“Isn’t it a great day?”-Hospice Patient
I know it’s been a while since blogging (especially an actual reflective blog) and to be honest I’ve had a difficult time being “inspired.” With projects going on at work, Hospice of the Valley training every weekend, trying to get my workout life back on track it’s safe to say I’ve been a little preoccupied, making relaxing, crafting and taking cooking pictures difficult. Although I still love doing these things, I’ve just had bigger things on my mind. That’s why my Public Allies community space this last Friday came at the perfect time. I Can’t lie, I’m not a huge fan of these days and the activities we’re forced to partake in: trust your colleges to catch you and make a yarn web that symbolizes our interrelatedness has never been something my short attention span has allowed me to like. But our last community space (or at least the 2 hour portion I’m going to discuss) wasn’t so difficult to sit through. The first portion of the day was about nontraditional career paths and if you’ve gathered anything about me it’s quite clear why this would strike my fancy! We have four local people (2 men 2 women) somewhere in their late 20s early 30s who had started on a nontraditional career path of their own and were on the road to succeeding. They all had pretty interesting stories to tell and were all very different: some went to great colleges and didn’t end up using their degree, some didn’t go to college and had a great career in something they never even took a class for while other did the exact opposite and started some kind of creative company that was directly related to their interest and education. I was really struck when some of their situations were almost EXACTLY like the one I feel I’m currently in: one girl went to a great (private) high school, a good college with the intent to get a great degree and has had a hard time trying to put all her interests into one all encompassing job. She even said she often wakes up in the middle of the night with creative ideas freely flowing. Although certain stories resonated more for me than others, they all got me thinking about the fact that having that kind of job really is possible and not just for the lucky people; it’s a possibility whose reality depends solely on me. Seeing the striking similarities between my life and these other individuals’ really opened my eyes to the fact that if anyone wants to create a non-traditional career path for themselves, and make it successful, it can definitely be me. I think one of my biggest obstacles is getting into the mindset that if I want it, I can make it happen…and I’m working on it.
Some great advice they gave that has really stuck with me:
- Engage yourself and stay true to yourself and your interests
- What’s your grounding passion? What do you value?
- Get out of the mindset (and away from people who tell you) that if you want to do *this* you must take *this* path
- Don’t put pressure on yourself, just listen to yourself
- What do I NEED out of life and a job
- Be Curious
- You have to start doing it before someone will pay you. IE: One of the speaker’s dad loved hunting and wanted to write about it as a way to make money…the son said “well you should start writing about it then” and the father’s response was “but nobody’s paying me yet”….you have to start before someone will pay you
I do have to say that to a certain extent…deep down in my consciousness I knew these things, but it was definitely (re)inspiring and revealing to see the resulting successes in their concrete form…forms that looked pretty similar to me for that matter. I’d say the greatest thing I took away from today was a sharper 20/20 vision of, and greater appreciation for my previous endeavors. Most of the time when I think back about some of the decisions I’ve made I feel regretful. Like when I think about my choice of college degree, where I went to college or career and personal paths I did/did not take. I usually think “where would I be if…” etc. But today has helped me look at it a different way. I realize that I need to be better about looking back on all my past experiences as important pieces for my career path and saying “how did that relate to my passion/interests,” “who did I meet there,” “what did I learn while doing that?” No matter how irrelevant I think some of my decisions or experiences have been, everything has something valuable that I can take from it.
Architecture. I can tell you the exact moment I decided to major in architecture (which I think might be a bad sign when decided a big life question like that). I was out to dinner (at the Fish Market) with my Dad and we were talking about my Grandpa; my dad said “I think that if your Grandpa had done anything else besides law he would have been an architect.” And I don’t know why but right then I thought “that’s it…architecture;” I mean I loved drawing and being creative but was also good at the more logical stuff too; and I’d had a love for buildings (especially old ones) for a long time. Seemed like a perfect fit.
