At first glance, this is may seem like an odd question. But it’s quite revealing as it relates to self-discovery.
If you’ve ever watched Runaway Bride (1999), you might recall the egg scene.
After leaving three grooms at the altar, Maggie Carpenter (Julia Roberts) is labeled “the runaway bride.” Upon hearing about her fourth wedding, journalist Ike Graham (Richard Gere) interviews her former fiancés. When asked how she likes her eggs, one responds with “Scrambled, just like me.” and another with “Fried, just like me.”
In realizing she has no idea how she likes her eggs, Maggie sets out to figure out her own preferences in relation to no one else. Of course, this isn’t about eggs. It’s about confronting the fact that she doesn’t have a strong sense of self.
It’s been decades since I watched that movie but Maggie’s story still resonates. In a lot of ways, her struggle to choose the right partner mirrors my struggle to choose the right career path.
When I started my career, I was certain I wanted to be a publicist. But after a few years, I grew exhausted with the grueling, always-on lifestyle. I pivoted to marketing to discover I didn’t enjoy the pressure of keeping up with trends or managing opinions.
So I decided to strike out on my own and launch a minimalist apparel brand. While I enjoyed the autonomy of being a solopreneur, my brand and my identity became intertwined. This took a toll on my mental well-being and I eventually shut down my business.
It was a soul-wrenching period of my life where I was forced to confront who I was without a job title.
The certainty I had experienced early in my career was a distant memory. Now I had no clue what I wanted to do next. I dreaded the “so, what do you do?” question. And I felt immense shame for taking time to figure myself out.
But I needed this time.
As the daughter of Cambodian refugees, my parents worked day and night to make ends meet. Even once they made enough, their remnant survival instincts left them feeling like they still didn’t have enough time or money.
I never experienced gymnastics, soccer, Girl Scouts, or any of the things you might do to get a sense of your interests or your strengths.
It wasn’t until I could drive that I began to explore extracurriculars. But by then, all I cared about was getting into college. Every activity I did, or club I joined, was for the sake of my college application. And in college, everything I did was for the sake of getting a job.
So here I was having the cliché quarter-life crisis.
While I didn’t have much compassion for myself back then, I wish I could tell her it’s okay to not know exactly what you want to do. It’s okay to take time to discover yourself. And it’s okay to choose an unconventional path.
In fact, these are still words I need to hear.
In a lot of ways, I am still discovering myself. While I’m grateful for the pieces of the puzzle I’ve uncovered over the past few years, I know it’s just the beginning of this lifelong journey.
After all, isn’t this the beauty of life? There’s always more to discover about ourselves and the world.