Living Your Life: School and Career Focused

School and career. These are two subjects I knew absolutely nothing about. This area of my life was in complete disarray, and with zero guidance due to my complete lack of positive role models, any kind, I had quickly made the transition from cute kid in grade school developing normally, to almost a middle school dropout. And there was no shortage of people helping me along the way to achieve as little as possible.

In this post I’ll be going over the experience I had with my education and how I never learned how to find out what my passions are. How I dealt with the lack of role models and stumbled along the way, to me finally coming to an understanding of what career means to me. Also what I’m doing about it now that I’m behind the wheel and steering my life in a direction that works for me. Hopefully if you have similar experiences, you’ll at least know you’re not alone. And hopefully get some helpful pointers along the way. Let’s start at the beginning with my schooling.

School, the Early Years

I hadn’t realized at the time, but my disinterest in school started soon after my trauma I experienced as an eight year-old, around second and third grades. I was doing well until third grade. It was then that I started showing signs of having difficulty learning to read. I had mild dyslexia. Confusing bs for ds, and my overall progress slowed. I overcame the mild learning issues in elementary school, but by the time I got to middle school, I had completely checked out.

I was in a constant state of fear. Everything I had known about feeling safety and belonging with and around other people had flown completely out the window. I was nervous and anxious around other people almost constantly. I hadn’t developed any social skills in my early teen years, so when I hit high school I was modeling myself after Jim Morrison for lack of positive role models.

Wanting to be Liked

I was overcompensating for my fear of connection by being arrogant and aloof like Jim. This was also when I started drinking and smoking cigarettes. My ambition in life was to be seen by others as someone who was cool. That was it. There was no substance or desire for something more. I had no idea that there were greater things to aspire to. My sole focus was to be liked.

This makes me sad now to think about it. I was a cliché in thinking that if I acted a certain way, I would be accepted and liked by others. What I was going through was the awkward social change into adolescence and I had no idea that I was even going through it. But if you don’t feel accepted by your caregivers, then who is there to tell you that you belong? For me it was just doing whatever felt good at the time, with whomever was around me probably making the same poor choices.

I felt a sense of homelessness. And I felt no sense of belonging or what it means to belong in a healthy sense of the term anyway. I spent most of my time with friends, drinking too much and wandering around aimlessly from one good time to the next. I’m surprised I made it out of adolescence relatively unscathed. But in spite of my difficult upbringing, I managed to pull a life together.

Salvaging What I Could

I pulled a life together, but that was in the loose sense of the term. I may have had a place to live, was in a stable relationship and had plans for the future, but I was really just winging it. But I was still trying to avoid feeling the uncomfortable and sometimes traumatic emotions of my past. I also had little to no drive or ambition. And I spent most of my time avoiding living my life by either drinking or playing video games. My future plans felt more like stabs in the dark without anyone to support my efforts. I still had no healthy role models or direction, or even goals to strive towards. I was just drifting. The way I had through my teen years. Only older now and with almost nothing to show for the life I had been avoiding living.

Shifting Emotions

But then something shifted for me. My comfortable and somewhat stagnant life was turned upside-down when I thought I had fallen in love with another woman. Looking back now, I realize I had finally felt heard. But I was only recognizing that the woman who I thought I fell in love with was really a reflection of how I felt. Like Justin Timberlake’s song, “Mirror”. She was my “mirror”, allowing myself to finally see what I was feeling. What I was covering over for so long with alcohol and anger. The small, vulnerable child that was still waiting to be heard.

I ended up quitting drinking while I was with her and that helped a great deal towards bringing some order to my chaotic emotional world. But this is also where I made some poor choices. Leaving the life I had and could have worked on, for the life I would eventually realized I was outgrowing.

Shifting Focus

I split up with the woman who had helped me wake up emotionally shortly after we got together. This was for the best and helped me to find the trajectory of, and focus in, my life. During the time I was adrift, I had started school for social work. I eventually switched to architecture, then to journalism. I had no idea what to do with any of my schooling, but felt as though I needed to go regardless of my aimless amblings.

While I was getting my life back together, I finished my degree. This time as an English major and the only take away from my college education was how to write a blog : ) But even after I finished my undergrad degree, I was still adrift. With no direction for how my future was going to unfold. Still unsatisfied with my employment prospects and jobs, I decided that something needed to change. But again, with no direction or role models, I was in the same place as I was when I was just winging it. So, I did what I knew. For me this was baking, running, yoga, writing this blog and journaling. Also building up and nurturing my relationships while paying off my debt.

Finding Focus

This may seem like a mish-mash of areas all jumbled together, but what I came to realize was that while I was cobbling together the pieces of my life that had been adrift, I began to find greater focus in all areas of my life. I’ve been baking professionally for about 15 years, off and on throughout my career. I’ve come to enjoy the process of baking. I’m good at it and it’s something that’s been a constant in my life. But I know now that I don’t want baking to be my career.

Baking

I have however, learned how to hone a craft through baking. As I’ve said above, I’m pretty good at it. Which is no surprise considering how long I’ve been doing it for. But I also have been able to recognize how I’ve build my craft and how it’s progressed over the years. I can tell things about dough just by looking at it or touching it. And have a wealth of knowledge to work from, in my personal and professional experiences. But I’ve also come to realize that baking is not my end goal. It’s something I’m grateful I’ve learned, but also something I’ll be able to part with when the time comes.

Workout

Running and yoga have helped me to manage my physical being. I’ve gone through some considerable changes regarding my weight, physical appearance and overall health thanks to these healthy habits. They’ve also taught me something about dedication. About getting out on the road and pounding out those three miles. Even when the temperature is in the low nineties and the humidity is 90%. Or finding your balance when you flow through your vinyasa from forward fold to down dog and bring your right foot up to high lunge. When you do them consistently, you build more than just physical strength. You’re building resilience. This can translate to all areas of your life. You have that extra surge of energy that helps you to get up and do the dishes. Or to get moving at 5am before you’ve had your first cup of tea or coffee.

