Home Blog Alan Watts Wasn’t My Career Counselor

Alan Watts Wasn’t My Career Counselor

by Emma May 20, 2015 1 comment

But oh, how I wish he was.

So often you hear parents, teachers and guardians offering this simple phrase to children “follow your dreams”. However, when that child grows up, we admonish those who follow their dreams and ask them to stick to a predetermined career path.

I hated my first meeting with a college career counselor. I sat down across from her with an expectation. I wanted answers, not questions. Instead, she asked me quite a few. To which I had no answers. None at all. Except an inability to pigeonhole myself into one of her outlined career paths.

When she asked me what I wanted to do most in life, my response was “help people”. She wrote down a list of possible jobs where I could “help people”. Nurse, doctor, psychologist, social worker, advocacy work, nonprofit manager. You see where I’m going with this don’t you.

For it didn’t matter WHAT I said to her. She was going to narrow down my dreams, ambitions and hopes for the future into a list of jobs. I left crying, certain that my future was doomed, because how could I choose just one path? How can I fail at an interview with a career counselor? Aren’t they supposed to counsel me?

Alan Watts wasn't my career counselor

Cut to four years later and I’m none of those things she told me to be.

I’ve realized that helping people starts small. You don’t need to start a nonprofit organization, or go to 10 years of school(unless your dream is to be a doctor or nurse- don’t let me stop you, please), or bunker down in social work. You need open eyes. You need to offer help when the opportunity presents itself, sometimes as a job, sometimes as a charity event, sometimes as simple as offering advice to a friend in need.

Now that I know I don’t just need a well-paying job to fulfill me, I am finding others who feel the same way. If you are not familiar with Alan Watts, you need to watch this.

What If Money Was No Object ~ Alan Watts from Edgar Alves on Vimeo.

A lot of us choose a direction in life based on its perceived outcome. This is totally normal. We imagine a future, we imagine success, we visualize things we want and work towards this. That is healthy and a good motivator. But somewhere along the line, we get muddled.

star trails, nyepi, nighttime photography, long exposure

We confuse what we “need to do” with what we “want to do” and end up only doing what we “have to do”.

I remember a lot of my fellow students in university struggling with what to do when we graduated… choosing a major based solely on their chances for financial success.

We study hard to get the grades to get us in to a good school, we get in to the good school to have a good reputation when we leave that school, we choose a field of study based on what interests us and where it intersects with how much money you can make off that degree. We meet with career counselors, who tell us who to be. We then choose our jobs, our internships, our opportunities, our career paths based on the assumption that it will make us comfortable and set us up for success way down the line.

But what if that success never came? What if it was all for nothing?

What if money were no object? Imagine a moment it simply didn’t exist. Then what would you do?

Komodo national park, indonesia, pencana boat tour, komodo dragons

I asked this question to my Facebook friends. For I still haven’t found a way to tie together what I would do if money were no object and the fact that money is an object.

The response to this post was overwhelming, more people wrote than I expected and some of them I haven’t heard from in years. But the majority of the responses were one of two things (or sometimes both):

1. Travel
2. Help others in need

For a (very) small choice of responses, it was eerily similar to their current job/career/work. I was glad to know that at least a small percentage of people I know are pursuing a path in life that is in accordance to their inner desires, not just a monetary pursuit, not just a “gotta put food on the table somehow” thing.

Here are some of the responses:

I would make a point to see every country and experience every culture in the world from Lichtenstein to Laos to Liberia”

“I would do charity work for suicide prevention and St. Jude’s. I wouldn’t want to work because I had to but because I want to.”

“Buy the castle of Neuschwanstein, live in it, travel the world, and donate money/time/aid to every foundation that helps underprivileged women.”

“Travel, surf, sleep, eat.”

“I  would travel in a motor home and never stop in one place too long.”

“Travel, eat, cook, write books, learn as many languages as possible”

“If money wasn’t an object Id make overly generous donations to St Jude’s hospital and help out every kid there. Then I would open a Bikram yoga studio that takes donations verses class charges”

“Retire, travel to see family & friends, live on the water, travel, & nap.”

“I would hang out with Alan Watts for a year and then decide…. haha I love this question. I would live comfortably and work with the land somehow, continue climbing and skiing, and most importantly I would collaborate with other people working on positive change in the world.”

“Travel and write and show my children the world”

“I would travel”

“Be a physician assistant! I love what I do”

“Educate the youth on how to self educate and explore their spirituality through art…”

“Open, fund, and run an animal shelter.”

“Just teach a lot of yoga in beautiful places, spread love and shine light!”

“Travel and teach!”

“I would go back to school for the rest of my life, take any class that interested me and study all over the world.”

moon rise, palm trees, rote, indonesia


Reading the answers was incredible. I felt closer to some people than I have in years, just by knowing their response to this question. I deeply admired some for their ability to think beyond themselves and say that they’d help those in need. One could say that it is because the responses are public, with their names attached, so the ego prevented people from writing selfish indulgences.. like “get manicures all day and have someone take pictures of me sipping piña coladas” But I’d like to believe that many people would do these things they said.

The problem is- what’s stopping us all?

We have the capacity to make small steps towards our goals.

You don’t need money to help others.

You certainly don’t need a lot of money to travel. (See: me.)

You don’t need anything to make a positive change in the world.

What I want to tell all of you is that you can. You can help others. You can travel. You can finish that album. You can do charity work. You can travel to Costa Rica and rehabilitate sloths. You can be a spinning instructor. You can go back to school. You cannot be a dog (maybe only for Halloween), but you can make movies and plays and travel everywhere.

It is easy to answer this question because it is easy to dream. It is easy to think of what we’d rather be doing than hustling to meet the demands of society, of our landlord, of our mothers, of our fathers.. There are the bills, loans, debts, food, rent. It is easy to keep dreaming.

submerged, mermaid, indonesia, komodo national park

But tell me this, won’t it be harder to live a life unfulfilled? Won’t it be devastating to come to that finish line, look back right before crossing and say “damn, I could’ve done better?”.

Yes. Money is an object in our society. However, it does not need to the sole object of our attentions. Start small. Start now. You don’t need to be ready to get started.

So, whats stopping you?

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[…] a freak out my senior year in college, sobbing in the career counselor’s office (more on that later). Since then, I’ve put a plan into […]


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