About a month ago, I had been sitting at my desk in an overly air conditioned office staring blankly at my computer screen. My head throbbed painfully. I needed an Aspirin. Or five.
And I needed a way out.
If you would’ve told me I’d be living in Providence, Rhode Island two years ago after a year long stint at home, I would’ve laughed like a maniac. Me? Live at home, then live in Providence? No freakin’ way.
As I’m sure many of you know, my job search in the past year has landed me several gigs in which I learned, oh yes, I learned! many different life skills. I taught horseback riding at a summer camp in the Adirondacks, proceeded to secure a sales job at a retail store while waitressing on weekends, followed by a social media gig at a local outsourcing company where I learned way too much about diapers and laundry.
It’s safe to say I’ve learned a lot about myself (haha) and which career paths may and may not be for me. I didn’t think I’d get to this point the way I did, however.
Please allow me to give you a little background into my career-oriented life thus far:
I began life as a rambunctious little tike, determined to be a veterinarian. Charming, really. A girl with no particular gift for long division or fractions, I loved my cats and thought this a great opportunity to share my love to help the general public. On weekends, I’d also take weekly measurements of my tropical fish (Zip, Zap, and Dude) and record them in my diary. I had to track their growth, you see. I dedicated my life to studying National Audubon Society field guides for birds, mammals, and weather. I’d find any animal I could and learn how to draw it for documentation.
Fast forward to high school and this career goal changed drastically.
I’ll do art! I thought valiantly as I finished my fourth large-scale painting of the year.
“Go large,” my art teacher would encourage, thrusting his pointer finger in the air, “Art Schools love to see students working large for the portfolios!”
After about six more paintings and several ruined countertops later (sorry, Mom and Dad), I felt completely and utterly burned out. I couldn’t bear to spend another month painting with acrylic or oil paints. As I visited several schools while on college visits, I decided to pursue a Bachelor’s in English instead of Studio Arts.
As I mulled this over trying to justify this to myself, I realized I’d always loved writing and had even remembered I had some of my smaller works published after participating in summer writing camps while I was younger. It was the one thing I never really burned out on, especially after filling two bound notebooks with all my middle school girlish fantasies (and fish measurements, to boot). I looked forward to furthering my education immensely. I wanted to be an author!
While in college, I spent a good deal of my time fighting the system (damn establishment!) and unfortunately, fighting against my own brain. I had little time to think of what career or internships I’d pursue as I was convinced I wouldn’t make it to that next step of my life.
Once I began to get healthier, I began to explore the options my major presented me with. I had no idea what I wanted to do, much less what to get an internship in, so I studied abroad in Italy for a summer before my last year at Binghamton while everyone else was getting valuable job experience. My senior year, I had reached the conclusion that I’d go to Europe and continue studying and get my Master’s in Fashion, Animation, or Screenwriting. I spent hours printing out pages of information and making Excel documents with each university’s location, cost, and course information. Maybe I’d go to Central Saint Martin’s or maybe to Stockholm to study fashion! How romantic.
But as my senior year continued on, I came upon the difficult realization that I wasn’t as mentally fit as I’d hoped. It broke my heart to hear that it would be unwise to commit to moving overseas where the mental health care wasn’t a commonality as it is in America. The foreign faces I’d hoped to meet faded into the background. I halfheartedly began job searching for entry level positions and internships in New York to no avail. I knew I’d need to start searching for schools and jobs closer to home.
So cut the crap, Kristin. Do you really want to tell a sop story today?
Truth is, we’ve all had crazy career aspirations at some point in our lives. Who thought they were going to be an astronaut at age five? You’d be trippin’ if you said you weren’t banking on this.
We sometimes grow up under the impression that it’s our life’s ambition or mission to go to college, get an internship, graduate, get a full time job, marry, have kids, retire, and die happily in old age. While this is a completely fine framework to have in life, it doesn’t always work like this so flawlessly.
Two of my favorite comedians on this earth, Tina Fey and Amy Schumer, had crappy jobs and many shudder-worthy experiences during their early and late twenties before they hit their big breaks. This said, the people I admire most in life aren’t those who’ve had a perfectly structured life. It’s those who don’t always stay the course that prove best capable to deal with life’s adversity when it happens, because it will inevitably happen at some point.
As I sit here trying not to let the word, “unemployed” let me sweat too much while endlessly searching for jobs online, all I can do is continue to remind myself that there’s always a possibility this may happen in the future as well after I do secure a career. People can get laid off or need to be relocated. If these things happen, I’ll be confident that I’ll be well prepared. It may not be easy, but I know I’ll have the capacity to be cool under pressure.
Though being unemployed gives me anxiety, it has small upsides as well. During my off time, I’ve been able to explore the east coast by myself and finally visit some of the friends I’ve missed while back home in the Midwest. When I’m not applying to jobs or editing my cover letters and resume, I’m catching up on some books I’ve wanted to read for a long time. I’ve worked hard to save up money so I could pull off moving halfway across the country for a volunteer position and can afford to do these things for a short time while searching for my next career. It’s a little scary and sometimes keeps me up at night, but I’ve made some changes to my life to push myself and do what I believed was right for me in the moment.
Bottom line here is that we can’t always guarantee that we’ll have the same stable job we’ve had over the past “x” amount of years. Nothing in life is guaranteed and life doesn’t owe us anything. Some of us may proceed to find our true calling while in college and the transition to “real life” may be easy. That’s great! Others may find themselves wishing they were back in college and still, others yet will go from job to job not sure what they really want to do until their late twenties or early thirties. As columnist, Mary Schmich, once said in her 1997 essay for the Chicago Tribune, “some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t [know what they want to do with their lives]”. It’s a great essay that Baz Luhrmann mixed into a popular song that I’ll attach here. You’ve probably heard it before and it’s a great reminder if you’re feeling a little lost in your life.
Though I’ve had people look at me incredulously, shocked, when they learned I was moving to Providence without a full time job, I’m learning to own it. Doing what I did may not be for everyone and there’s no guarantee anything will come of the move, but there’s so much to be learned from doing something that scares you crapless every once and awhile, especially if you’re truly unhappy to begin with. Though I may not be a veterinarian or have had the “dream job” I’ve dreamt about since my college days, I know I’m moving in the right direction and can’t find fault with this.
So if you’re a high school or college student, recent grad, or ten years out into the real world, don’t fret. All the adversity you’re going through can make you stronger if you learn to chase what makes you happy and live life with #noragrets. It’s easier said than done, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll stand to be a better person because of it.
If you find yourself truly unhappy with your life right now, I encourage you to make some changes, even if they’re small, so you can find that happiness you know you’re capable of. You’re not alone. Pressure makes diamonds, right?
In the meantime, know while it’s always great to have a plan for life, chances are this plan will change. It’s how you choose to either gracefully or ungracefully react to these changes that make you into how successful you’ll be in the future. This isn’t something you can physically write on your resume, but it sure as hell will help you through something that matters more than a job: your life, because the two can be mutually exclusive if you let them be.
And that’s where I’ll leave you today.