When I was five, I wanted to be an archeologist. I turned in my princess crown for a shovel and duster and foraged the sand on the playground at Heritage Preparatory School, awaiting my mother’s arrival. At seven, I traded my shovel for a magnifying glass. I would’ve dyed my hair strawberry-blonde, too, if it meant I could be Nancy Drew. I tapped the walls for hollow fragments, hunted for secret passageways and tiptoed around each corner, searching for clues in the basket weave patterned tile floor.
By eleven, I carried a leather-bound notebook and ballpoint pen and heralded myself a writer, penning stories about the people around me. I called the man with horn-rimmed glasses and a perpetual bead of sweat on the top right corner of his forehead Douglas. I saw him at an airport and wrote about how when he leaned over to tie his shoes, he squeezed his eyebrows together and pressed his tongue in between his thin lips, struggling not to reveal the tops of his socks due to his already too-short trousers.
As a teen, I bounced through high school as the lead in musicals and dreamed of bright lights and a life full of music and post-rehearsal Chinese takeout. I applied to Florida State, starry-eyed with the prospect of fame. The summer before my freshman year of college, however, I deemed my performer dream a vain hope, an unattainable scheme. I doubted my abilities as a triple threat.
Fearful of rejection and uncertain I wanted to live the struggling performer lifestyle, I blew off my Florida State Musical Theatre Program audition, entering my freshman year of college without a major. At the mercy of my parents’ friends during visits home, I listened as the broken record reverberated in my overwhelmed ears. “Find your true passion, and the money will come,” they said. “One day, you’ll just know. It’ll hit you like a ton of bricks, you’ll see.”
Fall semester of my freshman year, I declared myself an exploratory major. I filled out countless worksheets to analyze my personality. Do you feel most comfortable at the center of attention, or by yourself? Which subjects are you particularly strong in? The worksheets spit out formulated responses, ones that did not surprise me. I already knew my passions; they ranged from singing, writing and acting to anatomy and physiology, economic theory and education.
My unrelated interests left me frustratingly multifaceted and terribly undecided. When spring semester arrived, I decided my calling was to teach kindergarten, but after one semester on the early childhood education track, I grew even more uncertain and dropped out.
I continued to float aimlessly, drifting through college without an anchor. Sophomore year arrived and I grasped at straws, thinking, “I’m good at writing, I guess,” and declared my new major: editing, writing, and media. But I never experienced that “aha” moment, the moment when everything falls into place, makes sense and feels undeniably right.
Then I thought, why do I have to?
An old friend of mine once told me at just six years old that she wanted to be an orthodontist. You think I’m kidding, but it’s true. I distinctly remember her words, “I want to be a tooth doctor.” This fall, she enrolled at the University of Florida and is on the pre-med track to do just that. I used to envy her certainty, but now I’m not so sure.
Our childhoods are filled with so many dreams we don’t know what to do with them. We’re encouraged to be an archeologist, detective, writer and pop star all at once. When we reach adulthood, however, we’re told to find one career that will lead to one brand of happily ever after. Our mentors proclaim that one day, we will wake up and “just know,” as if the word will be emblazoned on the forefront of our brains forever.
While I don’t object to this certainty, I do object to its strict adherence. This ideology insinuates that life is a perfect puzzle to be cracked; that our careers are cookie cutter reflections of our human selves. The truth is that we are multifaceted humans with more than one passion. The two-dimensional claim that this formulated “aha” moment is inevitable and necessary for success and happiness pigeonholes our interests to fit one subject area.
Today, I remain an editing, writing and media major because I think words are beautiful and hold the power to affect real and positive change in the world. The search for my perfect career match after college, however, remains an ever-changing, complicated and imperfect search for identity.
I still haven’t had my “aha” moment, and maybe I never will, but I’m no longer worried. I intend to forge my own unique path to foster my many passions. Whether that leads me to one solid career or multiple careers throughout the course of my lifetime, I know that my future won’t be defined by the “perfect match” career that I end up choosing, but by my continued attention to my many passions.