I could write this story any number of ways with a different start each time but no matter where I begin or how far back I go, the paths all lead to where I am now, as I sit writing this post, already steeped in my next adventure. If you’ve ever glanced at my profile (or CV), you’ll see that I’m no stranger to trying out new things. My biggest leap came over five years ago, when I left my corporate career with a half-baked plan, a bank account that seemed full and a desire to do something remarkably different.
I made this decision a year after my divorce and six months after buying my first post-divorce house. This is a photo I posted on Facebook with my “work” mug on one of those first mornings as an entrepreneur. I remember feeling both thrilled and terrified. I’ve learned that the terror never really goes away; the thrill however, can wane dramatically.
As a single mom, who’s financially independent from her former husband, I’ve had my share of financial ups and downs. I’ve had months when I wasn’t sure where the mortgage was going to come from. I’ve taken odd jobs from part-time work at a golf course as a mobile bartender, back to my corporate life in a 35 person organization working remotely and doing some consulting to make the financial ends meet.
All the while I was studying. The classes I took ranged from speed reading to intuition training. As I look back now, what I realize is that I was really studying was myself. I was on the search for something that would make me feel happy and fulfilled. My corporate job didn’t do it and somewhere along the path, I knew my purely entrepreneurial life wasn’t quite right either. I was however, through both experiences, consistently learning.
The self-knowledge I obtained is the reason I found my new path, back to school, this time at “skin school”- training to be an esthetician. This work combines all of my favorite things from all of the various jobs I’ve had across my working life, and eliminates most of the things I didn’t love. I still get to keep up with the energy work that’s become a backbone in my own life. I get to prioritize caring for those that are invested in caring for themselves. In my future is a career I can be proud of and, for what feels like the first time, I can clearly see my success. I can imagine the programs I created as an entrepreneur combining with my training as a skin-care specialist for a holistic outside-in approach to mindful wellness.
It took me a long time to admit that this was the path I wanted to go down, both to myself and to others. When (and where) I was growing up, you only went to a vocational school if you “weren’t smart enough” to go on to college. At least, that was how it was how I heard the message. My Mom went to a two year secretarial school and my Dad went into the service to get his GED so my ability to go to college was considered a gift. Regardless of the guilt I amassed with the financial strain I was clearly putting on my family, I spent the years I went to school searching for something that felt like me. A business degree was where I landed because it was the first discipline that made sense without an overwhelming amount of effort, study and expense. I also remember feeling like making this choice uncomfortably eliminated others that were equally attractive, related to my passions for both science and other creative pursuits.
That search feels like it’s finally landed me here. To something that, for what feels like the first time, is what all the learning, the corporate career and the entrepreneurial life was preparing me for.
It’s just the first few months of school but I know already that my life has changed. My priorities are different. My sense of the future is more solid and more exciting than ever. I’m stimulated for the first time in a way that feels thoroughly aligned. This path was not, by any means, straight. It was not easy or simple. It was, however, incredibly informative.
Along the way, here’s what I learned:
There is no right or wrong. Each choice you make is a step in the direction of gathering more information. More information gives you a more informed place to choose from for the next choice.
Figuring out what you love and what you don’t, isn’t a straight line. Sometimes the answers to these questions change dramatically over time.
Self-awareness is a never ending process of tuning in, studying your reactions to various triggers and tracing them back to why they make you feel a certain way. I don’t recommend doing this in the middle of the reaction/emotion. Feel first. Study later.
Not everyone progresses along the same line at the same time. I’m 43 and just now starting a new path and a new career. In my 18 person class at school, there are four of us with a similar story.
I wasn’t born knowing what I wanted to do. I needed my life experiences to help me decipher the clues. I’m also aware enough to know that just because esthetics is what I want to do now doesn’t mean it’s what I’m going to want to do in five years. P.S. there doesn't have to be just ONE thing.
The jobs/careers/disciplines of study that have labels of “hard” or “easy” are simply varying perspectives on skill sets. What are you good at? What do you like to do? How do these things intersect?
Brains/intelligence have nothing to do with success. Success is very personal formula with an exceptionally personal definition. How “smart” you are is relative to many things and simply doesn’t factor in. Are there smart, successful people? Absolutely! I’ve also seen other examples.
Massive effort does not guarantee financial success. If it did, the people working three jobs to make ends meet would be making more than the CEOs I met on the golf course.
Don’t let anyone tell you you’re not living “up to your full potential” because of your choices. If they do, tell them you’re exploring the fullness of your potential so you can learn it for yourself.
Each experience, whether fulfilling or disappointing, is simply a step towards the next one, even if, in the moment, you can’t see how they all connect. I promise they do. They are connected by you.
If you’ve made it this far, please do yourself a favor and let go of the fear. Embrace the curiosities that are unique to you; they will lead you to some surprising places you might never have ventured to go. Each step will bring you closer to something that feels more and more like the you you’ve always wanted to be. I know, because I’ve walked the path. I’ve arrived here and now, and it feels fantastic. Sharing my story is a way for you to know that you're not alone.