Not everyone grows up to be a princess
Remember way back, when caring adults told us that we could be whatever we wanted when we grew up? What were some of our answers? They ranged from princess, to Olympic athlete, to astronaut, and, if you’re me, dentist. I was an ambitious — albeit perhaps strange — child.
Some of us have lost sight of what we once dreamed about doing when we grew up. This might be a realistic, healthy process if you wanted to be a princess— Prince William is now officially off the market. However, some dreams may not necessarily need to be let go so quickly. If I really wanted to, I could still become a dentist — it’s not impossible. Even though we are grown up, we are still fully capable of dreaming new dreams in addition to everything we used to dream about.
Teetering on the edge of adulthood, pressure and suggestions are coming in on all sides. It may be true that parents and friends are older and perhaps wiser, but it’s also true that there is only one person that knows you best and knows what you want: YOU!
Unfortunately, I am seeing that many people enter a job for reasons other than truly wanting to do so. The reasons may include money, feelings of obligation, or even fear. Recently, I found myself sandwiched between two friends talking on the bus about what they wanted to do after college.
Friend A: I have decided to change my major.
Friend B: Why? What do you want to do now?
Friend A: I want to become X.
Friend B: What is that?
Friend A: I am not really sure, but I heard they make over $200,000 a year! I am meeting with my advisor later this week to change…
While it is understandable to desire financial security (something I would like for my own family) I was dismayed by the idea of forgoing happiness and pleasure in one’s job for financial security. This woman was going to change the entire direction of her life because of money. I could not help but wonder how she would feel if she later learned she hated Career X. I began to ruminate on my own insecurities on this topic.
You might remember that I wrote a post a while ago on fighting fear and indifference in the job search. While the fear I talked about then was mostly related to uncertainty, I have also found myself fearful about ending up in a job I hate or do not care about. This fear has certainly done its fair share of stalling my job search. To put it simply, I just want to do something that I enjoy—that makes me excited to get up in the morning.
Recently I got a taste of what such a potential job might look like. Over Spring Break one of my cousins got married, and my husband and I were asked to be ushers. I love weddings — everything about them; from the first kiss to the chaos behind-the-scenes. Ushers have pretty minimal responsibility – to help people find their seats, at the ceremony and reception. However, since my cousin and I are closer than many cousins are, I ended up taking on a lot more responsibility than the typical usher.
I ran errands between the church and the reception, working with other family members. Upon arriving at the reception hall with some decorations, I ended up in a back room doing floral arrangements. As much as I love weddings in general, I fell in love with this task. In this dingy back room my aunts and I were surrounded by lots of vases, bottles, and buckets of red roses, white roses and creamy calla lilies. Over the next hour or so, we created beautiful arrangements that ultimately contributed to a beautifully decorated reception hall. I was in my zone.
It’s been weeks since the wedding, and I am still thinking about how happy I felt doing those floral arrangements. The idea of pursuing a job in this field has crept into the edges of my thought. Might such a field satisfy my desire to find a job I love? It’s very possible that it might. However, there is a problem—it’s risky! And risk travels hand in hand with my other fear, uncertainty.
Misconceptions and the Benefits of Taking Risks
Risk, by definition, exposes a person to danger. Risks can be emotional, physical, or financial. However, taking risks offers potential for great things to happen as well. In my situation, pursuing a career in floral design could lead me to a satisfying, enjoyable career. However, often in such a specialized industry people need to start at the bottom and work their way up the ladder. Apprenticing under a florist likely entails starting in a position that pays minimum wage (Ugh). None of us like to think that after four years of college we will be working for minimum wage. Compounding this risk is the fact that my husband will be a full time graduate student — it’ll be up to me to bring home the bacon. But thinking in terms of entry-level positions, that’s where this field starts.
But when I think about forsaking or following this dream, I am reminded of something my academic advisor once told me: there is a common misconception that people need to stay in the same job (or field) their entire lives. Obviously, if you find your sweet spot right away and love what you’re doing, stick with it! But if job number one (or even two, three, or four) isn’t doing it for you, do not feel holed-in. This can be true even if you like your job, but want to see what else is out there. There is nothing wrong with taking well thought-out risks.
In fact, my academic advisor had not always been an academic advisor. Before becoming an advisor, she worked as an event planner and college-level instructor. And now, she and her husband have followed a dream of theirs to move to a different state and buy a house, and the last I heard she was possibly looking for work in the environmental sector to follow another of her many interests. It’s important to note that she liked all of her past jobs and obviously this is not an issue of not being able to hold a job; she just wants to experience more! You do not have to stay in the same job your entire life.
Once this realization hits home, taking risks becomes a little more palatable. If failure happens, try something else. If after working a while as a floral assistant I decide that it’s not what I am looking for and I do not feel appropriately challenged, I can follow the next dream. As cliché and risky as it might sound, I encourage you to follow your dreams and see where they may lead. It might be a dead end, but it might be your perfect match. I would be remiss if I did not also encourage you to seriously consider whether or not your risks are realistic and worth pursuing. Taking risks is not for everyone. Also, taking risks does not mean doing so blindly; careful thought and planning needs to occur first. Look before you leap! You know yourself best–so analyze the situation and be honest with yourself.
Photo credit: Audrey Elizabeth / CC BY 2.0