A model. I want to be a model. That was me at 6 years old, because I thought I could sit still and smile all day and get paid. Nevermind that you have to, you know, be tall (I never made it past 5’6”), and walk without looking like a drunk duck (I have a wonky knee that once made a boyfriend ask if I was faking an injury so that I didn’t have to go on a hike). I even submitted a photo to a magazine contest, certain that I would wallpaper my bedroom with my magazine covers. When the issue with the winner was published and it was not, in fact, my face on the cover, I changed tactics: borrow someone else’s career dream.
At 11 I consulted with my best friend: A doctor, she said. And I will live in a mansion in Colorado with my husband and 2 kids. Did you know the average American has 2.3 kids? I don’t know if that means I should have 2 or 3, but I like two better. Wow, I thought, what is it like to be so certain of your future? To have a dream, a goal, a plan? I’d better jump on this immediately: “Me too. Can I live in the mansion next door?”
By high school I learned that being a doctor required approximately 30 years of schooling, and since school was as enjoyable to me as a dislocated shoulder, I moved out of my imaginary Colorado mansion. During that time I filled out form after test form asking what activities I liked, how my brain worked, in order to suggest a career path. If the piece of paper could have shrugged the results at me, it would have: I was all over the place. How could my 16 year-old self not know what my 40 year-old self wanted from life?
College. Oh, sweet college, where surely some authority figure could tell me what I wanted from life. There were so many glorious choices! I could be an accountant, a dentist, even a Paper Science major (that was really a thing, and I was shocked to learn it was not 4 years of Origami)! But what was my skill set? I liked being alone and correcting people’s grammar, which is basically the byline for English majors. And so, a career was born.
Kidding! I’m totally kidding. Do you really think there is a set career path for an English major? No one is clamoring for nerds who can read a novel in 4 hours or take a red pen to the mistakes in your company’s brochure. I still had no career goal, but realized I loved working (okay, I loved paychecks), so for the next 10 years I took any job that landed near me: Property Manager, Bartender, Orthodontic Assistant. I enjoyed them all, but I needed something else. I needed to write.
I started a website, writing funny parenting stories on my days off from putting braces on kids or mixing martinis. Having learned nothing from my desire for instant modeling fame, I was certain I would become a world-renowned blogger. Finally, this must be what it is to have a career goal! When a whopping 25 people read my words, I thought: A. I am famous! B. Why is no one contacting me with an endorsement deal? C. Maybe 25 people is not that many? I kept working to pay the bills, and I kept writing to keep my sanity. I’m now 40 years old and I have an excellent job that I don’t always enjoy, but that highlights my skill set: bossing people around. Where was THAT job suggestion on those high school tests? I still have my website where I can do what I love when my brain can’t contain itself, and am grateful I have years of stories that might one day become something more.
My career does not define me (unless I can say I’m a Author, and then yes, it will totally define me). I am certain my current job will not be my last, and that I will pivot to another field while I continue to write, write, write my own story. What do I want to be when I grow up? Happy. Writing. And perhaps own a house with a room wallpapered in my future book cover.
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