Graduation Fears

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IMG 7263 thumb   Graduation Fears

Earlier this week, I met with two inspiring women who work at my undergraduate university- the University of Guelph. They came across my blog and bakery and were interested in hearing my story and telling me about a project they are currently working on. We chatted a lot about making the career transition after graduation and finding something you enjoy. If you have read my ‘A Year Can Change A Lot’ series, you know that the topic of career enjoyment is a huge passion of mine, so I was quite excited to share my ideas and hear what they had to say.

One of the issues we discussed is that so many graduates and students are unsure what career will make them happy. I used to be one of them. I remember struggling with what I wanted to do and I felt like if I made the wrong decision my entire life would be ruined. Thankfully, that was not true, although there were some difficult times.

I personally feel that the system did not work for me. I was just 18 when I started university and I really had no idea what I wanted to do, let alone what career would make me happy. I felt so much pressure not to screw it all up. I’m all for planning and aspiring to achieve great things, but sometimes I feel like these decisions are rushed and just thrown at us when we are young. Looking back I wished that I had taken a year in between my highschool and undergrad degrees to figure things out and give myself more time. But all my other friends were going to university too, and I didn’t want to be left behind.

Then comes graduation, which is a happy time, however it can also be a time of great unease. I was excited to get my Master’s degree, but no one told me about the loss of identity that came with it. My student identity that I carried with me for almost my entire life was now over, at least in the physical sense. After graduating, I was just supposed to magically have a successful career. This made me anxious.

I would always look at my friends and think they were so lucky because they seemed to be able to find the perfect job almost instantly. The truth is, many students and graduates do struggle, but not many people talk about it. I realize this now because I have received countless emails from readers who have shared their own stories with me. I was blown away by how many of you have struggled with the same things that I did.

The job market is tough. Competition is stiff. Student loans add to the stress and there seems to be an expectation to immediately find our Dream Job after graduation. I was so scared about not being able to find a job with an undergraduate degree in Psychology, I made it my mission to get into grad school. I worked my butt off to be sure that I would have a competitive application to the grad schools I wanted to go to. When I did get accepted into one of my schools of choice I was thrilled, but there was a tiny voice inside of me that said, ‘This might not be the right fit for you…’

I ignored the voice because I told myself I had no other option. While I wasn’t able to research the area that I was passionate about, I just figured I would learn to love it somehow.

During this time, I never really stopped to think about what I really wanted, only that I was now on my way to a bigger paycheck at the end. Lower down on my list was job satisfaction.  I grew up with the idea that you never truly love your day job- you just pay the bills and put your time in and you try to enjoy your weekends. I also watched for many years as my parents struggled with finding happiness in their own careers. Even though my parents always, always, always encouraged me to do what made me happy, the thought of actually doing this was a foreign concept to me. I often swept these thoughts under the rug while taking graduate exams, working to pay the bills, and writing a thesis. Life was busy and I just went through the motions of what I thought I was supposed to do.

I never thought that I could do something entirely different than what I went to school for, but that is exactly what I ended up doing. What we do with our lives does not have to be decided when we are 17 or 19 or even when we are 50. Just because we have a degree in the sciences does not mean that one day we can’t open up our own art studio. We also shouldn’t have to stick with the same career our entire lives.

So you are now 48 and you want to go back to school and become a Registered Dietitian? I say all the power to you. I used to have a lady in one of my courses who was over 75 years old and she was such an inspiration to me because she knew that Life should be a life long learning experience.

I guess we shouldn’t lose our student identity after all.

I didn’t know what would make me happy until I tried it out. Often, what we learn from a textbook and what we learn in the real world are often completely different experiences.

I believe:

You are not a failure for not knowing what you want to do with your life.

You are not a failure for changing your mind. Once, or twice, or eighteen times.

You are not a failure for getting your PhD and deciding that this is not what you want in life (I get these emails all the time).

You are not a failure for not yet finding your ‘dream job’.