Writing

Writing has been essential in finding and maintaining focus for me as well. First with bullet journaling. Something I’ve mentioned before on this blog. Journaling has been a way for me to map out and organize what I have in my head and put it on paper or a screen. This way I can give myself some distance from my thoughts. Then find out what the steps are that need to be done to curate some order for the tasks and make a plan to do them.

And the same is true for this blog. Through this blog, I’ve come to understand where my interests lie and how they come together to give me a sense of who I’ve become and of who I want to be. The parts of my life, the personal experiences and how they’ve come to shape the ways I see things and who I’m becoming. These have all given me some focus and direction as to where I want to put my efforts and energies. Environmental issues and helping those that have been in similar situations as myself being two of my passions that I’d like to turn into a career.

Relationships

Building and nurturing my close relationships has given me a great deal of perspective on how I want to be living my life. Before, relationships were something to be feared. I was unaware of where I stood in my relationships with others. Always keeping them at a distance or numbing my feelings so I wouldn’t feel the pain of being rejected by them. Rejection being something I was all too familiar with growing up.

Now, relationships are sources of comfort, strength and happiness for me. I feel more secure in relationship now. And now that I know that it’s possible to make the shift from numb and alone, to supported and loved, I want to help others find their path to their connectedness. When I was going to school for social work, I also worked at a residential program for at risk adolescence. This was difficult work. But it also gave me the opportunity to help others whom were in a similar situation as I was.

I’ve recently picked up a second job at a family shelter. The shelter has elements that reminds me of the adolescence residential. Though with much less unchecked emotions. This has given me a chance to help pay down my student loans, but also to realign myself with the types of work I want to be doing in my career. Helping people bring their lives back together after what seems like such a hopeless situation, being homeless. It’s in these moments, of not being the change as the saying goes, but being a part of the support that helps them to change their situation, that makes me feel like I’m helping. By being a part of the solution.

Other Types of Inspiration

Paying down student loans has been a huge source of inspiration for me in finding my focus as well. While paying off debt, I started out with my credit cards and moved on to my largest debt, student loans. I took out loans during the height of the lending frenzy. I was taking out loans for cash to buy things I really didn’t need. Finance was an area I had no role modeling for, to show me how to manage my money. Or to show me how to responsibly take out loans to pay for my education. I was racking up credit card debt at the same time I was taking out student loans. Looking back, it’s crazy to think of the financial mess I was creating in my life! About 130K worth of mess.

Paying Back Loans to Bring Financial Stability to My Life

But once I was on the trajectory to change my life for the better, debt also became an area of focus for me. Paying off my debt has shown me, first and most importantly, how to budget. And secondly, also how to live inside of my means. When I was living on borrowed money I had no restraint. I bought and did whatever I felt like, when the mood struck.

Now that I’m learning how to put my financial house in order, I’m understanding the importance of planning for my future. In planning for retirement, planning for vacations or hobbies, and how caring for my financial situation is a way of caring for my needs.

I’ve also learned how NOT to take out debt. So when the time comes around for me to pursue a master’s in social work, I’ll be aware of how I budget and manage my money, and make a plan that won’t end up with me being tens of thousands of dollars in debt. My time is now more valuable to me than picking up a second job to pay back the money I was borrowing unsustainably in my youth. I know I won’t be going blindly down that road again.

Bringing Them All Together

These are the areas of my life that helped to give me the direction I needed to learn how to move forward with and in my career focus. Each element had its own piece of wisdom to impart. With baking, it was how to recognize when I’m growing in something, or what it looks like to be good at something while still learning from others along the way. With running and yoga, I was learning how to stay dedicated to a practice, but also enjoy that practice in the process. Enjoy the work. With writing, I was learning how to organize my time and thoughts, and also how to convey them in a way that makes sense to myself and others. And also my love for the natural world and my growing concern for the environment. Also to help process and put a structure to my story. In my relationships in that I want to grow along with and nurture these places and people in my life. But also in recognizing that you can make the switch from feeling hurt and alone to loved and supported. And with paying back my student loans in showing me how to budget for the future in a practical sense of the term.

It was when all these areas came together, that I was able to see how the different aspects of my personality made sense to me in the bigger picture. And it wasn’t easy. But what I found out was, that I care about those neglected areas. I like seeing things be brought back to life after struggle, abuse and neglect. We all go through it to some extent. Some of us more so than others. But hopefully, we all come to our own understanding of the different aspects of our life and how they’ve been neglected. Sometimes what we need to do is take a step back and look at the different aspects in your life. From there we can make a plan by putting together the different facets of our personalities and in so doing, give our selves some much needed direction. And that’s where my career is headed. By helping others find their path.

Because I see this play out all too often. So many of those close to me have been neglected to the point of not even knowing where to begin. I feel that everybody deserves the right to feel their passion. To do and be connected to work that is greater than them. It doesn’t have to be larger than life. Just enough to feel like you’re making a difference. That’s what this blog is about for me. And with any luck, this will be the focus of my career.

Final Thoughts

In case you haven’t been told, I’m here to tell you that if you’ve found yourself in a place where you are lacking in direction, don’t give up hope! Take a look at the things you’ve been doing, listening to, or watching. What have you been interested in lately. If you’re lucky, you may realize that you’ve been leaving yourself clues all along that will lead you in the direction of your passions. Peace : ) and thanks for reading.

Image Credits: “Commute” by JanneM is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Updated: 10/21/22

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