When I was in kindergarten, and even a little before that, I wanted to be a writer. Sometime over the next couple of years I decided I wanted to be a scientist. (What kind? I don’t know. But I think my kids are kind of a science experiment.) By the time I was at the end of my high school career, I had also considered becoming a psychologist, a professional computer geek, and an operating room tech. I thought psychology would be too disturbing, I’m terrified of blood, and I didn’t want to spend my whole life working at a computer, so those were all rejected pretty quickly. It was down to my first two loves: biology and English. Any time I made the mere mention of an English degree, whoever was bothering to listen instantly said, “Oh, but you’ll never make any money at that.” This was usually accompanied by a wave of the hand, as if this silly notion never really mattered and couldn’t have truly been an option anyway.
Fast forward a few (plus another few) years. I had earned my associate’s in biology right after high school, but I couldn’t afford to keep going. I never got a job in the field I had pursued. Other than building cabinets for my dad’s business, I did a short stint in retail and then fell face first into finance. As I lay in the miserable money muck, I realized something. I didn’t follow my dream, and I wasn’t making any money anyway. I worked long hours doing boring work in order to be able to just barely pay my bills. Despite what the corporate training videos told me, I knew there was no room to move up. I thought about going back to school, and this time really doing something with it. The reactions of my friends were familiar ones: “You’ll never make any money at that,” and “There aren’t any careers in that field, unless you want to teach, which you don’t want to do.” (Did they even ask me if I wanted to teach?)
Now in some ways I can’t blame them. When I was eighteen, I can see how anyone would jump at the chance to impart their wisdom on someone who is young and impressionable, or who at least appears to be so. Money makes the world go round, so everyone must need as much of it as they can get, right? And in some ways I can even understand those who doubted me this time around. I have kids to take care of, so it isn’t as though I can just run off to the Alaskan wilderness to write about the snow-capped mountains and crystal blue lakes.
But I did it anyway. (Not the Alaska part, though.) I’m back in school, working toward my Bachelor’s in Creative Writing. (gasp!) I’ve started a freelancing business. I’m home when my kids get on the bus in the morning, and I’m home when they get off the bus in the afternoon. I’m distracted constantly, I work strange hours sometimes just to get things done, and I don’t make much money. I joke about my ‘starving artist lifestyle.’ It took a long time, but I’ve finally earned my degree in happiness.