Monday, September 29, 2014

Still Growing Up To Be Who I Want To Be.

Once upon a time, I was a little girl just like you... well maybe you're not a little girl. But I know there are some out there somewhere. 

I have a little boy of my own now and as we've started looking at options for schooling him (we are looking at home-school) it has prompted me to reflect on how I have gotten to where I am today. Back when I was a tiny tot, I was filled with this notion that I could grow up to be whatever I wanted to be. Fast-forward thirty years, and I am what I want to be: a writer, business owner and mother.

My son, playing in our store.
But how did I get here? In a lot of ways, it contradicts everything I was told as a kid about becoming a big success, although it's a story that is probably more common than advertised. In general, the way we are told to find success goes something like this:
  1. Get good grades in school.
  2. Go to college & get a degree in something that interests you.
  3. Get a the exact job you've always wanted.
  4. Success!
Well, that is not exactly the path I took. Sure I got started on the list OK. I did well in school up until high school when I started having teenage angst and was working 3 part-time jobs all at the same time. Even when my school attendance got derailed, I was able to keep average grades. So, step 1 got mostly completed.

But when it was time for college, I didn't know what degree I wanted. Although I loved writing, I didn't want to go get a degree in English. I didn't want to make writing something that felt like work, and I didn't want to spend years having someone tell me how I should tell a story. I have a deep love of animals, and I had several people tell me I should study to become a veterinarian. Maybe that could have worked out, but I really enjoy spending time with animals who are at their best. Vets, like doctors, typically see their patients when they are at their worst. I didn't want to spend my life surrounded by illness, injury and death. I had a lot of interest in graphic design and technology, but through some financial hardship I wasn't able to go to the technical school that accepted me. So, I decided to study architecture because I could knock out the basic classes at a Community College and there were promises of riches on the pamphlet.

Because I wasn't financially endowed, I had to work while I went to school. By the time my first term on campus started I was working in a bank call center. (Yay!) Doing collections. (Wooo!) And making nearly $30,000 a year. Suddenly I realized that I could either spend tens of thousands of dollars pursuing a degree that I wasn't sure I wanted, or I could MAKE tens of thousands of dollars convincing people to pay their credit card bill before paying their electric bill. Work won that battle, and suddenly I found myself in what would become an on-again/off-again career in finance.

Then I was... (in order of appearance)
  • A back-end collections agent (For exactly 4 hours).
  • A phone specialist (cell phones and land-lines -hooray!).
  • A military housewife.
  • A professional quilter.
  • A Jail Door Operator.
  • A 9-1-1 dispatcher.
  • A mortgage specialist (got equity? Let's get you a second mortgage! Or a third!)
  • A travelling insurance agent.
  • A receptionist turned Office Manager.
  • A civilian housewife.
Throughout all of my jobs, I wrote a little on the side. When I had the opportunity to stay home to manage family and household duties, I had a lot more time to write. During my two stints as a stay-at-home wife, I wrote and worked at publishing Age/Sex/Location. My second round at housewivery also gave me time to find other ways to get paid for my writing. Suddenly I also became a freelance writer who made actual money for putting words to paper. 

When my husband mentioned that he'd always wanted to own his own business, my huge success at making hundreds of dollars writing (hooray for starving artists!) prompted me to encourage his entrepreneurship. Suddenly I went from housewife to Author, Business Manager and Freelance Writer all at once.

Now, with my third book in print, I'm also looking at adding Organic Farmer to my long and varied career list. Something that they don't tell you when you're in middle-school being shoved into college prep classes is that the person you want to be might evolve over time. There is no guaranteed way to find success, probably because success means something different for everyone. For me, success has turned 180 degrees. When I was 20, success meant having a big house and a big salary to match. Now, success means creating something of my own, providing food for my family, and living on a very basic salary so that I can spend less time trying to keep up with the neighbors, and more time focusing on the things and people that I love.

If you don't know what you want to be, that's OK. If you are lucky enough to figure out what you want to grow up to be, but you don't know how to get there, that's OK too. Try to tune out all of those messages being pushed on you by other people and take some time to find the values and hobbies that interest you. Find something that makes you feel fulfilled, and do that, even if it's only on evenings and weekends. Explore the world around you and let the adventure take you to places you never thought you'd be.

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