When Changing Careers Alters Life’s Course
As children, we are often asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” With little thought to the significance of this question, we often respond with a widely known career aspiration: a singer, a model, a doctor. We play dress up and pretend. Dreaming of fulfilling this goal, we pick out school classes, join organizations and search for colleges or universities to get the right education. We learn a lot about the industry that we love and then sometimes, somewhere in this process, we move on. What about changing careers?
Early Career Aspirations
This was my childhood. From the earliest days of elementary school to my final years of high school, my answer remained the same. A constant response of… “I want to become a residential architect. And not just any residential architect, but rather one who understands the functional aspects of daily living for those who have chronic physical limitations, such as my grandmother who suffered from Muscular Dystrophy.” My response was so firm and consistent to this question, that eventually others stopped asking.
And it was clear why no one would ask. I spoke of architecture often, citing TV shows or industry magazines for the newest design elements and construction methods. Spouting off building code, I wandered through model homes with my parents on the weekends and littered my bedroom floor with graph paper and other supplies to create my own home layouts. I lived and breathed architecture. It became my identity.
When Your Passion Changes
Then one day, as I was finishing my junior year of high school, I noticed my passion for architecture started to diminish. This didn’t happen overnight, by any means, but with time it became clear that architecture no longer sustained my attention as it did previously. The coursework seemed more overbearing and less enticing, and doubts began to creep into my mind as far as the suitability of this career for me. I don’t know why this happened exactly, but the reality of the situation was that my passion had faded. My response wasn’t the same any longer to the age old question, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” I just had a shoulder shrug and a few words, “I don’t know.”
I felt guilty saying goodbye to this life. It was as if I was letting them down as they had come to expect a specific response from me and I no longer provided them the same reply as before. I felt like I was letting myself down too. Nowhere in reality was this the case, but to a 17 year old mind, this was my devastating conclusion. If I wasn’t going to be an architect, then what am I going to be? My mind couldn’t wrap itself around the complexity of the question as we often identify ourselves first and foremost by our career objectives. I became lost, not in a literal sense of the word, but rather I felt as though my identity was gone, the core of my being and the answer to “who am I?” was not unknown.
Moving Forward on a New Path
This is a place where many of us have existed at some point in time whether that be from changing careers, changing relationship status, or changing something else. It is a point in our lives where we take pause and then turn slightly in a new direction before continuing forward. It is not a bad thing, it is a natural aspect of life. We face stumbles, obstacles and road blocks. We learn from these experiences and decide how best to apply our time and talents when we face those inevitable forks in the road.
Learning From Change
And what did I learn about change from my experience? I learned the following.
Goals are Fluid.
They are designed to change with time and experience. When we look at goals as a permanent fixture in our lives, we forget to take into account that we are constantly growing as individuals and the goals that we set have set for ourselves should match our progress.
Identity is Not Wrapped Up in What You Do, but Who You Are
When we define ourselves by our occupation, we are missing out on so many other important aspects of our identity. We need to recognize our true talents and inner beauty as well and know that these are the only true characteristics that will always remain with us over time.
Changing Directions Allow You to See More of Life
When we change directions, our focus changes too. We see more of the world and appreciate more in this world. Additionally, we develop a greater sense of confidence in understanding our place in life and fulfilling our purpose.
We Do Not Grow if We are Not Willing to Change
We cannot expect to learn more from life, when we are repeating the same habits time and time again. Trying something different can determine a new response.
Accepting Change is a Sign of Maturity, Not a Measure of Failure
When we move on to new goals and aspirations, we are not abandoning our old goals. We are merely using them as stepping stones to get further in life.
These five characteristics are by no means all-encompassing as there are so many other lessons that we can learn from change. I merely wanted to highlight a few that were so pertinent in my life and in my journey. So when a new path comes your way, I encourage you not to see it as a derailment, but rather an opportunity. Push yourself forward with full force and take the bull by his horns. You might be surprised at what comes your way. And with that said, I can only hope that when you look back at this wonderful, crazy journey we call life that you feel content with the progress you made and the goals that you have achieved. You are so very worthy of this sense of satisfaction and contentment.
Tracy Glantz, MS, is an Educational Therapist at CHI Health.