When I was a kid, I used to LOVE choose your adventure books. I was never willing to commit, though. I would find the solution I chose, but before I read it, I would stick a finger in and then find the OTHER solution. I would read the other path first and then go back to the one I had picked, but if I died, that wasn’t my real option, the other one was so I could keep going with the story.
Why do I bring this up? I heard a radio show on my way into work this morning that made me consider my “path,” so to speak. The author of some book I can’t remember since it seemed like a whole bunch of self-help hogwash was talking about how people end up in their major, their job, their life. I can only paraphrase but the example she used was you applied to a bunch of jobs and this was the one that was closest so you figured you’d take it until something else came along and five years later, ten years later, you realize this is the life you’ve chosen.
But it made me think – I am where I want to be. I’m doing what I want to be doing. Maybe not for the rest of my life, but for now. I’m happy. I feel challenged and I enjoy it. But how did I get here? What choices did I take since you can’t actually travel through life reading ahead to figure out which the good path would be, can you?
But maybe I did. My changes in majors in school were extreme, to put it mildly, not to mention my post-graduate studies and degrees. My changes in jobs and employment has been even more strange, varied and seemingly non-sequential. I worked for a Fortune 500 company as a database programmer. Somehow that lead me to teaching Social Studies and Mathematics in a few different middle schools. I worked for a law firm handling real estate settlements. I did marketing for a small and fairly new pharmaceutical-focused computer consulting company, then hopped back over to handle taxation and title insurance underwriting for a large company. Then I worked for a massive Home Improvement store as a cashier. Switched from that to working as an accountant for a collection agency and have ended up now, performing computer analytics for legal documentation at a bank.
What does any of that have in common besides me? It seems absurd, but I see a common thread running through all of that: pattern-recognition and communication. If I realized I was not going to get where I wanted, I didn’t wait for the next job, I leaped and trusted that even if I fell, I could figure out SOMETHING. I had to rely on temp agencies and some time working as a temp at different places to meet the bills and eat, but at the end of the day, I usually did find work. And I ended up exactly where I want to be and where I belong. Sometimes I even went back to something that I knew was heading towards the right path, even if the first result wasn’t successful and even if it wasn’t doing what I wanted: computers, real estate, math.
Someone asked me recently if I ever spoke to audiences, told them my stories or the things I’ve done, and I had to confess that aside from the person at work I decide to mention my time spent in Breton, France or Lancashire, England; about the time my mother took me to march in the first Mayday Parade that wasn’t a Communist show of power in Moscow; or maybe the time I was performing on the piano as a teenager and got to see how it looked from the Berlin Radio Tower at night when the wall was still up: a big city of twinkling lights on the West and nothing but darkness on the East. I’ve had a great wealth of opportunities, I’ve suffered tragedies, but I can safely say, I’ve chosen my life.