Monday, September 28, 2009

Career goals derailed

Mrs. Avery was the school counselor when I was in high school a million years ago.  She was an old woman then so unless she's a contender for the Guinness Book of World Records, she's probably long gone by now.  I didn't know her well and mainly had contact with her when she proctored standardized tests.  When I was a senior I made the obligatory appointment with her to discuss my post-graduation plans.  When she asked what career path I imagined for myself, I told her that I'd like to be a writer.  Forty years later, I still remember her response, "So you really want to live in a cold water flat in New York City and starve to death?"  Wow! I'd like to think that Mrs. Avery was really a nice woman who did her best but that day she fumbled.  Nothing like shooting down a 17 year old kid's dream.  She painted a dark and dismal picture of my future as a writer.  It had nothing to do with my grades or test scores (I was Vice President of the National Honor Society, a charter member of the Quill & Scroll Journalism Honor Society, and an excellent English student), she just had a pre-conceived notion about writers, I suppose. I wonder if she had been jilted by some writer earlier in her life?  I was an impressionable kid who lacked much self-confidence so I immediately began to re-think that goal.

My second best subject in school was biology and I really loved animals so I began to think about veterinary medicine.  When an adult neighbor (who will remain nameless because he's still very much alive and living in my hometown) asked me about my plans and I told him that I was considering veterinary medicine, he immediately took aim at the goal.  "What do you know about cows and horses?" he asked me.  "Vets have to do more than take care of dogs and cats."  I must have been the most easily manipulated person on the planet at that point in my life because I entered college and majored in zoology, rather than journalism or veterinary medicine.  Although zoology was my major and I enjoyed science, I padded my schedule with English courses in order to keep up my GPA.  I eventually lost interest in school, my grades fell and I left as a senior but without graduating.

Following college, I had two fulfilling careers, one was in an industrial business and another in Christian retail, and I have no regrets about either of them.  I'm thinking that now is the time to give that journalism career a shot so that's just what I'm going to do. Who knows?  Maybe that school counselor and neighbor both unknowingly steered me away from journalism so that I could live life and learn more.  Maybe now is my time to write. 

What about you?  What are your not-yet-realized dreams?

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