I arrived, both feet on the ground, for my first semester of college in Connecticut in the fall of 2006. I was a journalism major, and had decided to pursue broadcast journalism because I had announced both girl’s and boy’s varsity basketball for three years in high school. My voice was decent, and after I got over the initial shock of hearing my voice on the microphone, I started to really enjoy it. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, and it would be years before I had that realization, but a few people told me that I should pursue broadcasting, that it made sense given my skill set. It seemed like a good place to start.
I took a course in introductory journalism, a course that really was more about the history of journalism than anything else. There was no writing in the course, only three exams, and the class would not be graded on a curve. I learned to take fast and detailed notes during that class, and made sure not to miss a single session; I was too scared I’d miss crucial details and wind up with a C or a D. I was sure I was going to fail every course that first semester, but that wasn’t the case. I ended up with a B or a B+ in journalism, and the note-taking skills I learned were invaluable to the rest of my undergraduate career and beyond. I never took another journalism class again.
I switched to a major in communications, but that didn’t seem like the right fit either. Another friend of mine has made quite the career out of his communications degree, but it wasn’t for me. I remember hearing about a course called macroeconomics, and knew that I’d need to take it or something like it to fulfill a prerequisite. The teacher was older, and it was clear he’d been giving the same lecture for the past 30 years. I was not thrilled that my Dad was paying money for this. I was outraged for him. I stopped going to that class and just read the book, but my imagination was captured. I switched to a major in economics and never looked back. Economics seemed to be more of a mode of thinking than a bunch of facts you had to memorize, and agreed with my worldview.
So many people in college don’t end up where they started out, and that makes sense when you think about it. It’s really insane to ask an 18 year-old kid, “What do you want to do for the rest of your life?” Most people at that age haven’t experienced life outside of an academic setting. You don’t know who you are, or who you want to become. My aunt told me that she knew what she wanted to do when she was 33. I have an uncle who told me he still doesn’t know what he wants to do, but he’s had a very successful career in sales. I think that in undergrad, I wanted to be an economist, but I also knew that that entailed a lot more school than I could stomach. Okay, back to the story.
Out of college, I had a job for three trimesters working in the accounting department of a bank. It wasn’t my favorite gig, but I loved my coworkers, and I learned so much more than I expected to. I still find myself asking about the bank and how it’s doing, about the people I used to work with. I’m happy to report that both are doing well. It was an all right job, but I knew it wasn’t the final stop for me. I knew that I had more work to do professionally and personally before I figured out what I wanted.
After a few years spent languishing in unemployment, my first year in New York City was a disaster. I had trouble finding work, and I would have bailed if it weren’t for my roommate. He suggested that I apply to the program he was in, since he’d just finished up the first year and loved it. It was a public administration program, which focused on nonprofit work and the like. We’re both similar people, and he sold it to me as the perfect merging of both economics and policy. Maybe that wasn’t what he said verbatim, but I remember being intrigued by his pitch. When I opened my electronic letter of acceptance online, I screamed loudly. I was nervous that I’d fail at something else, that it would be a letter of rejection and not acceptance.
The program was excellent, but it still didn’t point me in a definitive direction. When I stop and think about it, I’ve struggled professionally because I didn’t know what I wanted to do, what field I wanted to be in, and in what capacity. I remember talking to someone at a networking event and confessing how much I didn’t want to be there, that I didn’t know how these things worked. “You’ll get much better at it when you know what you want to do.” The advice has stayed with me all of these years, and it’s proven to be effective. When you know what you want to do in this world, it becomes much easier to go after it. You know whom you have to talk to, the steps you have to take to get what you want.
I’m in the nonprofit world right now, and I’m honing in on what I want my role to be. I love to write, as I’ve probably mentioned too many times already. I didn’t end up where I thought I would, but I’m so happy to be where I am. I feel positively giddy, and excited about the future and what it could hold. I’m approaching it all with an open mind, and I’m excited to do good work for good people. After almost 30 long years, I feel like I’m getting to know myself very well, and I know what I’m about. I didn’t end up where I started, and I know that I’m not even close to being at the end (knock on wood), but I wake up everyday grateful to be alive, and to be at the place in my life that I am. There were some times when I didn’t think I’d make it here, and although this isn’t where I thought I’d be, I’m happy as hell to be here.