Career Twists and Turns & What I’ve Learned

Sometimes, we wake up with a dream in mind. We wake up with a careful plan on how to make that dream come true. Well, what happens when after you have invested time and energy, that dream changes?

I didn't wake up one day with a clear vision of my life in mind. But I did want to be a high school English teacher ever since I was thirteen years old. I took a Creative Writing class, and I envisioned myself and how I would teach it. That's where all dreams come from. We start with a vision. We see ourselves doing something. We create an ideal experience to try to attain.

Fast forward. I graduated Slippery Rock University with a BA in English and was going to Brandeis for a Masters in Secondary Teaching. Combined, the two degrees would ensure that I would be a great English teacher.

Then, come to the middle of student teaching, and I have changed my mind completely. What advice do I have from that experience and what am I doing now?

1.) Pursue Passions: While I was in grad school, I started to do freelance writing and returned to a young adult fiction book I had been working on. This was my release, what I liked to think about when it wasn't grad school work. I began to write about issues. It was building my resume, but I didn't think it would become more and more of my focus. I was just pursuing my passions.

2.) Ideal Versus Reality: When we get to experience something, only then do we know how we fit into that experience. For me, I had held onto an ideal of what teaching would be like rather than put myself into enough experiences to really know. I overestimated how much I would love it. Yet, I quickly learned it didn't mesh with my personality and lifestyle preferences. I am one who needs a manual or something to follow in order to accomplish it. I need to have a clear set path to follow before I can commit to it. If you tell me how to do something, I will do it. The problem with teaching is that there is no right way to really do it. I am one who can take initiative in many arenas but in this one, the lack of certainty drove my confidence down. Now, I have a job as a regional branch representative at First Commonwealth bank with exact guidelines on how to do each task. This fit my personality. My creative side, I learned, somehow did not operate the way I wanted it to in teaching. I was more technical than I thought. Instead, my creative professional journey has been a side hobby pursuit. I would have to give up such hobbies in fact for a teaching lifestyle. My passion for modeling would have to be let go. Rather than limit myself, I am only looking into positions that let me fully engage in all my passions whether within or outside of that position.

3.) As Steve Jobs put it, “connect the dots.” Amazingly enough, student teaching gave me insight to how teenagers perceived young adult fiction and helped me with self editing skills. This has gone into my working on my own YAL fiction novel. When I moved to Boston to pursue teaching through a grad program at Brandeis, I discovered the setting for my book. I used my experiences it seems for something even I did not foresee: my pursuit to become a published author. Yet, it turned out to be a completely unconventional way to gain insight. Now, my day job is at a bank. That too I never foresaw gaining insights towards. However, in college, I was in Kappa Delta Pi, the education honorary as a treasurer. Although an English major, I was handling the chapter's finances for three years. My jobs were also never “Englishy.” They were leadership positions. These have all assisted me in the customer service aspect of my current job. However, I could not have connected the dots until I fully followed my passions.

4.) Take Your Time: In your 20s, you feel rushed to figure out your career and your entire future. I've changed from having my whole life planned since I was thirteen years old to taking it one day at a time. My experiences serve me in ways I was not expecting. Being open and adaptable is the greatest advice I could give. And to not perceive change of pace as a failure. Life is about the journey not the destination. So, I moved back to Pittsburgh, my home, from Boston and realized that I missed my family. I came to see my hometown a whole other way. I realized I needed to be there to watch my niece and nephew grow up. I realized that the simple things matter most. Although I am proud of my resume, it is no longer the sole reason I pursue anything anymore. Prestige does not matter. Purpose does.

So that it's. I'm 22, and this is the advice I have to give. The hardest experience of my life turned out the be the best. I could not accept a change of plan. I could not accept anything less than “go go go!” from myself. Wherever you are in life, starting from scratch or starting over, know that there is no time limit to getting there. Enjoy each day. Remember to pursue passions, consider ideal versus reality, connecting the dots and taking your time.

Good luck.