Needless to say I’m not really using my degree at the moment (ugh I cringe just having to write that), but I’ve starting looking at the situation from a different angle. I really did (and still do) love architecture…I think it was more the logistics of it as a career that turned me off (in fact one of the presenters owned a design firm and was an architecture major; while he presented his power point presentation filled with great buildings that inspired him etc. I found myself REALLY missing the creative and corroborative atmosphere that was the “architecture studio”). But I think the root of my appreciation for architecture comes more from the idea of space: what it feels like to be in a certain room, like the way walking into an old cathedral can hit you right upon entry, reminding you that you’re insignificant to, and give you reverence for, this greater “something.” Or the way that being in an urban area of town makes you feel more connected to the people around you…like you’re getting more out of your everyday experience. Just the way a well designed space can make you more aware of the people around you, more aware of how you feel about something, can make you feel healthier and can make you more aware of yourself. Just the shear work ethic that is involved in being an architecture major has been a great experience…I’m not sure anything else I do in the future will be as work intensive as a college architecture studio (when people bring their refrigerators and pull out beds into the studio because they spend more time there than at home…you know they mean business). When I start to think about the whole experience from that angle I think it was an invaluable experience. (sidenote: I know a lot of people go on to not make a career in what their college degree was…although it was VERY hard, I’d rather spend that time in a creative, engaging and highly applicable major than something that might have been a little easier)
I even think my 3 years (ok that might have been a little long) in the restaurant business ended up being a useful and relevant experience. When I look back and realize that I spent so long in the hospitality industry I tend to think to myself “what was I thinking…why didn’t I try to find a different job?” (I don’t know why I ask myself that question because I know the answer is that I’m terrified of applying to jobs and putting myself out there…I think a part of me also feels like I’m not sure what I have to offer…which deep down I know isn’t true). But working with True Food taught me so much in so many different areas. No I do not miss having managers who can talk to you like you’re a trouble making 5 years old, (bitter much? Yes) but I miss being around chefs like Michael Stebner who are really passionate about eating good (tasty), healthy food and sustainable food systems; I miss being able to learn health tips and what the latest research is from the best source himself, Dr. Weil. Like I’ve said before, I think everyone should work in the hospitality industry at least once in their life because it will open your eyes to all different kinds of people and how you should treat them. But I think the greatest thing I got from True Food was another perspective on how your environment affects you; just like a well designed space or city, the food you eat and how you get it has so many greater impacts on you and the community (even world) you’re a part of than most people ever realize.
I think the job I currently have has really started to put those strong beliefs I’ve gathered over the last couple of years into action. I might not be designing healthy, urban cities or changing anyone’s perception of food and the food system but I am using my creativity to try and help people. And let me tell you: I’d rather make half as much money any day doing a job that has a purpose and goal to help people than a job that pays twice as much surrounded by people who don’t tend to think beyond themselves. Do I want to work on creating employment opportunities for people with disabilities my whole life? Not necessarily (although I do LOVE my job and especially love the company I work for); but this job has given me a renewed sense of what I’m good at and that I am capable of a lot more than I think (continuous positive feedback from my supervisors helps a lot as well…take note all restaurant managers!!!). Maybe all this time spent thinking of each and every different way an adult with a disability can make money might help me start thinking of some creative jobs for myself!
So do I know what I’m going to do when my stint with AmeriCorps and my current company is up…nope. But I feel OK with it because I know that my next move doesn’t have to be THE move for my career and life to start. Like one of the speakers said “just do something.” Maybe that something will add another layer to my interests and help me realize that much more clearly what my passions are. Or maybe it will just be a great learning experience. Of course I want my next job to be the greatest and best job I have ever and will ever have…but if that doesn’t happen I can’t beat myself up about it. I do have to say though that I’m not allowed to use that as a copout…I have to work on narrowing down my focus and ACTIVELY trying to get something that’s a little more up my alley. Things I will walk away from the presentation with when I start thinking about my next venture:
- Take a hard look at yourself and find your strengths and weaknesses: will your passion of the topic make up for your weaknesses or should you find people who can help you make up for those (and hopefully you can trade off and trade for some of your strengths)
- Think about it as a journey and of your next steps…not necessarily the end result.
- What can my skill set offer the community? How can I make a living out of this and make the community better?
- Start asking people what it is that they do and why they love it
- Just do something! Your next move doesn’t have to be the Great Move…they’re all moves that consist of this journey that will be ever-changing
- Get a “guerilla education:’ reach out to people and educate yourself
- Who are my networks and who is a resource?
- You don’t have to have a degree but you have to get your ability level to match your taste expectations. The only way to accomplish this is by practicing…something that people are usually too embarrassed to do.
- In a job there will always be parts you don’t enjoy doing. But if they’re in line with your beliefs and visions then it’s worth it
- Live it, don’t just talk it
- Build your social capital
And a big one for me: **you don’t have to roll EVERY single one of your interests into a job. Find the common theme and build from that. Just because it’s not your job doesn’t mean it’s something you can’t take part in or be interested in. ***