Sunday, September 24, 2006

Career Choice

When I was teaching at a lovely working-class, commuter college, a community college in Northern California, students would confide in me about their dreams, plans, and career choice dilemmas. For often, their dream jobs were quite disparate from the career choice their parents had decided upon for them. It is probably not necessary to give you an example, but here, anyway, is Allen. He is American-born to Chinese parents. He is driven to work hard in school, do numerous extracurricular activities, do volunteer tutoring, and keep his eye toward that parental dictum that holds his career choice is made for him: he will be an engineer. But Allen wants to be a writer. The challenge for the instructor, in this case, me, is to respect his parents issues and values and rationale but somehow give this young man—who is a stellar writer—hope for freedom of creativity. In the years that I was teaching, I was in love with my career choice. I, like Allen, had been groomed for teaching, though I wanted to write. Writing points to tenuous lifestyles, to suffering more than necessary, to the grossest kinds of poverty. For parents, especially. I was lucky, though, that I adored the students, loved the subject matter and skillset curricula I dealt with, and therefore could still be honest with students—telling them that since we work for more of our waking hours than we do anything else, that we HAVE to love it, look forward to it, and therefore be good at it. I would not have had the balls to face parents and tell them I would be in charge of my own career choice…so I did not impel students to do it either. But I did, once on my own and once burned out by the ridiculous political and bureaucratic crap that eventually revealed itself, make a second career choice. I switched to writing…for a LIVING! Yikes. No medical, dental, ocular. No guaranteed monthly $4k. No one to aggressively agree with my new career choice, one I was launching into at the age of 44. As Eileen McDargh, quoting Will Rogers in her book on working for yourself says, however, “Get out on a limb. That’s where the fruit is.” If you ever climbed a tree, then, and reached that coveted fresh from the pick apple or pear, you know what these courageous, insightful, and soulful individuals allude to. You know and hopefully are prepared to try for the career choice of your dreams and of YOUR making, by taking that tenuous risk.


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