Help! I’m 30 and Never Followed My Childhood Dream! – Part 2

Jane just wrote How Did You Find Your Career Path? and, in the article, she mentioned a lot of people that didn’t find their career, but instead had their career “find them.” There was the writing major friend of hers who ended up working in perfume, and the film school friend who went into advertising… And then she mentioned how people’s careers usually switch approximately 7 times in their life!

I have a friend who was a drama major who got a major role in a film that turned him off from acting. He went into teaching, loves it, and never looked back. My brother, another actor, was always big into video games and tech. He got a job during college in a video game store. He’s now a brilliant manager at that store and loves his job.

I’m finding lately that sometimes what you think you want to do isn’t actually what you want to do at all. It’s almost hard to admit here because it feels like giving up something…a part of who you are. In a post I wrote awhile ago, Help! I’m 30 and Never Followed My Childhood Dream, I remembered an episode of How I Met Your Mother. In that episode, the gang all realized that there were dream career paths from their childhood that they never followed but always held secret hopes that they one day would. Lily wanted to be a painter and someone wanted to be a rockstar…I can’t remember who. At the end of the episode they realize that they want to let those dreams go because they enjoy the paths they’re currently on even more.

It’s a hard lesson, and not always the case. Childhood career dreams sometimes become reality. Or they sometimes influence what you end up doing (all that drama school helps me see tradeshows as a kind of theater that I need to organize, occasionally direct, and always play my part in, haha). Also, childhood career dreams come in and out, sometimes reemerging as a fresh passion (Janna talks about going after her dancing and acting dreams again after stopping for awhile in Portrait of a Thirtysometing- Janna Davis.)

More than ever, I think that nowadays your career is something to create and evolve with…it isn’t a straight line but- to be corny- kind of a large garden, with seasons and fresh starts and different climates. Sometimes there’s sun and sometimes there’s snow. The soil remains the same (you), but can feel dried up or moistened (those times you realized your career path wasn’t working for you vs those moments of inspiration).

I’ve even heard before from friends that the best moments of their lives were after they got fired from their jobs. They were absolutely forced to start fresh in new jobs and situations they never would have turned to before.

That’s a scary situation and I would never wish for it. I love my job and my unforeseen career path, even though it was never my childhood dream. But I feel more and more that career paths can widen and change and twist into something far different, and maybe a lot better, than your childhood self ever could have dreamed up.

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Horror of the Day

I’ve lost my tolerance for scary movies. When I was a kid, I used to laugh at friends who covered their eyes when zombies popped out of closets. I was fascinated by the psycho clown that lived in the sewer system. Haunted hotels were intriguing to me, as was time traveling pursued by monsters, or ghostly hitchhikers, or possessed televisions and children of the corn.

Sometime slightly after college, I started to have nightmares following a scary movie binge. I became worried about pale dead hands reaching out from under a bed to grab my leg. I checked the bathtub and closet to make sure they were empty before going to sleep. Hotels, places I consider my home almost half the year, started to make me look twice around corners- I thought of bloody twins beckoning from the ends of long hallways: ‘come and play with us.’

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So I stopped watching scary movies. Letting these types of films into my psyche always seems to cause lasting fear (at least for a few days). I’ve been abstaining for years. Even when previews for horror films enter my sight, I attempt to look away, and especially to cover my ears. I’ve found that the sound is actually the scariest part of a movie- not the visual, as you’d expect.

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Once I started avoiding those movies, I became less scared in general. I was no longer very worried about dark hallways or creaky hotels or desolate alleyways. I mean, I have a healthy sense of danger avoidance, but thoughts of ghosts, monsters, and serial killers with chainsaws enter my mind much less often. Although I know it’s healthy to face your fears, I think there are times you can avoid them entirely. Yes, scary feelings are to be faced, but scary movies are absolutely avoidable. In fact, I’ve faced my scary feelings by cutting scary movies out of my life. I think that counts.

It’s sometimes hard to know what we should let into our minds and what we should keep out.  Last night, I watched the pilot of a new show, Penny Dreadful, not realizing that it was a horror show. I wasn’t really scared in the moment, so I kept watching. But last night I woke up from a dream about someone cutting out my stomach and watching turtles hatch and crawl out of it. Yeah, I don’t really need dreams like that in my life.

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Help! I’m 30 and Never Followed My Childhood Dream!

There was this episode of “How I Met Your Mother” where Ted and the gang all realize that they may never accomplish “someday” childhood career dreams they’re all still holding onto.

Someone had always wanted to be a painter, someone else a rockstar, and then there were a few really ridiculous ideas…I can’t remember all of the dreams. The gang reminisces about the career pursuits they once longed for. Some of them try to pursue the dreams once again in order to turn them into a reality. They realize they’ve all been hoping to accomplish their childhood dreams ‘one day.’ By the end of the half hour, they let the dreams go, and keep on the path they were on before. The moral seems to be: we need to put those childhood dreams to rest for something better to take hold in our lives.’

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Lily wants to be a painter. Barney wants to be…a knight? Who knows? Hahaha, he’s pretty funny no matter what.

 

I was never satisfied with that episode. I think one of the reasons it got under my skin was that my career path has taken such a different turn from what I’d originally expected. When I watched that episode, I wondered if I’d given up on my childhood career dream. Am I still holding on to the belief that I’ll one day pick up my former dream again? Is that belief false?

Right now, I’m a self-employed Corporate Spokesperson and Product Specialist (to be better explained in another post), and I work in a lot of different industries, traveling at least half the time. I really enjoy what I do. When I don’t ponder dream careers and childhood ‘what I want to be when I grow up’s”, I feel a deep satisfaction with my job….for now. But then I think along the lines of: ‘Am I pursuing my dreams?’ ‘Is my inner child satisfied?’ ‘Do I know what my career dreams are?’ The questions lead me down all sorts of analytical paths.

I wonder what it means to feel satisfied right now while not pursuing my childhood dream. 

I wonder what my career dream really is. I always thought I wanted to be an actor- but that’s not my dream at the moment. What do I make of that? Have I given up? Was it never really my dream?

I think of the famous men and women who began what became their ‘defining career start’ later in life. The long list of people includes Vera Wang (40 when she entered the fashion industry), Henry Ford (57 when he created the Model T), Suze Orman (36 when she started her financial group), Gene Hackman (37 when he got his first film role), Colonel Sanders (62 when he franchised Kentucky Fried Chicken), Stan Lee (38 when he created his first comic: The Fantastic Four), Julia Child (50 when her first cookbook came out), Laura Ingalls Wilder (65 when the “Little House on the Prairie” books came out)….and many more.

Some of these people pursued a childhood dream that was finally accomplished late in life, and others ended up on a completely new career path…or two or three. I’m sure all of them had moments of confusion about the paths they were on. I’m sure they had many more moments of feeling like they failed. But the important part was that they kept on, proving that they were trying even while possibly failing and failing again.

Right now, I’m satisfied with my career. I’m not pursuing my childhood dream, but it’s not what I want at the moment. And for now, all I can do is listen to my gut. There are times when I’m filled with doubt, and times when I feel confused, but I find clarity in trusting myself and continuing forward, trying to be brave enough to fail and fail again. I make changes as I go, add and subtract, and above all, I continue questioning.

Careers twist and turn, and it’s both okay to pursue your childhood dream with a vengeance, or to let it go to make room for other dreams…or then to pick it back up again years later. Stay honest with yourself, know it’s never too late, and let yourself question your dreams, both old and new.

 

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