“What do I want to do with my life?”
I struggled with that question for three decades. Sometimes, that question was followed by an exclamation point and morally ambiguous shame. Isn’t that what being in your twenties is about? I know that I am not alone.
At age 30, after working as a waitress, in tech support, at a tech start-up company, as part of a mad science operation (no, really), and in a bank, I finally settled into the corporate world.
I started making double my previous income. It was more money than I had ever earned, even if it wasn’t even that far from minimum wage. I made it all the way to an administrative position at Honda on a high school diploma and a bit of experience in, well, everything. I was comfortable, and I knew that I could work my way up the ladder. I met my husband the same year, and I felt financially stable for the first time in my life.
Something critical was missing, though. I wanted to learn about poets and fairy tales. I wanted to write, and I wanted to learn how to express myself in every written situation. I wanted to learn how to format a Word document.
It’s a funny thing, the college degree business. I always wanted one for the sense of personal accomplishment. I knew that I would need one if I wanted to follow my passion. My one true, unwavering passion from the time I first skipped my way onto the kindergarten school bus: English. Reading, specifically. It came naturally to me, and I was fortunate that it also happened to be my one true love in life (don’t tell my husband).
It took me two years, a lot of sleepless nights, and a lot less time with my husband. In December of 2016, I graduated with my Bachelor’s in English. It was a personal goal that took me 35 years to achieve, and I cried when I received my degree in its sturdy blue portfolio.
Some people say they never felt different after graduating from college, except for the stress of paying off student loans. I am not one of those people. I immediately felt more confident in myself and in my achievements. I realized that I had been preparing for this moment for my whole life.
The skills I learned at my “dead-end” jobs turned out to be necessary.
As a waitress, I learned the importance of employees in the service industry. I learned that people can be complete jerks to you for three hours while they do nothing but demand refills of crappy coffee and subsequently leave you a thirty-cent tip.
I worked in tech support for quite a few years with many interesting characters, most of whom were male. I learned how to navigate friendships and relationships with the opposite sex. I also learned that it was okay to be unique, original, and kind of weird.
When I worked for a much bigger, much different, tech start-up company, I learned that confidence was at least 80 percent of most jobs. I had no idea what I was doing as an administrative assistant. I spent my days working alongside millionaire moguls, running errands, finding babysitters for their children, dealing with their parking tickets, and filing contracts.
The Mad Science of St. Louis gig was fun. I was the office manager. I made a lot of friends at various points in their career. I learned a lot about other cultures, religious and otherwise. Besides being lucky enough to make great friendships, I learned some great skills such as professional phone etiquette and up selling to clients.
I made a big move after St. Louis and came back to my home town to start over. I found a local loan company. I was hired by the only person that worked in the office at the time, and today she remains one of my best friends. I handled loan payments and loan applications every day for four years. I learned how to be at ease in uncomfortable situations, which happened daily.
I learned how not to take things personally. If you’re anything like me, math may as well be a foreign language. I diligently worked on these skills every day while taking loan applications. I now have an intimate understanding of the loan and mortgage industry, and math no longer makes me want to cry most of the time.
I have learned the importance of enjoying the people you work with. If you care about the people who surround you and know that they care about your wellbeing, the work is manageable even if it’s not ideal. It’s taken me until now to realize that I am good enough. I got to where I am by being talented, and by putting all my experience into practice.
These bits and pieces that I’ve held onto are helping me succeed in my dream job right now. I know how to listen, how to respond empathetically, how to be confident even if I’ve no clue what I’m doing, and the necessity of building a support network.
So now it’s time.
I am a freelance writer and editor.
I made it! I no longer waste precious time or energy conforming to people, places, or things that don’t make me the most successful version of myself. The more I followed my original passion, the easier everything else became. I have a huge, unmissable beacon guiding me right to where I want and need to be.
What about you, Dear Readers? What are you doing to get where you want to be? What is standing in your way? What can I do to help? Comment below and let me know.
Do you need some help with the written word? Do you want to hire a freelance writer for your business? Do you want to talk about how freaking awesome GLOW on Netflix is and how you can’t wait for season two even though season one was just released? Email me at Chandi@ChandiGilbert.com or subscribe to my bi-monthly newsletter for quick and simple tips on how to improve your writing.