Advice to High Schoolers: Stop Trying to “Figure Out” Your Life!

So the other day I got this e-mail from a high-schooler asking for my advice.  I thought my response might be helpful to other people (more specifically: my 18 year old self), so I’ll post it up here:

Hi Jaemin! My name is Angela and I think I’m going through a mid-life crisis with all these college apps that I’m filling out. Currently, I can’t decide whether or not I should pursue film, the environment, or writing…

My response (unedited, so s’cuse me if it ain’t pretty!):

I’ll just say right off the bat, I think one of the biggest myths about life is that we have to “figure out” or “come to a decision” on what we want to do.  That’s such bullshit lol.

Being a filmmaker or a writer or an artist isn’t something we think about and then DECIDE we want to be.  Instead, you should just keep exploring and spending time doing the things you love to do.  In your free time, if you feel like it, keep writing.  Or make little film projects with friends.

Whatever it is you do, make sure you’re not doing for an END GOAL but just doing it because you love to do it.  And I promise you, if you follow your heart and keep doing what you love, then a path will come from it.  

And don’t worry about college or what major you’re going to be so much.  It doesn’t really matter.  I went to UCLA and worried for so long about being a Film Major.  I ended up being a Communication Studies Major.  And still to this day (I graduated college in 2008), I haven’t used my resume once.  My major didn’t matter at all.

What DOES matter is what you do with your time in college.  I met and became friends with a lot of amazing people.  In my spare time, I made short films with friends and learned basic motion graphics.  I was interested in advertising (because I was obsessed with creativity) and joined the UCLA Advertising & Marketing student group…and by my senior year, I was leading the team.

The things I did OUTSIDE my classes and major had so much more of an impact on my life than the classes themselves.  My advice to you would be to not worry about the end goal (because really, even if you spent 500 hours trying to plan out your life, you won’t even get close…life is WAY too unpredictable and beautifully complicated, it’s almost a joke that we think we can plan out our lives) and instead spend your time in college following your heart as much as possible.

Do what excites you.  Explore new and interesting hobbies.  Let your passion lead you, not your fear of being unemployed.

And when you’re in college, I HIGHLY recommend you throw yourself into student groups and get involved with creative projects as much as possible.  That’s where I learned the most about myself.

And if I trace back my “career path”, THAT’S what led to me running my own animation company.  The time I spent making short films for fun, participating in student groups like UCLA Dance Marathon (where I met my first client), and diving into the UCLA Advertisement & Marketing Team (where I learned how to have my films tell a message, which is what I do now with all my videos).

And by the way, I still haven’t “figured out” what I am now lol.  I hope I never do.  4 years ago, when I first started freelancing, I was a live-action video creator.  But over the years, instead of trying to plan things out, I just kept following my heart…and my business started to evolve.

It turned out that I really hated live-action video (it stressed me out too much) and I wanted more freedom to travel.  I also really loved motion graphics, so I slowly started to incorporate more of that into my videos.

Now…I do ONLY animated videos.  And I don’t even do the hard work – I hire animators who are way more talented than I am, and I mainly handle e-mails.  And I love it.  I have so much fun, freedom, and get to work with amazing clients and people.

And my business is still evolving.  I have NO idea what I’ll be doing a year or 2 from now.  Who knows, maybe I’ll get into producing audio for zoo animals.  Or being a professional hand clapper haha.  I’ve given up trying to plan my next 20 steps, and instead, just let each step naturally flow.  Life is so much more fun, exciting, and authentic when lived this way.

If I had tried planning my future or “figuring out” what I wanted to be 5 years ago…I would’ve wanted to be a live-action commercial director.  Thank GOD I didn’t stick to that plan (especially since I discovered later that I hated live-action filming lol).  A lot of times, having ONE specific goal just shuts you off to the MILLIONS of other possibilities that exist for you.

I could’ve never guessed in a million years that being a “producer of animation videos” would’ve been so perfect for me.  And I’m so glad I let it naturally unfold, instead of wrongly trying to “figure it out” years ago.  And I’m exited to see what I end up doing 5, 10, 15 years from now.  I have no idea…so that leaves millions of amazing possibilities!

Wow, I rambled on for a long time.  Sorry about that lol.  But yeah, this is something I definitely feel strongly about.  And trying to “figure it out” when I was your age caused me so much unnecessary stress and pain.  Let me know if you’ve got any more questions, I’d love to help you out however I can.  Take care Angela, and thanks for reaching out!

  • Taneen

    Awesome

    • Lol just cause I used a photo of your art…

  • Angela Kong

    Wow what a great article filled with wonderful advice! ;) I showed this email to Mr. Wood and he asked for a copy of your wise words

    • Haha no way! Mr. Wood is awesome, definitely one of my favorite high school teachers by far. Let me know what his reaction is, and tell him that me, Gabe, and Zobel think it’s crazy that he’s still showing people Medea!