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Stop Asking What To Do – Bernardo Otaola

Bernardo Otaola reflects on creating work that satisfies all your needs and interests.

October 16, 2015

In past centuries, choosing your profession was very easy because there was virtually no precedents. You could be a polymath, and work in several fields at the same time. And that was good because people could do everything they liked, even if it was completely different. That’s why we have Rousseau, for example, who was a biologist, writer, and musician. Descartes was a philosopher, mathematician and physicist. It was a great time to not have any idea of what to do with your life because you could do everything! But in the 21st century, the biggest complaint I hear all the time (besides “I don’t have money”) is “I don’t know what to do”, or its synonym, “I like many things”.

Right now it’s not enough to be a doctor: you need to be a doctor specialised in paediatrics and with a PhD in a particular disease that only affects 15% of the global population. There is no way you can have two or more professions… Is it?

I will put myself as an example: I love football. I breathe football all the time. But I also love writing. And politics. And sociology. And movies… Many things and some of them are not related. Journalism (apparently) was the solution, but then I found out that I needed to specialise in a particular kind of journalism as well: political journalism, sports journalism, cultural journalism… Many people of my generation face this dilemma. Some of them are even worse off because they like physics and dramatic arts! So, are we doomed to do only one thing in our lives, giving up the rest of our hobbies and passions?

I will put myself as an example again: Eduardo Galeano (1943-2015) was an Uruguayan writer and journalist, very political and critical about the society. But he loved football, and he found the way to mix the three subjects and write the book “Futbol A Sol y Sombra” (Football In Sun and Shadow) His actions inspired others to start watching football as something else. In my personal experience, as a columnist and writer of the on-line magazine Apuntes de Rabona, this is the living example that you
can set together all the things you love, even if they are not necessarily related to each other. In Apuntes de Rabona, we write about football, but not as a sport; we see it as a cultural, political and social phenomenon.

So, what’s the conclusion? F*** the rules. You like to do many things? Create your own work field that will let you enjoy all of them. At the end of your life, you hope you won’t regret the things you stopped doing. You hope to be able to say, “I did everything I wanted” So, to all my fellow generation mates: don’t worry, you will find the way. Don’t give up on anything. If there is not a clear path, make your own.

To everyone else: is never too late to begin again.

Journalist and writer
Bernardo Otaola is a columnist for Apuntes de Rabona. Originally from Mexico City, he is now based in Edinburgh and will regularly contribute to this blog. You can find him on Twitter at @bernaov