There are 2 major routes I can take to get to work. One route is a highway followed by back country roads. I can take this path when the roads are clear, or I'm in a hurry. The second route is through Lima. I take this route when the roads are bad or when I want to swing by Dunkin's and get a coffee. The Lima route is just a bit slower, but the drive times are pretty comparable. Neither route is "right" or "wrong." They both serve different purposes; however, choosing one of those routes is something I do every day fully aware that my choice could be completely benign, or it could be a choice that becomes problematic (an accident, a car issue, a delay). And, what makes it so difficult is the fact that I don't know what the route has in store when I make the decision to take it.
Day 9: Choose routes. Don't make choices.
Those of you who know me well know that my career path has taken many detours. When I began my undergraduate career at Bluffton in 2008, I had my sights set on social work. However, I experienced some personal trauma that made the classes difficult to handle emotionally at that time, so I switched to English education. The emotional toll the trauma had on me intensified as I continued my education, and it made student teaching impossible. So, I dropped the education major and stuck with English. Upon graduation in 2012, I realized the job market for English majors was pretty ugly, so I prepped for the LSAT and earned a full-tuition scholarship to the University of Toledo's law school. Here's a free piece of advice: Don't rush into something just because you're scared of appearing to be stagnant (I'll divulge more in a bit). A semester of law school made me realize I didn't want to do that either, so I told myself, "If I get anything less than a B- in Property, I was going to drop out." My Civ Pro grade came in: A. My Contracts grade came in: A-. My Legal Research and Writing grade came in: A. Property was the last to come in: C. That was it. I sent an email to the dean that morning and withdrew.
Colin and I were living in Toledo, and we had been living off my student loans and his income (You aren't allowed to hold employment while in law school). And, I quit. I quit with absolutely no plan, and I went straight out and picked up 3 part time jobs. I waited tables in the morning, scanned pillows and As-Seen-on-TV products at Bed Bath and Beyond during the day, and I delivered pizzas at night. I would come home and put all my tip money in a Pringles can, and I'd dump it out at the end of the month and pray we had enough to pay rent. During that time, I saw that the University of Toledo had a program where I could get my Master's in Education while also earning my teaching certificate. I completed that program in 10 months, and I started a job at Toledo Public Schools the next fall. That's it, right? Teachers teach forever. It's a career.
We ended up moving back home, and I taught at a couple local districts. I remember telling students, "I don't think I'll be a teacher forever. I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up." They were always dumbfounded because, like I said before, teachers teach forever (actually, statistics show the turnover is insane). Last school year, I taught at an amazing district with amazing staff and amazing students, but it still just didn't feel "right." On a whim, I applied for a job as an Academic Success Coach at a local community college last spring. I had no qualifications (except my M.Ed), and I had no clue what to expect. I broke my ankle 3 days before the interview, and Malcolm puked all over me the night before the interview. I wasn't going to go, but I did. And, I somehow snagged the job. It was a 50% pay cut, it was a longer commute, it was unfamiliar - I had every reason to not take the job, but I did.
That was a long-winded back story to get to my main point. When I graduated from Bluffton in 2012, I refused to take a second to breathe. I did this because I perceived taking a period of unemployment or taking a job I was overqualified for as the "wrong" choice. Our society leads us to believe that if we aren't making money, pursuing our dreams directly, and working in a "rewarding" career, we are failing. Of course, I wasn't going to work at the local factory; I had a degree, dang it! I am ashamed of the way I thought about life in 2012. Fast forward to 2019, and I was facing another fork (I have had so many forks that my life has started to look like a plastic cutlery set). At this fork, I had an epiphany. There was nothing "right" or "wrong" about choosing success coaching at Rhodes over teaching at Shawnee. I wasn't making a choice; I was deciding on a route. My final destination is helping people, and both jobs can get me there.
My morning commute through Lima takes longer, but I can get warm delicious coffee. My route on the highway lacks coffee, but man, the sunrise is beautiful. Both routes contribute to my happiness in some way, both routes have bumps and barriers, but both routes get me to my job. Some days, the route I choose might slow me down, but ultimately, I end up in the same place. When you're faced with career decisions or major life changes, stop thinking about "right" and "wrong" choices, and start thinking about your options as paths. It removes the pressure. It removes SOME of the fear. And, it allows you to assess where you truly want to go. If both of your choices can get you there, then all you have to do is decide if you want coffee or a sunrise. And, the current state of your own life will help you decide. Some mornings you'll wake up after 3 hours of sleep and desperately need a coffee, and some days you'll wake up needing a sunny reminder that life is beautiful and good. As long as you get to work, it doesn't matter which route you choose.
I'm not saying it's easy, and sometimes your route might lead to an accident. But, if you know where you're going, you'll always choose a path that can get you there (even if that path takes a little longer).