Since I’ve come home, I’ve been having intensely vivid dreams every night. I’m prone to these dreams anyway, but I don’t usually have them so frequently or regularly, and they’re really getting old. I wake up completely disoriented and more tired than one should be after solid sleep. And sometimes they really screw with my head.

One of the more common ones I’ve been having involve time. I dream that I’ve woken up too early and tell myself to go back to sleep, or I dream that I wake up and start my day – and it’s so real that I don’t realize it’s a dream. It’s just not comfortable.

My mother made an off-handed comment that finally made these make sense: “You must be worried about time.”

Well, that’s a duh. I’m going to Seattle on Friday, have grad school applications to prep, letters to write, jobs to find, and it basically all revolves around time. Or perhaps a perceived lack thereof. The job stuff especially, because I feel like it has to be handled so delicately.

(I’m going to Seattle for the 2012 Chefs Collaborative Sustainable Food Summit. Ruth Reichl is the keynote speaker. Amazing chefs will be there. I’m running registration. It’s gonna be awesome. Follow me & the Collab on twitter – we’ll be doing lots of live tweeting! #natlsum12)

Oh yeah, and I’ve decided grad school is happening. More to be discussed about that later.

I think one of the greatest obstacles I’ve had to acknowledge and deal with is the two very contradictory messages I’ve been getting about careers.

On the one hand, people tell me “you’re young with your whole life ahead of you – stop worrying about finding the right job and just focus on getting one!”. And then there is this whole other camp – the YOLOs – preaching the whole “life is short, live your dream, don’t settle, <insert inspirational cliche here>.” Basically, pick something because you can always change your mind…but remember what you do now defines what you will do for the rest of your life, so don’t make the wrong decision. Live in the moment…oh, but remember that the next moment will be an aftereffect of this one so try not to screw it up. Keep calm & carry on…but if you don’t focus on what you want right now you’ll really regret it later.

It’s taken me a while to articulate that, but those two forces are pretty strong in our culture, and I’ve been getting two earfuls of both of them. And the funny thing is, neither camp seems to be aware of the other. Yet combined, they’ve left me feeling confused, disoriented, and really really really overwhelmed.

After a year of interning and doing everything from grant-writing to chive-chopping, I hoped I would have a clearer idea of a career goal or at the very least, a clearer idea of what I want to do next. And other than the conclusion that it’s time to go to grad school, I feel less clear than ever about what I want to do, in no small part because I’m overwhelmed with options. (In fact I recently bought this book at a commenter’s recommendation; I haven’t gotten far enough into yet but I’m hoping it helps, even if only a little – I’m sure I will review it soon!)

I have so many interests and ideas and passions (although I’m getting sick to death of using that word), and that makes me feel a little bit like a phony. Like I can’t be fully committed to one thing when I love another just or almost as much. I guess it’s especially hard for me to accept this, because I so strongly prefer to focus on one thing at a time – that said, this is coming from someone who apparently can’t help but hold at least 2 jobs at once (and usually more like 4), and those jobs themselves involve simultaneously balancing different projects. But when I write cover letters to all these different organizations and companies for so many different positions, I feel like they will just look at me and think, what a liar. She’s totally more interested in doing something else.  I know I would excel at any of the jobs I apply to, because I’m an overachieving perfectionist with a pathological need to please others before myself. I just feel like I’m running out of different ways of trying to communicate that. [Seriously, people. You have no idea what you’re missing by not hiring me.]

I was really hoping that this year would excite and energize me, make me look forward to all the options ahead, help me find a dream. But it didn’t. I’m exhausted, and the only dreams I have are screwy and disorienting. I do not regret what I’ve done this year for a second; I know I needed to a) not be in school for the first time in 20 years and b) see what the professional world is like and get some actual experience in it. It just didn’t result in what I hoped it would. [Yeah yeah, welcome to life, blah blah blah.]

I don’t know which side is right. Maybe neither. Maybe both. I can’t be the only person feeling the pressure of both. I will figure this out on my own, in my own time, for no other reason than because I have to. This post has no other point than to say “guys. this is dumb.” So thanks for listening.

And at least now that I’ve figured it out, maybe the dreams will stop. Or, you know, I just cleared up brain space for my dreams to focus on my irrational fear of rejection. Super.