If you’re a fan of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy (like I am), then you’re probably familiar with one of author J.R.R. Tolkien’s most famous quotes from the first book “The Fellowship of the Ring”: “Not all who wander are lost.”
While that iconic phrase may have different meanings to different people, here’s my interpretation. Someone might appear to be aimlessly wandering through life—bouncing from job to job or place to place without a career or life plan—but they’re actually picking up important experiences and skills that will someday guide them to a desired destination.
Judging from my own life experiences, I’d have to say that I too was a wanderer at one time.
When I received my associate’s degree from Mott Community College a few years back, I found myself in a quandary that many students face after graduation: what’s next? I was an avid history and English student. I liked writing. I liked editing. I liked history. But how would I channel those interests into a career choice?
After researching careers paths tied to history and English degrees, I decided that those avenues weren’t a good fit for me. What followed next was a nearly two-year journey in the “wilderness.” I took on odd jobs, mowed lawns and did some freelance writing for clients. I was earning money but not pursuing a definite career. I felt lost, directionless, confused.
But during that time, I got valuable experience with writing for other people, improving my social skills and getting projects done promptly and to the best of my ability.
Then one day, I had a revelation: what if I pursued journalism?
Looking back, I sometimes wish I had realized that possibility sooner. I liked writing, I liked media, I liked sports. Why not combine my love for writing with my interest in sports, features and media?
To make a long story short, I went back to school, earned my Bachelor’s in Journalism and got hired right after graduation by View Newspaper Group. Now I’m writing features and covering crime, local government and sports and taking photos…all skills I couldn’t have imagined doing years ago.
Perhaps I needed that time of wandering to gain the confidence I have now to interview people, cover press events (etc.) Maybe I wasn’t lost at all; I was just being prepared.
In today’s world, young people are often expected to figure out their career directions early on. Some know exactly what they want to do by high school and make smooth, immediate transitions into their dream jobs after college. Others feel compelled to “climb the ladder” as fast as possible, even if it makes them miserable because they just aren’t ready deep inside.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s great to have a definite career plan or dive into your chosen profession at a young age. But for some of us, it takes longer to sort things out. Maybe that means taking a gap year (or two), traveling across the country or starting out with odd jobs.
Whatever the case, remember that a period of wandering can transform into a pathway to destiny. It’s all a matter of perspective.
Ben Gagnon is a reporter with the Genesee County View. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.