Following My Passion
Courage is daring to take that first step, or a different path. It is the decision to place your dreams above your fears.”
– Mark Twain
I’ve been living a lie.
This may surprise some people to hear. After all, I published a book last year: a memoir about my experience at my “dream school” meant to inspire other kids to go to theirs’. I visited classrooms to talk about this book and discussed the many lessons to learn from it; and of course, I kept up this blog, dispensing as many tidbits of advice and motivation as I could. So if my dream is to help kids get to college and achieve all of their potential there, aren’t I doing plenty to pursue it?
Because at the same time I’ve been putting energy into these outlets, I’ve been putting way more energy into my day job. You know, that thing you’re supposed to get when you graduate college where you can earn money, advance to highly sought-after positions, and get to challenge yourself. I did that. In fact, I got a good job, earned some (really) good money, and established myself pretty well. I had some rewarding experiences, made some great friends, and completed a number of successful projects, which is why it never occurred to me that anything was missing… until about two years ago.
It was a perfect storm of sorts: A few situations that made me start to think more seriously about a next step in my career; my book on the verge of getting published, evoking excitement about earning money for my “mission” of helping kids get to college. All of a sudden, something clicked that fall: Why am I not doing this stuff all the time?
A brief work trip that February to my favorite place in the world, Wilmington, North Carolina, allowed for some more reflection. Running along the ocean, taking in the scenery, I confirmed my inclincation: it was time for a change. It would be at least a year before I could do anything drastic — this career move required a graduate degree, which required a whole host of other next steps. But if I focused, I could get there. On the last morning of that trip, February 15, 2011, I wrote ’12 in the sand and took a picture of it.
A reminder that has stayed as the background of my iPhone for the past 18 months.
During this time I’ve researched programs, ultimately determining that the Educational Leadership and Policy program at my home state university best fit my goals. I’ve applied and been accepted to that program; and last, but certainly not least, I’ve tripled my savings account. I met with an advisor last summer, and we discussed my career ambitions once I graduated — areas like college advising, or being a director of programs for incoming students. Our conversation brought me to tears. I walked out of that campus building without a single doubt in the world that I was on the right path.
So does that mean I’ve been on the wrong path for six years? I don’t think so. Besides the amazing experiences I’ve had at my current job, in particular opportunities to travel, I think it’s taken me this long to truly find my passion. I knew when I graduated college that I’d had an extraordinary experience there, and I knew I wanted to pay that experience forward somehow. Yet I also knew I was writing a book that could very well accomplish those things.
It was only after a few more years of visiting campuses, thinking about the goals of my book, and perhaps most importantly, continuing to realize how I was shaped by my own collegiate experience, that I realized helping others reap the same rewards wasn’t just something I could do as a hobby, or with close friends and family.
The notion taught me another lesson.
You can pursue your dreams on the side. You absolutely can. You can write books, start organizations, attend events. But when you figure out a way to combine your work and your dreams — when you make the decision to combine your work and your dreams — that’s when you win big. It’s that moment when you stop caring about how much money you get paid and instead think “I’m getting paid to do this?” That time when you stop waiting for work to be over so you can get to the thing in the day you’re most excited, and instead, get excited about going to work. It’s when saying “the right things” at work is easy, because you’re just saying exactly what you feel, what you know, and what you want… all the time.
I heard it said recently that ”when you find a job your passionate about, you gain five days in a week.” To be honest, I still can’t quite fathom that I’ll be going to work to do the thing I’ve been trying to find time outside of work to do for the past few years.
And that’s how I know it’s what I’m meant to do.
What’s your passion? Are you going after it? If not, why?
- Posted in: Uncategorized