My mind has been whirling around lately with ideas about how we choose the path in life that makes us happy. And since the majority of our days are spent at work, I have been thinking mostly about occupations. I have some friends and family members who are not quite “enthusiastic” about their career choices. Others are downright miserable. As a teacher I often amuse myself with speculation about what my little kindergarten students will end up doing with their lives. And since I’ve been doing this in one form or another since 1981, I’ve had the chance to match some of my predictions with actual results. Unfortunately I’ve found that I’m seldom correct! I guess by the time my little ones graduate from high school, and perhaps college, their whole world can change.
Some children are born into their careers and have little choice unless they are tough enough and motivated enough to break away from tradition. I saw this very clearly when I worked with circus children. Their families have been in the circus for generations and it is as much a lifestyle as an occupation. The same is often true of farmers, rodeo performers, doctors, even teachers. Familiarity with a particular lifestyle or system breeds more of the same. Usually a good thing- unless perhaps you are the child of a trapeze artist and want to be a doctor.
Other children set their sights on an occupation they admire, whether they have the aptitude for it or not. Many of them end up with a diploma, work a short time at their job, and realize they had very little knowledge of the actual working conditions and expectations. Some backtrack and get another diploma, others stick with their jobs even though they are disillusioned and dissatisfied.
I’ve had a few students who see to know from a very early age exactly what they were born to do and they just plow through life doing whatever it takes to reach their goal. I guess we all know and admire someone like that. I look for that zeal and confidence in the eyes of my students and when I find it I’m always intrigued. How do they know what they want to do? How do they know they can do it? What keeps them motivated despite the obstacles that inevitably come along?
I suppose the rest of us fall into the “drifter” category, samplers of life who never know what dreams may come along. When I was in high school I was convinced I wanted to be an architect. Then I thought that teaching English would be easier since I was good at it. Notice that I gave NO thought whatsoever to whom I would be teaching! The realities of life found me dropping out of college and working a variety of jobs for nearly thirty years before I returned to earn a diploma and teach. I suspect most people have similar experiences. You take the first job that you can do that pays the bills and helps you establish a life, whether that life is college or your first apartment. Then you become “experienced” in that field and it becomes easier to just stay with it. Pretty soon your resume presents one or two specific skills and even though you may have envisioned a different dream for your life it becomes difficult to explain to a prospective employer that you are quite capable of doing something new. So now you are stuck.
I would like to encourage you today to get unstuck. I know I’ve said it before and you’ve read it before, but I truly believe that life is too short to spend it being unhappy for eight hours a day. If you are in a job you dislike, get out of it. Maybe not today…unemployment being what it is. But make plans, look for solutions, get some training, expand a hobby, examine your skills, think outside the box. Ask yourself some tough questions. What would it be like to really enjoy your work? How would it feel to be proud of what you are doing? How would your life be different if you made your dreams come true? What can you do to take that wobbly first step toward your goal?
I sat in my car and cried after I spoke with the guidance counselor at college. I was forty-two years old! I was shaking with fear and overwhelmed by all of the requirements for a degree. I knew my mind was too old to absorb all that stuff, especially the math…and computers…my “fight or flight” kicked in and I knew which one would be the easiest! But I prayed and talked with friends and took one day at a time. And here I am, living my dream and going to work each day with a smile.
What "dream come true" would make you smile? Take the first step to making it happen…