You are not a failure. Period.

Here are some success quotes that I enjoy:

I couldn’t wait for success, so I went ahead without it.
~Jonathan Winters

I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.
~Bill Cosby

I honestly think it is better to be a failure at something you love than to be a success at something you hate.
~George Burns

I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.
~Michael Jordan

I’d love your thoughts on some of these questions- Did you (or do you) struggle with choosing what to study in school? Do you feel pressure to figure out what it is you want to do for a career or finding a way to make it a reality? Did you grow up with parents who were happy with their careers? Have you ever made a career change?

 

PS- For my ‘A Year Can Change A Lot’ series, see these posts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10 (1 year later)

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{ 210 comments… read them below or add one }

veganteen11 January 28, 2011

I’m 18.. and ending my senior year of high school. Almost everyone i encounter asks me what i am going to study in college.. like you said, HOW do we know this, when we/I are 18!!?!?! that’s crazy!!
I can’t decide.. i can’t even narrow it down to 5 subject areas. I believe that when the time is right to figure it out, i will. My parents pressure me to figure it out, but i have no idea. Of course, they both knew their perfect profession by a very young age.

All i can do now is hope to figure out what i want to do, finish high school, and make TONS of vegan food :)

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Sara @ Baking and Wine January 28, 2011

Oh man. This is something that troubles me daily. I graduated in 2007 with a BA in English. I still have not used this degree, and I honestly don’t think I ever will. I definitely feel like a failure a lot of the time. Especially right now, being unemployed, it’s tough. I’m lucky now that I have a husband who completely supports any decision I make, but it is still hard.

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Angela (Oh She Glows) January 29, 2011

You are not a failure Sara…the fact that you were able to get your degree is a huge achievement in itself. :)
Also, I bet you are ‘using’ your English degree every day. ;) The right thing will come along for you.

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Sara @ Baking and Wine January 31, 2011

Absolutely. It’s all about positive thinking, right? :) Right now I’m using that positive thinking to grow a little bun in my oven and the career worries have been put on hold anyway. Luckily, like I said, my husband is awesome and we have been talking about opening our own business in a few years when he gets out of the military.

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Courtney. January 30, 2011

Don’t let your parents pressure you to figure it out….you will eventually

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LindzGreerIndy January 28, 2011

This post is what I needed right now. I’m about 2 years from graduating, and I’m already freaking out about the job market!! You always have the words I need to read for whatever I’m dealing with. Thank you for being such an inspiration!!

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Emma (Sweet Tooth Runner) January 28, 2011

YES I’m struggling with this at the moment! I don’t know whether I should follow what I really love and my passions or be sensible and get a job with more financial and job security! Argh so hard! :(

But those quotes are amazing and so inspirational! Thanks for this post- just what I needed :)

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Katy (The Singing Runner) January 28, 2011

I am in a situation like this right now. I am a junior (technically a senior credit wise) musical theatre major at my university. Since I started blogging in October, I realized that my passion does not lie with theatre like it used to. I have such a passion for healthy living, running, exercise, and food. I know in my heart that I am meant to do something else. So I plan to go get my Master’s in Public Health with a specialization in Nutrition/ Dietetics so that I can become an RD and be an advocate for healthy initiative programs in schools and businesses. It is a huge switch for me, and I would switch undergraduate majors, but I am only 13 credits shy from my bachelor’s. So I am taking the necessary pre-reqs I need for grad school on top of the credits I am taking for my music degree. I will never regret my music degree, but I know that other things lie ahead of me in the future, and I can not wait! :D

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Nikki January 28, 2011

Hey Angela,
Great post! I have to chose what I want to study in a year, and I really have no idea! There are some studies that I like, but I haven’t found any that I really love. At first I was thinking of phisics, but now I don’t think I’m smart enough for that. And I scared that if I do chose it, I have to stop because it’s too hard for me.
But yeah I think a lot of people have this kind of struggles.
Thanks for your great posts everytime! One thing though, I subscribed with my email, but I only got one mail. And now there are 2 new posts but I haven’t got an email yet.
xxxxx

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Angela (Oh She Glows) January 28, 2011

Hmm that is weird about the email…maybe it is delayed? Drop me a line if you don’t get any in another day and I will look into it. :)

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Nikki January 29, 2011

I got them today! So yeah it probably was delayed, hopefully the next emails will come sooner =)

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Angela (Oh She Glows) January 29, 2011

ok great thanks for following up!

