“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
– e.e. cummings
I spent most of my early twenties frantically trying to determine if I was in the ‘right’ career. Many career guides ask you to recall your career ambitions from childhood, so I thought back to mine, and all I could remember was a vague desire to be a nurse. Since I feel faint at the sight of blood and this didn’t seem like the best career option for me, it finally occurred to me to call my mom and ask what she remembered.
The conversation went something like this:
“Mom, when I was little, what did I say I wanted to be when I grew up?”
“A pioneer woman.”
Apparently, my favorite television show was “Little House on the Prairie,” and I spent hours in a calico dress, wearing a bonnet, and pretending to churn butter. While this offered a somewhat interesting insight into my childhood, it didn’t exactly advance my career quest.
“What about a nurse? I thought I wanted to be a nurse?”
“You wanted to be a nurse because our neighbor across the street was a nurse, and she worked late hours, which meant her kids got to eat T.V. dinners. You desperately wanted T.V. dinners and I wouldn’t buy them.”
Well, I’m glad I didn’t spend thousands on nursing school when all I really needed was a $1.99 Lean Cuisine!
Unfortunately, I spent almost ten years studying subjects (math) and working in fields (computer support) that I was good at, but brought me zero pleasure. I was trying to please my parents, my teachers, and everyone who thought it was a really good idea for women to study in science and technology fields. It was a good idea … if you were a woman who liked science and technology.
The one class I absolutely loved was Sociology 101, commonly called “Marriage and Family.” It was a fascinating look at gender roles and the challenges and trends in modern family life. Little did I realize how useful this information would be for me later in life, both personally and professionally. When I tried to talk to people about doing this kind of work for a living, they told me it was nuts to get a Master’s Degree in Social Work because all the jobs were low in pay.
Fast-forward twenty years, and I am working in Human Resources. I found my way into this career through a circuitous path and it took courage to finally admit I liked being in a field that helped people. I love being in an industry with women who are willing to talk about the struggles we experience in our jobs and I am excited by the challenge of modern trends in family life and how they affect our workplaces.
It seems like a miracle some days that I ended up working in an area that I love so much. Was it just an accident?
I called my Mom back.
“Mom, forget the pioneer woman and the nurse. What did I like to do when I was little? How did I spend my time?”
She thought for a moment and said, “First thing every morning you would grab the newspaper and bring it to me or your Dad. We would read “Dear Abby” out loud and you would try to guess Dear Abby’s answer to the writer. You loved talking about people’s problems.”
Ah-ha! As an HR Director, what’s my favorite part of my job? Employee coaching and counseling. Apparently I knew all along what I wanted to be when I grew up, I just needed the courage to get there.
What was your childhood ambition? What you are doing today that took courage?
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