Thursday, April 7, 2011

How did I get here?

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the difference between a career and a job. Somewhere along the line what I thought were jobs have seemed to develop into a career. I never expected (or even dreamed) about having a career in Higher Education. Not in the Student Services/Affairs arena at least. But here I am 28 years old at my fourth college/university with no end in sight.

I remember growing up and the various “careers” I dreamed about.

When I was in elementary school I remember I either wanted to be a Marine Biologist (grew up in San Diego going to the beach, Sea World and the Zoo) or join the Navy (my godfather/cousin was a Navy Seal). I had no idea what either of those would really mean – the schooling, the physical requirements, etc. Then as the years went by those “dreams” just fizzled away and I wanted to become a teacher. A teacher of what changed constantly – a kindergarten/preschool teacher, a history teacher, a theatre teacher, etc.

Biologist
Navy
Teacher
Museum Coordinator
Counselor

Ideas came and went. Then, my senior year in undergraduate I was hired as a Community Assistant (RA-job) for my dorm/program – a job doing what I had been doing the previous three years, helping out my community members. The last few months of my senior year, on top of preparing to teach a class, I was asked to step into the Community Coordinator position; when our Resident Director left to climb the Appalachian Trail. *BAM* Instant promotion.

After graduation I returned home, doing odds and ends for a temporary placement agency. I started having the post-graduation “What am I doing with my life?” crisis. Then a friend of mine suggested looking into continuing with Residential Life and Housing. I was good at my job and might excel. Why the hell not? I needed to take that next step of growing up and move out of my family’s house. So six-seven months after graduation I found myself moving to San Diego to become a Residential Life Coordinator for an art college. The process was so fast (between applying and moving into my San Diego apartment) I hardly had time to breathe let alone process what was happening.

Three years later I had reached burn out. A number of things factored into this. My not wanting to get my MA in Higher Education (therefore being told I would never be able to climb ResLife career ladder), having three bosses in a matter of three years, and the fact that (typically) most people don’t stay in that type of position (live-in Residential Life) for so long. So I quit. I had looked into and applied at other jobs before turning in my notice but when nothing came along, and after long/multiple conversations with my mother, I just handed in my notice – packed my bags – and moved away.

Four months after returning home I was so stir crazy, moving from a large beautiful beach city back to my small desert home town. Thankfully I have amazing friends and two of them offered to let me move into their apartment, crash on their couch and try living in the Bay Area. So off I went and eventually landed a job as a Director of Housing. (Take that everyone who said I had to have a MA in Higher Education to be a Director).

The reasons I left that job aren’t important to this blog. Life happens and things change and I turned in my notice to move to Portland, OR – again determined I was done with Higher Education. So here I sit, once again working at a college, helping students, attempting to deal with office politics and defining of job duties.

Somewhere I went from having a job in ResLife to my career being in Higher Education.

Don’t get me wrong I enjoy working with my students. I’ve always said the reason I continue to come back (time and time again) is because I want to help make a difference in students’ lives. I remember so many people, fondly, during my college years that made a difference – big and small. I want to have the opportunity to share in that experience for other people. It has nothing to do with not being able to let go of the past. It has nothing to do with retaining my “youth” (if anything I sometimes feel younger now than when I did in college).

Yet, here I am – again - frustrated with other people’s lack of delegation and ability to let me do my job. I’m here wondering how much longer I can survive before I start pulling out my hair or start stabbing people with pencils.

I thought a career was something you planned. Something you went to school for and intentionally went for. A career wasn’t something you fell into. It wasn’t something you wondered “How the hell did I get here? And how the hell do I leave?”

Am I just disillusioned with 1950s ideas and philosophies?
Am I the only one who feels this way?
Am I the only one who has found them in a career they didn’t plan on?

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