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My Journey and The Home Stretch

I’ve been attending college since 1999. One class at a time, literally. Not having a goal – a major I felt really strongly about – made for classes I didn’t need, but I enjoyed taking those classes. Photography, How to be a better college student, a bunch of art related courses – those filled my transcript.

Why have I been in college for so long? Life. My life has been run a lot like a game of 52 Pick-up… Random, messy, unorganized.  I was a troubled teen and high school drop-out, I became a mother at 19, I had a short first marriage, I attended a technical school studying graphic design at 23, and I finally entered the work market. No plan. Much like a boat on the sea without a sail, paddles or rudder.

I was presented with many opportunities to learn on the job – my first job out of the tech school was in a print shop. I was taught how to write code setting type on a Linotype machine and how to run a printing press by the press operator.

I built on the skills I had. I learned something new and useful at each job I landed. I had a LOT of jobs during 1989-1990. Self-inflicted misery kept me from excelling. In 1990 I landed a job in a real estate sign shop. The owner purchased a new computer, the Apple, with the new Windows operating system. He asked me if I could figure out how to use it. I did, and my future changed. I learned PageMaker and Word. Those two programs kept me employed for the next ten years, and I added on to them with Excel, Access, CorelDraw, and others. All self-taught.

Frankly, I got lucky…I entered the job market when personal computers did. I got to learn as the computer became more and more embedded in the work place. You could say we grew up together.

I knew nothing about continuing education at the time. I knew how to work hard and gather related skills (everything is related somehow, by the way). I went from a print shop I managed to a corporate forms designer position in 1995. While I was there, feeling superior, empowered and believing my future was secure, the graphic design world changed radically: Apple made the Mac, graphic design went the way of Apple and my PC skills became obsolete, unbeknownst to me. When my secure future dissolved in 1999 through a corporate purchase and dissolution, I could not get a job as a graphic designer – I did not know Apple at all. My skills were repurposed to the position of Administrative Assistant – a noble job making supervisors look good, at which I excelled. But I wasn’t happy.

Lesson learned? Get an education so I could do what I enjoyed, what made me happy to go to work. Strengthen the skills I already have. My formal college education started off pretty sporadic, at first. It became consistent in 2006, after I landed a city position. Still, I didn’t know what I wanted to accomplish.  I have changed my major a few times over the years: Art, Business, and now English. See my post “Did I Ever Tell You…” for the full story. https://snapshotsofeverything.wordpress.com/2015/11/23/did-i-ever-tell-you/

It took me 25 years to return to my roots – be a writer.  I was busy working full time and raising a family – not much time to think about what I really enjoyed, what made me happy even if I wasn’t being paid.

I envy those individuals who knew what they want to do right out of the gate.  I know a few. “I’ve always wanted to be a chef.” … “I’ve enjoyed taking things apart to see how they work since I was a little kid.” … “Math has always fascinated me.” … “I help others get what they need.” These people listened to their hearts instead of those well meaning guides who had their best interests at heart. Or they received the support and encouragement of those well meaning guides to pursue their dreams.

I’ll admit I have only recently learned to listen to my heart. I have only recently been encouraged to do what I love without concern for the monetary return. Someone once shared with me that if I do what I truly enjoy doing, the money will follow. I’ve heard it before. And it’s what I try to share today with those struggling for a future.

I sometimes hear “But I have to pay the bills.” Yes, having a paycheck is important. Get a job that pays the bills. Then, do whatever it takes to do what you enjoy and make a life doing that. Work two jobs – the job you need to pay your bills and the job that will help you hone your dream career. Eventually you will support yourself doing what you love and you can quit the job that got you there. You will be tired, your friends will dwindle for awhile, and you may occasionally question why you are pursuing your dream. If you truly love what you are pursuing, you will answer the question and keep moving forward. You will get to sleep again someday, your friends will change and be suited to you, and you will enjoy what you do to make a living.

I’m in the home stretch – 8 more classes, and I will receive my AA in Liberal Arts, after 25 years of personal growth and education. I can transfer to a University and pursue my Bachelors Degree in English. I’ve really improved my study skills, and my social skills. I will write while I attend school. I am not attending school to get a better job. I am attending school to broaden my horizons, to increase my knowledge, and to socialize, make connections, and gather more life experience.

Enjoy the journey.