The Simplest Advice For Anyone Trying To Figure Out What to Do With Their Lives

And how I’m using my French degree as a marketer

Emily Steele
4 min readOct 19, 2023
Photo by MD Duran on Unsplash

It’s 2008. I am 15 years old.

It’s the end of freshman year of high school, and I’m brace-faced with an upperclassmen boyfriend and 50 T-9 texts a month to use with him (but I’m about to blow that out the water.) It’s time to choose my classes for next year. Seemingly innocuous decisions but whose effects will reverberate long after I realize.

I select French as my foreign language requirement.

No one takes French. It will be a small class. That will be fun. And I will be unique and different and have something special about me.

This is why I chose French as a 15-year-old freshman.

And then it changed my life.


When I graduated college with a French degree, lots of people asked me, “What are you going to do with a French degree?”

“Teach French,” I told them.

Because that’s what I thought I would do with a French degree.

I did not think I would get a master’s in teaching. meet a best friend. stop teaching French. become a personal trainer. start a business. work at a gym. feel frustrated. move back to a city I already left with the same person for whom I left it. get another job at another gym. quit that job. still feel frustrated. try a new business venture. actually thoroughly enjoy that work. move again. get a new job. pause my business. become a full-time work-from-home marketer/freelancer/writer/brand manager. with a French degree.

But that’s what I did with my French degree.

I pulled on all the loose threads that I might not have discovered had I chosen a different path, and they unraveled in a thousand different directions and led me somehow here.

When I believed that there was only one way for a decision to be a “right” decision, I felt like an idiot for falling in love with French and running so hard and fast after a degree only to discover a deep lack of joy in doing perhaps the most logical thing one does with a French degree.

A googly-eyed, naive lover betrayed by her emotions.

But now I recognize the pivotal role those decisions played in the unfolding of many things afterwards. What if I had never discovered the lack of joy that lead me to continue searching for the things that do bring me joy? What if I had to follow the curvy looping line to find my place instead of the straight one I thought would lead me there? Why do we perpetuate the idea that paths are linear when no one’s ever is?

instagram: @__emilyjstelee__

Ending up somewhere different than you predicted is not the same thing as making a “bad” choice. Maybe there’s no such thing as a bad choice after all, just one that hasn’t fully played itself out yet. Maybe we aren’t the best ones to choose our lives. Maybe that’s liberating.

In the classic Hollywood love story, Sleepless in Seattle, Meg Ryan’s character says, “You make a million decisions that mean nothing, and then one day you order take out and it changes your whole life.”

I guess we don’t know which decisions are the millions and which ones are the life-changing-take-out-order kind.

I guess it’s probably best we don’t.

Because post-grad life hit me like a sack of bricks and I am who I am, I often think back to what I would say to my 22-year-old self and what I wish I could tell every 20-something currently getting life-smacked by a sack of “Real World” bricks.

As a newly-minted 30-year-old (aka, super wise now) no longer getting hit with the same sack of bricks but still wrestling with doubts from the same demons that haunted me in those early 20something years, what I would tell myself then is the same as what I tell myself now:

do what feels good.

I chose French because it felt good. I left a teaching job because it did not. I worked in a gift shop for a local artist and simultaneously learned about fitness and nutrition because it felt good. I read blogs and books about marketing and taught myself how to edit and design because it felt good.

It was (is) so, so hard to not know where things would (will) lead, but on the other hand, it is so, so freeing to remember we never “know” where things are going anyway. We just gotta keep doing what feels good and keep encouraging others to do the same.

May you lean in to the liberation and let go of the need to know. This is my prayer for you.

20something, 30something, human-something.



Emily Steele

lifter of heavy things: thoughts, words, weights, burdensome beliefs