You Don’t Have To Figure Out Your Entire Life

by Randy Murray on May 16, 2011

What’s your life plan?

When I was eighteen I left the farm and headed off to college. I thought that I might become a doctor or a scientist. I was good at chemistry, fascinated by space, and loved science fiction. And a doctor or scientist sounded like a real job, something I could get hired for and make a living. Never mind that I spent most of my time in high school playing music, singing, and performing.

In college I filled my schedule with science and math, but also literature and writing. And I spent my time in the theater. Before long it was clear that the math didn’t hold my interest the way the stage did and without much thought about what I’d do with a theatre degree, I plunged forward.

During the summers I worked construction. My junior year I came back strong and tanned and fell in love with a girl backstage, the costume mistress. We married the next summer. And the following spring, on a day like today, I walked across campus and said to my self, “I guess I’ll go to grad school.”

I was accepted to two programs, both in directing, and I picked the one in my home state, largely because my friend and former roommate was headed there for law school. When the professors interviewed me and asked what I planned for with my theatre degree I said, “I’m not sure. Maybe something in business.” I was met with cold stares and confusion. But the English department offered me a teaching position. Jealousy is a powerful force and after a semester the Theatre department decided they wanted me back. They gave me what was, in a sense, a business position and hired me as the Undergraduate Academic Advisor and a gave seat on the faculty board, an odd but useful position for a graduate student.

As my studies continued I discovered that playwrighting was much more interesting than directing or acting. I wrote plays, I worked hard, and with my freshly awarded Master of Fine Arts, a play in production, and no prospects for work, we moved to Columbus, Ohio, where my wife had grown up. After much searching about I managed a job interview, through a college contact, and convinced Bell Labs that I could write documentation and training. They gave me the job, though they were puzzled about the theatre degrees.

For twenty-five years I wrote for business, I worked my way up the marketing ladder, I managed, I hired and fired, and I even started a business. Virtually every job I did for that entire period was something that didn’t exist while I was in college. But every job I did I used the skills I learned studying theatre, studying writing.

And now, I’m on my own. I write full time, for a living. And I don’t see an arrow of time, a destiny, leading to this point where I now am. But I do see choices. I see steps. And I see a clear desire to write, to perform, to tease apart meaning and boil it down to something fundamental. I did not plan on the life I lead now and don’t believe I could have. But I’m very happy with what I’m doing and how I’m living.

When I hear talk about plans for life, I think of my children, my daughters. Both are artists, like me. Kathleen is a musician and Jennifer is a painter. And I have not one bit of concern about their future. I believe that if they pursue their interests that opportunities will come their way. And if those opportunities aren’t direct, clear steps in a path towards some dreamed for goal, their desires to exercise their skills and their love of their art will let them build lives where they can be happy and fulfilled. Their old man did it and I see no reason why they can’t take this road even farther.

Goals and plans are fine, but focus on what you love doing. Do what you love, even when you must make choices that don’t seem to advance towards your goal. Work your art.

Life will work itself out.



The You Don’t Have To Figure Out Your Entire Life by Randy Murray, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike May 16, 2011 at 11:17 am


I enjoy reading your work. Today’s post is well said.



Missy | The Literal Mom May 16, 2011 at 4:09 pm

Love this. It all comes down to “doing what you love” to find purpose. The hard part is that’s a lot easier to say than it is to DO sometimes! And as far as life plan, I try to work more in 5 and 10 year plans. That are fluid. ;)


Randy Murray May 16, 2011 at 8:36 pm

I have a few more things to say about this tomorrow. ;)


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