Has anyone ever told you to “stay in your lane”? Depending on the circumstances, it might have been a word of encouragement or caution. Your “lane” can be your field, specialization, experience, or status. Defining your “lane” is very helpful to recognize the steps and skills needed to move in that “lane.” What if your “lane” does not fit an established category? What if you feel like your “lane” is more like a highway spaghetti junction. That is when you need to build your lane.
We who are multi-talented can find this “lane” dilemma frustrating. We are usually encouraged to master one thing and cast everything else as hobbies. Sometimes, we are taught to choose between what can pay the bills and what makes us happy. But what if you don’t have to choose?
As you may know, I am a journalist, artist, and law student. I do a lot of pretty cool stuff with the little time I find in-between studying. What is the key to not suffering from an identity crisis, you ask? Being clear on where my destination is and trusting my journey. Success is relative and its meaning evolves with time and experience. However, paying attention to how I internalize rejection and compare myself to my peers is what enhances or hinders that evolution.
Earlier this semester, I started falling deeper into self-doubt. In law school, your summers are supposed to be spent interning or working at a law firm, courthouse, or legal department. After submitting several applications, sending cold and warm e-mails, and attending networking events, nothing seemed to stick. I started to panic. I felt like a failure. I felt like nobody wanted me. I felt foolish. Then, I started comparing myself to my peers. They all seemed to be picking up opportunities in their sleep…at least that is what my mind was telling me. While sitting in that cloud of negativity, a light bulb turned on. I needed to let go.
When it comes to my work and my life, I can be a bit of a control freak. Ok…a lot of a control freak. Everything is planned strategically with back-up plans stacked. I rarely ask for guidance because I have an unfortunate history of receiving more confusion than help. This light bulb I am referring to came about when I had a serious talk with myself. I realized that my “lane” is not featured in any pamphlets at the career center or in any resumes among my peers. Maybe the reason why I am only receiving rejections has nothing to do with a lack in qualifications. Maybe those positions are not for me.
I am an artist and I am sensitive about my “ish.” (Kudos to Erykah Badu and her wisdom) I was taking the rejections too personally and had lost sight of the bigger picture. I chose not to study the arts for a degree because I believed my purpose entailed more than fighting to be on stage or in front of a camera all the time. I resented the notion that I had to depend on others to tell me what I am capable of based off my looks instead of my talent. I wanted to be in the position to have the resources and status to tell the stories that I felt needed to be told and cast the talent I felt needed to be seen. I wanted my work to always fulfill a bigger purpose. With a J.D., I can also provide a service to those who think like me. I can protect their work and business and advocate for their rights and money. I can provide empowerment to communities that are underrepresented. I can provide insight to groups that are overrepresented. There is nothing wrong with being multi-talented. There is nothing wrong with having big dreams. There is nothing wrong with committing to a higher purpose. I do have something to offer.
I needed to re-clarify my purpose. I needed to let go of control and let it flow. Do I know exactly what is going to happen this summer? No, but I trust it will be what is supposed to happen. Part of that will be continuing to build my “lane.” I’m sharing part of my story to show you how important it is to be honest with yourself. It is really easy to get caught up with feeling you need to always keep up with people around you. Here is what I have been working on to build my “lane.”
1. Clarify your purpose: Work at being clear on what you want. List what influences your choices and filter out what is hindering your progress.
2. Think out of the box: Let your imagination flow. Be open to using your skills in different fields. Create your opportunity.
3. Nurture the present: Appreciate the challenges, lessons, and celebrations you are experiencing now. Trust your process and learn as much as you can.
This “lane” is a work in progress and will continue to evolve. Building the foundation is not easy, but is possible with self-discipline and patience. I have found the bigger challenge is finding the support system. You know those quotes that encourage you to surround yourself with people who support and challenge you? It takes a lot more time and patience to find people who understand a non-conventional path to success. One can’t really follow someone else’s footsteps when your building your own “lane.” Finding your tribe is key.
I would love to hear how you are building your “lane.” Let me know in the comments below.
Wearing: Forever 21 blazer; Marshall’s maxi dress; DSW heels