*this story was posted this morning in the private blog for Onward an Upward 2013. Register here to be ready for Monday’s first session!*
When I was little I wanted to be a teacher.
And an actress and a singer and a writer and a magazine editor and an artist and a photographer and the General Manager of the Phoenix Suns.
I did all kinds of extra curriculars in high school – choir, drama and musicals, speech and debate, and the vocalist for the school’s Jazz Band. In fact, my mother got a job at Cal Arts so I could attend for free in the unlikely event that I get accepted for vocal performance.
But then I DID get accepted and I realized I didn’t want to be an Opera singer. I may have really enjoyed singing (and still do), but not enough to put in the kind of work that would be required to *maybe* have a chance at a professional singing career.
Singing was NOT a true passion for me.
So, instead I decided to go to my local community college and try studying some other subjects (I’m sure my parents loved that).
At the start of my second year I discovered English. I have always (always) been a big reader, but it wasn’t until this particular English 102 class that I discovered I also really enjoy analyzing literature and writing papers (no, really. I actually really love writing papers and editing/analyzing content).
On I went through my college career, pursuing an English degree. I transferred to a university, changed my major to English (my Associate’s degree is in music) and took all kinds of fascinating literature classes. I loved it. I still have all those novels purchased for class full of my orange pen notations. As I got to graduation, I thought, “This could be my career.” Academia. Reading novels, writing critical essays and non-fiction books about them and maybe even becoming a college professor. My final year of undergrad I had a professor who just made the whole study-literature-as-a-career possibility incredible appealing.
I bravely declared I was going to be a college professor and applied for the Master’s program at my university, got accepted, and after just a summer off continued on with my education.
It was only about halfway through that first year that I realized it was not my passion either. Being a literature professor is not just about reading novels and talking about them. You’re also looking at spending weeks and months in the stacks of archives at some library, slaving away on a 5000-word essay that, even if published, would only be read by a few people and not REALLY make much of a difference to anything. Not to mention the fact that as a professor you have to move to the ONE college town that has an opening for a 20th-century American Lit professor (or whatever your tiny niche specialty happens to be).
Reading, critical thinking, and paper-writing may be enjoyable (and I genuinely love it), but academia as whole doesn’t really meet my criteria of GREAT WORK, or a career I can see myself doing long-term.
I went on to finish my Master’s degree and find an office job (where I didn’t need a Masters, but where) I could spend downtime reading for fun, where I could use my skills in proof-reading, at least, and where I didn’t have to stress about anything after I left for the day. But this day job was not my passion either. It’s not the best day job, but it’s not terrible either. But the work that I did doesn’t make a difference to anyone – so to me it doesn’t really qualify as my GREAT WORK. (but it paid our family’s bills while my husband pursued his dream so TOTALLY WORTH IT). So about 3 years ago I started to feel antsy and unsatisfied and disappointed in myself for wasting so much time at that kind of day job.
Keep in mind, of course, that I had spent years (YEARS) going to school full-time AND working at least 32 hours each week. Once I graduated from college and only had to work I found myself with no idea what to do with my free time.
In the meantime I started a wedding photography business, learned about blogging and marketing, moved to California for my husband’s job, and started Lemon and Raspberry. I graduated from grad school in 2007 and since then I’ve been kind of trying a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Toying with various ideas and interests and jobs, like my long-ago dream of being paid to scrapbook or even thinking about pursuing acting since we live in L.A. But none of that was really doing it for me.
Now, after several years of blogging and thinking and reading and learning and really considering a wide range of options I think – for now at least – I have found my passion … and that is creating projects and offering workshops exactly like Onward and Upward and BUILD. Kind of a life coach + small business tips. I genuinely love being able to help people, I love the research and critical thinking that goes into the problem solving, and I genuinely feel as though creating work like this DOES do good in the world and can change lives. … One person at a time.
You’ll notice this combines previous passions – for learning and research, for critical thinking, for writing and for helping. And adds the important layer of actually making a difference.
Although, I still haven’t figured out how to fit singing into my future career
But, of course, this isn’t the end of my story.
In June I had my very last day at my day job which makes no difference in anyone’s life …. You can read more about how I was able to quit my day job here and here and here. My husband started his career with a minimum wage internship and I was more than happy to support him through that. But now he’s making a grown-up salary and it’s my turn to quit. We still can’t afford anything fun or fancy (L&R in no way replaces my old income), but we are much much happier. I’m making big big changes this year – more still to come in the final months, even. I’m actually excited to be more or less starting over.
Bonus: With technology and the internet and marketing the way it is … I can actually pursue reading, critical analyzing and paper-writing FOR FUN (because I’m a weirdo). I started this website where I am reviewing all the U.S. History books I am reading (for fun) and I have plans to revise my Master’s Thesis and release it on Kindle. FOR FUN.
Other bonus: I’m currently a (very) part-time Studio Manager for a photographer friend. This combines my love of photography AND marketing, without actually having to lock myself into building a photography business (but that is a story for another day).
And for the moment I am mostly just grateful to have a GREAT WORK goal to work towards and family and friends supporting that.
Things are working out
What about you? Where are you at in your story? What pieces of your history can you point to as memorable stepping stones to where you are now?
This? This whole thing is what Onward and Upward is all about. Getting yourself in the mindset that you CAN change your life. That you CAN live something other than 40 years in a cubicle. To get you mentally prepared for starting over at the bottom of another ladder. Workshop starts Monday, October 7, 2013. Get more info and register here!
Click here to check out the syllabus. or click here for the FAQ