Margaret Feinberg grew up asking herself the question her latest book poses, What the heck am I going to do with my life? At four she wanted to be Wonder Woman; at five a doctor. By the time she was 18 she'd made plans to be a gymnast, biathlete, ballerina, pianist, lawyer, teacher, computer programmer, an astronaut, and an ambassador to a third-world country. But when it came time to declare a major in college, she had no clue what she wanted to do.
She finally settled on studying religion, but that only delayed the question to graduation. Even though she's now settled into a career as a writer, Feinberg finds that she's still asking the same question. And she's not alone. She interviewed more than 100 people nationwide and found that everyone she spoke with wrestled with what to do with his or her life.
"Figuring out what to do with your life isn't easy because even landing a job or finally earning a few years of work experience to put on the resume, the questions about what you want to do don't disappear," she writes. "They just keep resurfacing. Singles, newlyweds, oldyweds, empty nesters, retirees --- anyone at any age or stage in life --- can wrestle with these questions and struggles to find answers. No one is immune."
Feinberg thinks What the heck am I going to do with my life? is one of the greatest questions we ever ask ourselves. "Not just because it is the question that won't go away, but because it forces us to examine ourselves in a new light --- who we are today and who we are called to be tomorrow. The question challenges us to look at the core of who we are as individuals, discover our talents and gifts, and come to terms with our weaknesses. When we dare to ask, we step into a realm where anything --- including growth, transformation and change --- is possible."
To help facilitate such transformation, Feinberg's book serves as part mentor, part cheerleader and part pastor, urging readers to consider everything from their own childhood dreams to the role family members play in shaping aspirations to how one's talents glorify God. WHAT THE HECK AM I GOING TO DO WITH MY LIFE? has a workbook-like quality, but it also provides substantive guidance, most notably when dispelling the pervasive myth that "you can be anything you want to be."
"I'd love to tell you that anything is possible, but the truth is you were created with specific strengths and weaknesses. That was not a mistake. Too many people foolishly spend time thinking, If only I could. But that time is wasted," she writes. "Don't despise your lack of talent or your inability to do something. I can wish all day that I could sing like Josh Groban, but is it not going to happen. By coming to terms with what you can't do, you can discover what you were meant to do."
To that end, Feinberg includes discussion questions, quizzes and resources to help readers hone in on their unique abilities and passions. And while what one is going to do with his or her life is certainly a question people face throughout said life, the tone of this book is clearly geared towards those in their late teens through their twenties.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of the book are the stories about people who have managed to find work that truly fulfills them --- that makes them "fly" as Feinberg says. Feinberg herself seems to have found such work, guiding others through the choppy waters of growing up in this and other books for young adults, including TWENTYSOMETHING: Surviving and Thriving in the Real World and JUST MARRIED: What Might Surprise You About the First Few Years. She might not have the same flashy outfit as Wonder Woman, but for those who are looking for some direction in life, her efforts are no less heroic.
Reviewed by Lisa Ann Cockrel on November 13, 2011