I’ve heard it said more than once that the twenty-something years can best be described as one long game of Whac-a-Mole. A huge fan of the game when I was eight, I’m starting to think it loses its grandeur when you’re waist deep in your twenties.
The object of the game is simple: strange, slightly creepy, animated moles pop up all over a board. Using a mallet, the player is meant to “whack” as many moles as possible, forcing them back into their holes and earning a high number of points.
For my generation, graduating college can feel a little bit like stepping into the line of a fire hose. After years of focusing only on the next test or the next project, suddenly we are faced with The Rest of Our Lives. We have opportunities, yes, but these possibilities can be paralyzing: a sea of moles, luring us in every direction and distracting us from our true passions.
All my life, I have wanted to be a writer. I wrote my first novel in fifth grade. Late at night, I labored under the glow of a flashlight, agonizing over how to write the sinking of the Titanic from the perspective of a mouse. In college, I went to career fairs and seminars, reading pamphlets about teaching, nursing, and other “sensible” careers, knowing in my heart of hearts that I wanted to write for a living.
After graduating, though, I seemed to lose my focus. I turned the tassel on my cap and found my world transformed into a life-sized game of Whac-a-Mole. I had no definite career path, and no form of income. Suddenly, less-than-perfect jobs and opportunities became more appealing simply because they were there, in big black fuzzy costumes waving their arms at me.
Two years after graduation, I found myself in a minimum-wage job, exhausted, deflated, and with little-to-no energy to write on the side. My dreams of becoming a published author were fading in the real world, where my only objective was quickly becoming to make ends meet.
It was around this time that Anne Deeter Gallaher gave me a copy of Women in High Gear. In the book, Anne and her co-author, Amy Howell, encourage readers to define their goals, and to list the steps they need to take to get there. Anne encourages readers to get uncomfortable, saying that “to reach your high gear…you’ll need a lifetime vaccination of a healthy disregard for the impossible. Getting uncomfortable is the best thing you can do to reach your high gear!”
I thought about these words in light of my own life. I was so busy trying to get by, seizing whatever opportunity came my way, I hadn’t stopped to define my goals and think about where I really wanted to end up. I realized when I looked at my situation more closely, that I was avoiding stepping out and doing what I loved because I was afraid of failure. It was more comfortable for me to scrape by in jobs I didn’t really care about, head down and whacking at opportunities, than it was to take a step back and rethink my dreams. In reality, I was working at these part-time, minimum-wage jobs because, after stepping into the playing arena and trying to survive, I no longer knew what I was worth.
After reading Women in High Gear, I made a list of high gear goals for the next five years. With Anne’s help, I started thinking strategically about how to attain these goals. It’s amazing how much easier it is to listen to yourself when you’re not chasing after moles. Today, I am a Master of Fine Arts candidate at Chatham University, and I’m working on a novel again–although this time, there are no mice involved. I’m stepping out into the world of freelancing–not because I’m grabbing whatever comes my way, but because writing is what I love, and I am worth pursuing something that I love.
We are all gifted with unique passions; with talents that make us come alive. We are worth more than the game of Whac-a-Mole can give us. Reaching High Gear is about realizing this, and pursuing the thing you are passionate about. It may be more uncomfortable at first, but is well worth it in the long run.
Thank you, Anne and Amy, for encouraging us to define our goals and to get uncomfortable in order to reach our own High Gear!
About Rachael Dymski
I’m a freelance writer living in Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania. I love few things more than travel, interior design, running, literature, and a good cup of tea. I blog at RachaelDymski.com.