Posted by: michelle @ books my kids read | September 24, 2009

what do you want to be when you grow up?

My husband and I were having a very interesting conversation last night about finding an ideal job and it truly got me thinking about being a kid and going through the whole job finding process. I don’t think it hurts that a family friend is picking the quirky major that I did at Berkeley (go Bears!), Mass Comm now known as Media Studies.

When I was a kid, I wanted to be an actress. Or more specifically, I wanted to be a Broadway star. My parents were not thrilled with that idea because it’s a really rough career and you have to have an incredibly tough skin. They let me play around with acting once in a while, but they didn’t exactly support me in my endeavors (sorry mom). They saw me as a smart kid who needed to push herself towards more stable career opportunities. On a lot of levels they were right, but when I think about what I dreamed of as a kid, that was my one career aspiration.

So fast forward to college. At my first go of college, I claimed to want to be a theater major even though I didn’t do the necessary legwork like being in the high school drama group. While at Smith, I realized that I did not have the drive, talent or thick skin necessary for all of the rejections that come with acting or professional music. So what would I do next?

Well, that’s what college is for. You are supposed to be able to have the experiences necessary to figure yourself out. But here’s the rub…I honestly don’t know that I would have been in the mental frame of mind to figure out what I wanted if I hadn’t dropped out of Smith, taken a year off from school, worked and then gone to Berkeley. On a lot of levels, I think that our current education system has pushed this forward so that you are somewhat expected to have figured out what you want to do when you go to college, and honestly, high school kids are not ready to make that decision. Or maybe Smith just has a slightly screwed up system…they want every incoming student to be placed with an academic advisor in the field they plan to go in. Well, of course I had some lofty dream idea and I got an advisor in the theater department who was in costume design. I don’t think we were a great fit.  When I decided that theater wasn’t my thing, I felt lost and I don’t remember how she helped. But there were so many problems with me and Smith, so who knows.

Anyway, back to my own figuring this out. I got lucky. I took a year off and managed to get a job in an office environment with some wonderful women who helped me figure a few things out and who made me realize that this was a great place for me. I liked working with technology and being in an office in the back end of an operation. During that year I also worked at Ben & Jerry’s, temped as a Temple administrator and tutored young kids in math (the one other career I’ve considered), but that’s a whole other story. When I went to Berkeley, I picked a class during my second semester there which would change my life – Mass Comm 10. Here was a class that completely fascinated me. I had always loved the cultural side of history and anthropology. Intro to sociology was kind of meh. Something about intro to mass comm just grabbed me. I should explain, Mass Comm at Berkeley is part of the interdisciplinary studies and field major group which in English means it is a make up your own major. There are a handful of classes in the actual Mass Comm department and then a list of classes in various departments that you can take to put together a major that suits you. Doesn’t really do much of anything to help you get a job, but it helps you build a major that makes you truly think about what interests you and helps you get that ever important little piece of paper known as a diploma. Throughout all of my coursework, I kept writing papers that had to do with how the magazine industry dealt with certain issues and it was magazines as niche media that fascinated me. The department also encouraged internships, which I did my fair share of, and as graduation day came I set out for NYC to make a career for myself in publishing even though I had no idea what department I wanted to work in.

I’ve done just about everything in the magazine world and for a while, I left working at a specific magazine to work in a related industry, but it left me unfulfilled. I went back to school to start a masters in publishing and would have happily finished it and perhaps made a good name for myself within the publishing industry, but instead I fell in love and moved to Kansas. I was thrilled when I managed to get a job in publishing in KC and found that I really love production work. Of course, my job isn’t the bread winner job and I knew that when we moved it would be over. I consider myself incredibly fortunate to still have a job working on the fringe of magazine publishing – online events. I don’t always love my job, but it works and keeps me busy and my brain engaged. I have been envious of other people and their jobs and the paths that they have taken to find them, but I’m okay with where I am.  I’m not sure there was ever anything I was truly great at. As I said, the one other job I’ve considered over the years is being a math teacher. I really loved tutoring people, but as a day to day experience, I don’t know if I would have loved being a middle or high school teacher in this day and age. I love learning, but I’m not a major go-getter when it comes to big jobs. I’m very happy being the guy in the background who makes sure that everything runs smoothly rather than being the big man up front.

I think that it is fascinating how people come to do what they are doing. I’m afraid that a lot of people wind up doing things that they don’t enjoy which sucks for everyone. I’m not ready for the day my little one has to start thinking about this, but all I can say for now is that I will try to be as supportive as possible for anything that she may want to do.

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