To say I took the “normal” educational path in college would be a downright lie. Amid knowing exactly what I wanted to do since I was in middle school, I found myself questioning my future an exploring my interests throughout the time at my university.
Those who are close to me have heard my stories of confusion, doubt and frustration, but over the past year I have come to realize that this turbulence has just made the ride more exciting.
Let’s rewind about, ehh, twelve years. I can vividly picture myself at one of our neighborhood parties hitting it off with all the parents. Per usual, these adults wanted to know what my future plans entailed and I was more than happy to enlighten them. I had it town to a T. “After college, I want to continue my education to eventually become a pediatric reconstructive plastic surgeon.” There was no doubt in my mind that I was going to wear a white coat somewhere down the road and I was ecstatic to see the astounded shock in these parents’ eyes knowing that an 11-year-old had such high aspirations.
Over time, I changed the exact destination I intended to reach but all my career dreams fell under the medical umbrella, so when I graduated high school I had no problem deciding on a college major. I settled on “Integrative Physiology” which was the major that allowed students to further their education through the pre-med track.
My first year at CU Boulder was outstanding. My classes were difficult but that was exactly what I was expecting. Yes, I was experiencing an immense amount of stress, but I was also balancing my courses, a D1 sport and a sorority at one time. I eventually put a suffocating amount of pressure on myself and cracked under the weight of my own expectations and the expectations that I assumed others held of me. I was forced to take time away from school and I immediately broke down, thinking that my future dreams and aspirations were headed down the drain.
During my time away my mind gained clarity and I finally came to a realization. I wasn’t following my own dreams, I was following the dreams of those around me. I had never asked myself “what do I want?” and instead focused on not letting others down. At this point I took a pretty big jump and switched my major to psychology. I had no clue what I wanted to do with psych but I did know that I found it highly interesting. I excelled. I found something that I was thoroughly interested in and this time, no one told me to follow this path. A few months later, the practical side of me stepped in and added a business minor after understanding that the fundamentals of business play a role in everyone’s lives.
To my surprise, I fell in love with business and could see myself pursuing a career in marketing in my professional life. I went as far as to travel to China to study global business and I felt eager to learn more about potential jobs in the field.
A few weeks before May graduation, I met with my accounting professor. He was the kind of educator who was more of a therapist to me than anything and I looked to him for mentoring and advice. I knew the business field was where I belonged and asked to meet with him to discuss possible internships that would leverage me in my job hunt. Instead of getting a quick and clear answer, he asked me some questions about my hobbies, values and character traits.
Within a couple days of speaking, he conjured up an insane idea in his head. “Have you ever thought about looking into broadcast journalism?” This isn’t what I wanted. I wanted him to give me a list of names from his extensive network so I could land an impressive internship. “No.” I had never even come close to considering the idea of the media industry and I quickly tried to dismiss his recommendation. Tried: I was not successful. It’s like this man planted a little seed in my head that grew exponentially. From the moment he brought up the idea I could not stop thinking about it. Could he actually be right? Is this where I belonged?
I hinted at my moderate interest and he gave me an ultimatum. Either dive in head first or continue my path toward marketing. This was the first time I actually felt genuine excitement about where my future could go and this time I didn’t have to force myself to come up with a list of reasons why I wanted to follow this path. The thought of this idea came almost effortlessly. After some thought I took a major leap of faith. You know that “jump” from one major to another? Yeah, this was A LOT bigger.
I took some intensive PR and journalism courses at CU and went to summer school at the London School of Journalism. Three days after getting back to the states, I packed my bags and moved to New York City to start an internship at MSNBC. I had to wake up at 2:00AM to get to work but despite the ungodly hours, I was thrilled to step foot in the building each day. This is where I belonged. My professor was right. (Still don’t know how but I’m almost positive he has a crystal ball in his office)
Clearly, I haven’t taken the straightest path to where I am now which also means I did not have four years of formal education to prepare myself to work in this industry. This hasn’t been easy. It has actually been extremely tough and has required extra work on my part to “catch up”. Colleagues and family members continue to ask me if I wish I would have discovered this passion earlier so I could take more classes that would pertain to media. My answer, to this day, is “no”.
I still have frustrations when I don’t understand the lingo or when possible employers ask why in the world I decided to study psychology and business. Instead of focusing on what I don’t have, I have changed my way of thinking and have found ways in which my formal education is an advantage. It isn’t about where I’ve been (or haven’t been in this case), it’s about where I’m trying to go and how far I have already come.
Each of the u-turns, roundabouts and dead ends in my life has taught me a valuable lesson about who I am in my professional and personal life. Each bout of tears has swelled into an invaluable learning experience that has shaped me into the person I am today. People are quick to point out flaws and shortcomings but it is up to you to find silver lining the in each of your experiences.
All the best ❤