for sensitive intuitive writers.