When I was younger, when folks asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up I had a lot of different answers. Long before “career goals” became a hashtag, I had goals and dreams aplenty. I would say I wanted to be a singer, a doctor, an author, a firefighter. Eventually, people started to ask, “How are you going to have time for all of that?” So I would tell them I’d be a scientist first. Find a way to live forever so that I could do all of the other stuff.
Chuckles, a dismissive pat on the head, and talk about my imagination, and the conversation was over. The ridiculous dreams of a child.
I grew up pretty poor; in and out of homelessness as a child, evicted often, and never really in a stable home. As you might imagine, having a stable career became a focus as I got older. Besides, many of my loves growing up wouldn’t make a sustainable career (or so I was told). So, I moved forward stalwartly into a degree in business and hospitality, my career goals being primarily stability. Wanting only to be able to live without fear of falling into the same precipices that my mother pulled me into as a child.
After I graduated, I began working for the government. A dream, surely. It was stable. Paid well. Even had a union. But I wasn’t happy. I was anything but happy (and not all because of a shitty relationship). But why? I was making good money!
Coming to terms with the fact that money was not as important as I thought it would be was…difficult. And do NOT get me wrong; it IS important. But I needed other things. At that point, I was already older. No longer in my early twenties, I worried that it might be too late. I kept talking about quitting. But there was always another hump to get over. I’d quit after this bill was paid off. I’d quit after this batch of overtime. One day, I realized that I had been talking about quitting for 5 years.
Looking around the agency I worked, I could see the folks in their 60s and 70s just counting until they could retire. Miserable. The fact was, I didn’t think I could last that long. Maybe I was too old for a career change. You never know until you try, though, and eventually I’d simply had enough.
I started graduate school and quit the next month.
It took me two years to finish grad school and in the meantime I learned as much as I could. Honestly, I struggled. It was a big pay cut. I took lower paying jobs to try to get some marketing experience (what I was getting my masters degree in). At that point, I figured, hey: new degree, new job, new me, so I was trying to do all the stuff I thought that I couldn’t make a living doing. I started taking acting classes. I got an agent and started auditioning. I started performing improv. I started writing again, which is something I loved in high school.
It’s been hard. With complete honesty, it’s sucked. The time I spent learning, it was tough to pay my bills. I faced rejection often. But somehow I feel like I’m starting to see the break in the clouds. Companies are reaching out to me. Often. I took a job that tripled my previous pay and allowed me to learn things I had never done before.
I’m still nervous about my writing. But I’m doing it. I’m writing things. AND I’m actually showing them to people, another important step.
I finally am starting to feel like I’m doing something I can actually enjoy for the rest of my life, and it feels insane. It feels too good to be true. But I’m just going to keep moving forward and doing my best.
I’m looking for work right now. I had a few interviews last week and in one of them, they asked the dreaded: “Where do you see yourself in five years?” It’s one question I always struggle to answer, immediately becoming that seven year old that wants to do it all. I’m not really sure what my career goals are. I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. But why not? Why can’t I do it all?
Who says I can’t?
Who says you can’t?