"When I grow up, I want to be...."
The answer to this question always changed when I was younger. I went through the typical iterations of doctor, singer, veterinarian, etc. Going to university though felt more like an exercise in completing a task than in pursuing a dream. Maybe that was just me? Looking back I can see I worked very hard to get my degree, and again when I continued on to graduate school - but the emotion and intensity about what I was studying wasn't there at all.
I started as a psychology major - and did genuinely have passion and interest in psychology - but along the lines of abnormal psych and clinical disorders. I intended to pursue clinical psychology / psychiatry. Somewhere along the way a few too many people warned me about the impossibility of getting a job with a psych degree and I was 'gently nudged' in the direction of business. I found Industrial/Organizational Psych and thought that was a good combination of the two - psychology applied to work. I followed through on that for my Masters, and wound up starting what would be a nearly decade-long career (thus far) in Human Resources.
A few years into that career, passion came knocking at my door and reminded me that I always wanted to get into medicine in some capacity - whether it be through the clinical research I was doing prior to having to drop it for a required internship in HR during my Masters - or my original degree interest in psychiatry - or my childhood dream of being a doctor. My memories of all the elective courses I'd taken in Biopsychology and Neuroscience came rushing back to me and all of a sudden I had this brazen idea that I should go back to school and do something that I *really* felt passionate about. So I applied to Columbia and was genuinely shocked when I was accepted! I had a lot of back and forth about the cost, and needing to quit my well paid job to pursue it, and the uncertainty of where potential internships and residencies and fellowships would take me, and the sheer length of time it would take before I was done with school and gainfully employed (and earning money to pay back the mountains of school loans I would no doubt accrue) - and I deferred to the next semester to give myself time. (In all honesty, I think I was paralyzed by the fear of failure.) Then my now ex said we were moving to London and it was all a moot point, so I don't know if I ever would have gotten round the fears to pursue my dream.
Now, I find that at 32 I've given up the career I worked pretty diligently at for ten years to be a stay at home mom to my daughter - at least in her early years, jury is out on how long it will be end up being for - and whilst I miss certain aspects of working, and using my brain, and having robust, dynamic conversations with people on a somewhat intellectual topic, I don't miss the work itself much, if at all. Lately I've been thinking about how dispassionate I must be about the field I ended up working in....is that unusual? Is that typical of our generation? Of the times? Are we working to live, and it doesn't matter what the job is? Occasionally I felt that way when I was working - I changed my specific job role and responsibilities pretty frequently as I was always needing a new challenge - and it got to the point where I figured as long as I liked the people I worked with, and had challenges to keep me busy, it almost didn't matter what the daily work was. I could do whatever and be content enough to enjoy my life outside of the office. (This of course assumes that I do not do any of the jobs on "Dirty Jobs" ha)
But I think that at the point at which I do re-enter the workforce, I would really love if I found myself in a position or a field for which I have authentic passion and interest. And if anyone has ever gone through a midlife (thirdlife? I'd like to think I'll live past 64...) crisis, you might just recognize how much work has to go into figuring out what that is. There are many things that I believe I would have enjoyed doing - being a lawyer, a pharmacist, yes, still being a surgeon, although I'll scratch being a singer for now, but seriously, most of these things are off the plate because of time that I just don't have. And I'm ok with that. I could still pursue clinical research again as I loved it and find pharmacology fascinating (how drugs work in our bodies and interact with each other etc - awesome!), but I suspect the jobs I'd be going for in the future would require a bit more certifications / experience than I have (having only worked for a year in the field, a dozen years ago...). But I can always keep that on the back burner as an option.
Being honest, as I wander down this road, I find myself drifting into a realm I wholly considered a crazy dream as a child...writing. I love to write. I love the catharsis of it, the creativity of it, the all-encompassing nature of it - as in, when you *need* to write, you can stay up for hours and hours and hours on end until you exhaust every synapse in your brain and there's not a thought left in your head that you haven't jotted down on paper. I should have thought about it more as a potential career option but it seemed so unlikely I kept it in that secret 'hobby' compartment meant for things you truly love but maybe don't have the confidence or self-belief to do anything more than dabble with it. What I OUGHT to have considered is the whole related field - editing! I adore syntax and rules and grammatical correctness and even though I don't abide by all this in my own writing these days, if you ever pick up a book on my shelves you will inevitably find a page where a printing error has been 'corrected' as I read it - because it annoyed me to see it and I knew it would annoy me to see it the 2nd or 3rd time I read the book! Oh - and I love to read. Seriously, if I knew that I could get paid to read new books, I would have signed on the dotted line at the ripe old age of 17 and not looked back. Can you imagine?? HEAVEN.
I'm not sure where all of this thinking will take me, or if I will ever be brave enough to pursue something I am deeply passionate about, but my wishes on this Wednesday are that YOU will follow your dreams. No matter what they are - no matter how unachievable they seem - I wish that you find the confidence and self-awareness to go after your dreams and your huge life goals! Don't let anyone dissuade you from something you believe in. You can do anything you put your mind to - so put your mind to some pretty awesome stuff!!