I haven’t been able to answer that question since I’ve been an adult. When I was about 8, I would have answered that I wanted to be an author. I had an amazing third grade teacher who took the time to see past a lonely little girl who didn’t have the coolest clothes or the best lunchbox, but instead had a whole lot of emotion and imagination brewing beneath the surface. She was the first person to tell me I had a talent for writing.
When I got to high school, I had decided I would be a journalist. I read incessantly, wrote angst-filled teenage poetry and managed to become the editor of the school paper by the time I was a senior. But I hadn’t yet learned to think for myself. I was mostly following the path laid out before me without forging my own trail.
In college, I decided to major in English (among other things). Novels became how I viewed the world. A section on post-colonial Indian literature connected me to a subcontinent I would probably never know. A directed study of Virginia Woolf lead me to an awareness of women’s rights and the modernist movement (and a name for this blog). But what I really did in college was figure out what I thought – about politics, about the world, about myself.
It took at least another five years after college to be okay with all of that, to finally like who I was and feel secure with my place in the world. And I still didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up, even though I was started to feel decidedly “mature,” if not yet long in the tooth.
I worked, but I didn’t have a career. I paid the bills, but I didn’t feel like I was following my dreams or changing the world. And for a large majority of Americans, that’s what we do. We go to work, and then come home to our real lives. But I wanted to love my life and my work.
So I did the unthinkable (at least for a non-risk-taking person such as myself). I quit my job just as I was starting to make progress financially to start over in a new career. Untested. Broke. Scared.
Because I’m so terrified, I’m pretty sure that means it was the right decision. The easy path is rarely the correct one. I may not know what the perfect career for me will be, but I think this is a good start. And when I grow up, I can say that I am happy.