If you were to ask me 10 years ago where I thought I’d be at 26, I would have told you something about having a family. Something about supporting myself financially, and something about being married. At 16, I didn’t really know what I wanted. I was in my first significant relationship. I played clarinet in the marching band. I struggled to find my place in the high school ecosystem of popular girls, jocks that seemed like they had it all together, and the creative geeks driven by their hobbies. I found an outlet in music and friends, and journaled a lot. I was the hesitant kid that lacked a little confidence. I don’t think anyone (including myself) saw the sorority president in the making, but she was there. The image of the professional working woman was even more blurred.
Studying psychology in college, I always thought that I would end up in research, or going on to get my PhD to teach at the collegiate level. I loved writing. I enjoyed the hunt for data in the lab. I absolutely adored working with patients in the lab at UCSD Medical Center. They made me think, they made me laugh, they pushed me forward to make each day a little better than the last. Despite the interest I’ve always had in technology, it never fully dawned on me that I would be working in IT, until I started working in it.
I had several folks at my alma mater who gave me the confidence to move forward in tech. They never once failed to see the potential in me, thus propelling me forward. The thing about working in technology is that you’ll never “fully arrive” because everything is always changing. As a huge number of my friends at work have left and moved on to other avenues professionally and personally, it’s hard to picture the place without them. The place doesn’t make it, the people do.
Success and happiness in my mind boils down to the difference between your dream and your calling. You might be the luckiest person on earth if both of those are the same, but for most they’re probably much different from each other. The ebb and flow of the market changes how we decide what we do with our days. Being a researcher would have been great, but the debt for grad school might have been crippling. Do I wonder what could have been or what could be? Here and there. But I can’t stop to worry about hypotheticals- it’s all about progressing in the now. If the difference between your dream and your calling is small, you’re also in the gold.
Some things that have helped me keep true to myself in times of challenge and change, and have helped close the gap between my dream in life, and my calling:
There’s a wealth of knowledge out there to be learned from others, especially people who have been there before. Older folks who have “been there and done that”, even with views different than yours, can shed light on possibilities that you haven’t thought of before. We too often separate ourselves by generation and pass up opportunities to come together because of age and life differences. I’ve picked up some of the best tips and tricks I least expected for being happier and healthier in life from my older male coworkers.
Ask for help when you need it. It’s rare that people don’t want to be of help to other people. Just the simple act of saying “please help me and let me help you too” shows that you want a positive outcome for both parties involved. The act of asking for help can be the hardest step in moving forward.
Know what you want in life, or be actively seeking out what you may want. Explore possibilities that are new. Take that art class that you never thought that you would be interested in. Learn a completely new craft or explore a different part of your city or town that you’ve never been to. I found a gracious community of new friends and a place to learn stained glass, something that is a huge part of my life now, just by walking down a street I had never walked before.
The title of this might be better as Where I Thought I’d be, and Where I Think I’m Going. I’m going somewhere, I just might not be fully sure where that might be. Sometimes the ride is still mean, but it would have been a hell of a lot meaner without the good things in my life. I’m thankful for the things I do have, even when I’m unsure of where I might be headed.