Saturday, September 6, 2008

To be...what?

I was talking with my friend J today and she mentioned that she has been thinking of going back to school to finish her degree, but isn't sure what she wants to study. It occurs to me that many people of all ages have this issue. Some feel that they have to know exactly what they want to be before starting or going back to college. Others feel that they are too old to finish a degree or start one.

I told J that I am 32 and am just now working on the education necessary to be what I want when I grow up. This is my fourth college degree and the one that will ultimately assist me in becoming a therapist, which is my final career destination. The thing is that the other three degrees have been useful in my life and will prove very valuable to me as a therapist as well. No education is ever wasted and you should never let anyone tell you that you have a time table to choose a career. Life is a series of decisions that we make with the knowledge we have at the moment. We are not stuck forever with those choices. If that was the case, we could never grow as people because we'd be living our first choices forever.

I started out by majoring in Journalism. As a junior in college, I decided I also had an interest in Sociology so I added that as a second major. When I graduated college, I worked as a fundraiser for a non-profit, which put to use both of my degrees. I had to understand people and I had to write newsletters and solicitation requests. I quit that job to move with my ex-husband to another city, where I worked as a manager of a domestic violence shelter. I then got a job as a reporter in my hometown on a twice-weekly newspaper.

After my divorce in 2001, I decided that I needed to fulfill my dream of law school. It was something I had been considering for many years. In fact, I remember telling my mother in December 1994 (my first year of college) that I was going to go to law school. It was in the back of my mind, but I needed to do other things first before making it a reality. I graduated from law school in 2005 and started the job hunt, which took a year. During that time, I worked for the Houston Chronicle as a trial transcript editor for the Enron trial. I would never have been able to do that without the journalism background as well as the law degree I had just earned.

In 2006, I was hired as an attorney. I worked full-time at that job until I realized it just wasn't for me as a full-time career. Working with clients made me realize how much better I was at the emotional side of counseling as opposed to the legal side. My strength was helping the clients feel better emotionally and I finally knew it was my calling. I quit the firm and continued to work on a law case here and there, but I started looking toward the goal of counseling. I knew that I would need at least a master's degree to pursue that career so I began looking into what I would need to do to return to school. I completed the application materials and started school in August 2007.

I landed a job in January 2008 as a technical writer for a small software company and I love it. It allows me the flexibility I need to pursue my studies while still earning a paycheck. Again, this was a job I would never have gotten without my journalism background. I also use what I learned in sociology to understand the group dynamic of the office. My law degree came in handy as well in that my boss/owner of the company was a paralegal early on in her career and we connected over the shared experience of having worked in the legal field.

All of this is to say that life has a way of working itself out and pushing you in the right direction. There are some stops and starts along the way, but nothing you ever experience or do is wasted. It all contributes to your final career choice and you will be better for it all.


Dauphyfan said...

How true! I was just thinking about this very subject the other day. We all have experiences that we go through that may not make much sense at the time, but eventually we find we are grateful for them all.

I remember feeling pushed to my limit while working with my mentor teacher. He was gone a lot due to personal reasons and expected way more out of me than I thought I was capable of. As a result I became very resourceful.

This helped me in my first year of teaching as I was once again on my own. I was mentored by an amazing Reading Coach to put together a literacy program. We had some bumps along the way, but I learned a lot.

Now that I am teaching Language Arts without any safety net whatsoever, so I am finding that many of my past experiences were meant to prepare me. I have had to be resourceful and very knowledgeable in this position. The amazing part is that I have retained my calm throughout.

So it is very true that the stops along our life's journey are not always going to be clear in purpose, but it all comes full circle eventually. You hit the nail on the head with this one! =D

Jaime said...

You're right and I'm glad for the discussion because it helps me remember you can do whatever you like and not to pigeonhole yourself ;)

I'm thinking of you today, I hope you're safe with the terrible weather in route. Let us know!