Out of all possible job interview questions, there is one that I never get right: Where do you see yourself in five years? I hate this question. I think everybody hates this question, yet it’s still asked – a lot. Even if I practise an answer, I don’t know what to say. And I never know if the employer wants me to pander or tell the truth.
Because I value honesty, I usually tell a version of the truth: Happy and content with life, hopefully … ? Usually, the interviewer looks disappointed and waits for more and I have no idea what to add. Perhaps the real truth: I need a job to support myself and I want to be a functioning member of society, but I really don’t know what I want to do with my life so I can’t see six months ahead, let alone five years.
When my therapist tells me to imagine myself being successful at anything, I literally can’t. I shut myself down before I even begin. Past positive experiences are worthless + I have no value, so they hold no value = possible good things won’t happen. That’s how my brain works. Especially when an interviewer asks about my future.
Prospective introspection is difficult because I don’t really know myself. It’s not so much that I don’t know, it’s more like I can’t tell the difference between my depression/anxiety feelings and me. The parts have been intermingling for so long that I just don’t know which is which. Even when I take a personality test, I wonder if that’s really me I’m thinking about or a part of my mental illness.
Take the Myers-Briggs test for example (go ahead, take it right now, it’s pretty neat). I score as INFP, or Introversion iNtuition Feeling Perception. A lot of the questions use examples of situations with people and how you deal with them, i.e. real life. I haven’t handled real life very well up to now, but I can’t say for sure that’s my personality. If I’m trying to heal and change things about myself, is who I am now really who I am? I’m scared to find out. Or is my fear just the depression talking, coaxing me into apathy?
In spite of my current confusion, I know my love of words has been a touchstone. INFP types make good writers and, coincidentally, I identify as one. My writing was my true passion before I even recognized it. I’m always writing in my head. They say do what you love, but I don’t love writing; I need it and I just do it. Maybe that is who I am and I should stop worrying about personality aspects that might change as I get better. I should focus on the parts I know will always be me: My sense of justice, empathy, love of learning, and, of course, writing.
So I don’t know what or where I’ll be in five years, but I now have a better sense of who I am. And maybe I can finally answer that damn question in a way that fits me.
About Whitney Reyes
Whitney has always loved writing. Before she was first diagnosed with depression and GAD at 17, she started sharing her thoughts with the world on her blog. After completing journalism school, her mental illness came back with a vengeance. She's now writing about her experience on Healthy Minds Canada and social media. You can follow her on Twitter and read her other work on her personal website.