Chasing The Dream

21 May

Do you know what question I really hate?

“What do you want to do with your degree/career path/ life?”

I mean, this question was so easy when I was 5.  I wanted to marry Tigger, but I would have settled for Peter Pan.  I could have spent my days bouncing around the Hundred Acre Wood or flying over Neverland, taunting Rabbit or teasing pirates.  I could hunt heffalumps or indians, and look for a lost tail or a missing fairy.  I already had brothers, so it wouldn’t have been hard to adjust to the mostly-male cast of either world.  I had a plan, I tell you.  It was going to be perfect.

Sadly, I think I have to admit that my life probably not going to work out like that.  Apparently there is an age limit on both worlds, and I think I’m closing in on it.  Even more sadly, there is not an age limit on people asking me what I want to do with my life.

You see, I’ve made some choices in my life that would seem to indicate that I had a goal in mind when I made those choices.  I went to college, got a degree, I went to grad school, I got another degree.  For the normal person, this implies that there is a set career path in mind.

I am not a normal person.

I think the most important thing that I learned in graduate school was what I did NOT want to do.  I realized that I did not want to work as a lobbyist, a political consultant, a policy-maker, or really in anything to do with governmental politics.  I also realized that while I’m pretty darn good at biostatistics, SAS (the statistical analysis program favored by pretty much everyone, for some unknown ungodly reason) and I do not get along.  At all.  (You can ask the three school computers I accidently took out of commission for verification on this.)  Unfortunately, those were the two main things my degree focused on.

Now I have a Master’s degree that I’m probably never going to use to its full capacity.  I’m actually OK with this.  The problem is that most people don’t understand that.  There is a stigma attached to not using a degree- like the owner has failed to properly pursue their dreams.  For some, it’s out of laziness, for others it’s because of the job market.  For me, it’s because my dreams took a hard left turn somewhere between first and second year.  In any case, it’s not an easy concept to explain to people.

I’m going to try to explain this concept to people now.

I took an economics class my first semester in graduate school.  It was on Wednesday evenings, from 4-7 pm.  That’s dinner time for most people.  It was torture for the 30 or so of us trapped in that room each week.  I’m just saying- when you start trying to figure out the social cost vs the nutritional benefit of cannibalism, it’s time to get out of class.  Now, I had a wonderful professor.  She was kind, cared about her students, and tried to make the material interesting to us.  That’s a huge thing in a graduate school professor.  It wasn’t her fault that economics is the most boring subject in the entire world forever and ever and for always.

Naturally, my brain couldn’t handle this kind of self-imposed confinement for long.  Just before midterms, my mind finally snapped.  Out of the blue during lecture, a short exchange popped into my head: “And just who are the Nocturnes?”  “They’re us, obviously.”

That was the beginning of the end.  In about a month, I had written a 65,000 word novel, mostly in three-hour weekly increments.  My notebook pages were dotted with economic formulas and bits of notes that I’d jotted down when my attention wandered back to the actual class lectures, but mostly it was full of the story of a girl who sends herself away to boarding school only to find out her classmates are not exactly totally human.

I know, original idea, right?

That’s not the point here.  The point is I did what I had always wanted to do- I wrote a novel.  It was a terribly written novel, and editing so far hasn’t made it much better, but it was mine and it was complete.  I was so ridiculously proud of that thing, and honestly, I still am.  Even though it’s terrible.

Two years later, around the same time, I wrote another novel.  This one turned out much better, mainly because of all that I had learned about how not to write a novel from the first one.  The second novel is called Northgate, and I’m even more proud of it, even though it’s technically incomplete (I prefer to think of it as leaving the ending to the reader’s imagination…).

That’s not exactly the point here either.  The real point is that it took me a very long time to realize what it was that I wanted to do with my life.  This may be because it’s not a very well-accepted career move, or because I was afraid that people would belittle my dream, or most likely- that I would totally and completely fail at it.

But I remembered something that I had forgotten in the two decades since I was 5: dreams don’t have to be practical.  That’s what makes them dreams.

I also realized that now is the perfect time to really chase down my dreams- because it’s not like I have a full-time job or anything.  I actually have very few responsibilities in my life right now.  So, *deep breath,* I’m going to start giving the true answer to people when they ask me The Question.

Go ahead, ask me.  You know you want to.

You: “K, what do you want to do with your degree/ career path/ life?”

Me: “I want to be a writer.  But more than that, I want to be a creator.  I want to make things that make people feel things- books, blogs, pictures, videos, etc. (and yes, I will say etc.  Just like that: E.T.C.)  I don’t care if people remember my name, but I want them to remember the things I made.”

You: “Wow, that’s a really good answer.”

Me: “I know, it took me several years to come up with it, and a few hours to memorize the proper inflections for it when spoken.”

You:  “It was time well spent, I’d say.”

Me: “Yep. Far more useful than that second economics class.  By the way, you’re going to save $7 if you buy that game pre-owned since you have a membership card.  It’s a better economic decision… DARN IT!  The curriculum seeped into my brain anyway!”

You: “Um, ok.  Nice talking with you.” *You scurry away at this point*

This is exactly how the conversation is going to go down.  Those of you unfortunate enough to interact with me in real-life know I’m telling the truth.  I’m sorry, but it is what it is.  And you know what? People may not remember my name, but they do remember that strange redheaded girl who works at the video game store and has that eloquently-phrased dream, and that’s what it’s all about in the end.



Growing Up

The underlying message here: you may grow out of a dream, but your dreams should always outgrow you.


3 Responses to “Chasing The Dream”

  1. Becky May 21, 2012 at 11:55 am #

    Go for it lovely, go for it. 🙂

  2. Sue Maden May 21, 2012 at 2:34 pm #

    The subject of career paths comes up in my daily work life. I’m here to tell you that very few people truly know what they want to do. For most of us, a career is a winding path, not a ladder going up. So in my book, you’re ahead of the game by having a dream to be a writer/creator. And if you can give an answer like that, that will satisfy most people. They’ll hear the passion in your voice, and be enthused. I think we really just want to know that a young person recognizes that life isn’t a free ride. You are so clearly not a person who thinks that (from what I can tell). My guess is that this issue concerns you far more than the people asking the question. And of course it should, since it’s your future. Maybe it’s time to take the label “career” out of the mix. The fact that you are working a variety of jobs to pay your expenses, and that you know you want to create is fantastic. Be proud of your accomplishments and for how hard you work.

  3. Xenoia May 22, 2012 at 6:25 am #

    Working takes up a huge amount of your time, your life. Why spend it doing something you really don’t want to do?

    I quit a job that I hated and was making me sick through stress, to do two part time jobs and to both write and study in the spare time. I get less money, am crazy busy all the time now, but I am infinitely happier than I was before because I know I am pursuing something that I want to. I believe that if you really want it and you work for it then you will succeed. 🙂

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