I took a typing class in high school. No real burning desire to do it, but it looked interesting and I needed an elective junior year (this same thinking had me take a course in ancient Greek language in college). We had those electronic typewriters where you could see a few words on a screen before they were typed onto the page. For those of you a little lost by this concept, take a look at the screen on your printer – and make it much smaller. Then plug a keyboard directly into your printer. That’s pretty much it, save for the clack-clack of keys striking the page but you get the idea.
Before I took the class, and since I was not a particularly attentive student for a while after, typing a paper would take hours. Nosing around the keyboard to find the damn ‘q’, etc. I am still scarred by capitalization and margin size. At some point senior year, when the term paper requirements were ‘much longer’ I just could not handle it anymore. I needed to deal with this. I took out the old charts and notes from the typing class and sat at a typewriter in the basement for a couple of days and practiced. And got frustrated. And practiced some more. And found any other possible diversion to avoid it. And practiced some more. And probably threw some paper around. And practiced some more. I still stink, but this article is typed and it did not take me an hour to type it, so I will view the whole affair as a success.
I have been a lawyer (yes, there are INFP lawyers – I think I saw the other one on the street yesterday) for about 15 years. I started a career in the law out of fear since I didn’t know what else to do at the time, and since fear is an excellent motivator, I have managed to stay in it for a while. Of course, I have not held the same job for more than 3-4 years max (sound familiar?). Since my picture appears next to the Wikipedia entry on ‘procrastination’ it has taken me a little time to decide to figure out what I want. Not figure it out mind you, just decide it’s time to put some real effort into the prospect.
Up until this point in my life, looking for an alternative career as a lawyer was just something interesting to do. The Internet has saved mileage on my library card and I have about seven binders full of research and career ideas (btw, do you have any idea how complicated brewing beer can be – I actually have water charts on the pH levels in my area because it can affect the taste). But there was no real need on my part. Researching, printing and punching holes in paper made it feel like I was accomplishing something. It took hours and hours. There was passion for the process but no passion for completion.
Then I got married and had a child. See, I am not happy as a lawyer and I refuse to be a husband and father who goes home each night after being unhappy for 10-12 hours a day. I owe my daughter and my wife much more than that. I am a parent by example and unhappy parents have unhappy children (kids are so damn intuitive). I need to deal with this. So, since one of the things I do everyday is write (we call it ‘drafting’) I have decided to pursue writing as an alternative career. It seemed like the shortest jump I could find. I am still not settled on the genre so I am trying a few. But I am not scared – I am in action. Writing this article is a step in that process.
But that’s not enough. I still need to sit at that typewriter (that’s allegorical) and practice. And get frustrated. And practice some more. That will be the work for me, sitting down and doing it, everyday for a few months. Once I get to that point, habit should take over but I do not trust myself before that.
So, said succinctly, my path to moving past the hunting and pecking nature of my classical INFP career search was to remove myself from the equation – when it was not about me, I was not worried about choosing making the ‘wrong’ choice – or any choice at all. If you are on your own, then pick a group, pick a person, pick someone (anyone) other than yourself and search for your happiness with them in mind.
Oh, and don’t forget to practice.