Life is a journey, not a destination. It’s a cliché, but it’s a cliché for a reason—because it’s true. For some of us, the journey just happens to take more turns, with occasional switchbacks, u-turns, or backtracking after reaching a dead-ends. My journey has sometimes gone in a spiral, or at least seems to.
Then again, maybe I’m taking the journey metaphor a bit too far.
Anyway, now that I am firmly in my mid-life (whether or not I like or admit it), I am constantly amazed how time has flown by because it seems just yesterday I was getting ready to graduate college. Really, weren’t we *just* getting ready for the millennium? But as I reflect over the past couple decades, I thought I might share with you how I ended up where I am.
Unlike some, my journey is not a tragic one. My tale is not filled with terrible sorrow or great misfortune. It is filled with options, choices, and changes. But I’m not going to spoil the end of the story by telling you where “here” is. At least not yet. To tell any tale, one must begin at the beginning.
Once upon a time, I was an undergraduate student at ETSU, a mid-sized state school in Tennessee. I majored in political science and sociology and enjoyed both immensely. And while I won’t bore you with the details of how I ended up at that school majoring in those two areas, I will pause to say this: Understand that I was raised with the traditional middle-class mentality that when you start something, you don’t quit, and the mid-twentieth century norm that you go to college to get a good job, then you do well and move up the ladder (remember, this idea came from the post-WWII era when people worked for the same company 40 or 50 years), and in doing so, you will achieve the “American dream.”
But as I mentioned before, I am a curious sort and have many interests. I struggled to focus my varied interests and passions into a career path. My indecision on what I wanted to be clashed with the aforementioned norms I had been raised with.
And with this struggle, I, of course, considered various options. I looked into law school (probably half of my poli-sci classmates were pre-law). I even went as far to take the law school admission test (the LSAT) during my junior year and get law school applications. I also considered some sort of Ph.D. program in either poli sci or sociology. But again, I could never answer the questions of why and what. Why did I want to go to law school? Why did I want a Ph.D.? What would I do with either degree?
In other words, I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up. (Some say I still don’t. They’re not necessarily wrong.)
While I was trying to figure it out as a 21- and 22-year-old, I talked with my mentors and professors about my various options, and I tried to focus and develop a plan. Because that’s what you’re supposed to do in college, right?
(Side note: one of my mentors at the time gave me a bookmark that said “Not all those who wander are lost.” She felt it fit me perfectly. She was right. She still is.)*
One of the many folks I spoke with was the assistant dean of ETSU’s College of Business. I had gotten to know him pretty well during my tenure at ETSU. He was a marketing guy and he was good at it. He gave me a wonderful spiel about how my liberal arts background would merge nicely with a business degree.
To this day, I’m not exactly sure what he said, but somehow he sold me on the graduate business program. Or rather, I felt like I was running out of time and felt a lot of pressure to make a decision. To choose some path. I mean, that’s what being an adult is, right? Adults know where they’re going, right?
So I ended up applying and being accepted into the Masters of Business Administration program. And being a good traditional middle-classer, I didn’t quit, even though I knew in the first semester the program wasn’t for me. I stuck it out and graduated 3 years later (it took me an extra year because I didn’t have the business undergrad) with a M.B.A.
Then, in my mid-twenties, shiny new M.B.A. diploma in hand and future wide open, I started down one path.
To be continued.
*I wear this necklace all the time (as evidenced by the scuffs). I love it. It fits me + it’s a booknerd quote. I purchased from the BookFiend, who makes jewelry & gifts for book lovers. Go check out her etsy store. She makes great stuff.