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Katie January 28, 2011

I am getting my PhD in Biology right now. I have just a few more months. I have wavered between being 100% sure this is what I want and 100% sure this isn’t what I want. What has kept me going is the realization that when I finish I will have accomplished something HUGE, and that even if I never use it, that doesn’t take away from that accomplishment. And that if I kept going, I’d at least have that option. I’m all about options and not backing myself into a corner. Just getting a degree doesn’t limit you. It opens doors.

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Jen January 29, 2011

I so needed to hear this right now, Katie. I’m in a similar boat, and I have to constantly remind myself, as you say, that just finishing the PhD is a huge accomplishment in and of itself — and I think if I stopped now, I’d always regret not finishing, even if I never use it, ya know?

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Amy @ Teach, Write, Cook January 30, 2011

I needed that, too. I am about a year away from being finished with a Ph.D. and unsure whether I really want a job in academia when I’m done. I’m trying to remember exactly what you said that finishing is in and of itself an accomplishment. I’ve given myself permission to do pursue whatever career I want — which might mean an academic job, or it might mean something totally unrelated to my degree — but only if I finish my Ph.D. first. That has been *much* better motivation to work on my dissertation than wavering back and forth about academia.

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Alayna @ Thyme Bombe January 28, 2011

My favorite quote, an old Chinese proverb, applies to this well: “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, the second best time is now.” It is never to late to get exactly what you want out of life!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) January 28, 2011

Gosh I love that quote!

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Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) January 28, 2011

Angela this post is amazing!
I have tons of education and credentials: undergrad and grad work in psychology.
I am a certified yoga instructor at the highest recognized level, RYT 500 thru Yoga Alliance
I have my real estate license
I am a certified lactation educator
i am a mother (and yes, this is the greatest teacher of all!)
Blogger
I model and the jobs I work in do not really “use” my education per se. But life is not about JUST getting a degree and then using just that.

Life is a journey. There is learning everywhere. I struggle with having all this education and sometimes feel like im not using it. But i dont want to use it :) I like my life now. And til I don’t like it, I will just keep on rolling with life’s crazy ebbs and flows!

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Cate January 28, 2011

I spent most of college convinced I was going to be a doctor or an epidemiologist. Then, during a public health internship in Uganda, I realized I would be happiest as a teacher. So I came home, got my teaching credential, and now absolutely LOVE my job teaching 8th grade science and PE. I honestly cannot imagine doing anything else. It’s a challenge and I adore my students.

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Maria @ Oh Healthy Day January 28, 2011

I just spent the last two years of my life in graduate school and my little voice said the same thing: you are pretending to like this degree. I was. I was going through the emotions, when secretly, I was rolling my eyes in my class discussions and not taking my internships seriously. I finally realized one day that my internships were the key: I hated getting up every morning and going to them. I was a school counselor. Shouldn’t I love this type of work? I wanted to help people, right? Well, I should have helped myself first. When my internships ended I was relieved. And then I knew it wasn’t the career for me. That moment of clarity was the best feeling of all, admitting to myself that while I didn’t know what I wanted, I definitely knew what I didn’t want.

Thanks again for the amazing post Angela. While I was going to through those deciding times, I was reading your blog, especially A Year Can Change A Lot Series, and it gave me the motivation to finally make a decision.

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Angela (Oh She Glows) January 28, 2011

Wow I had so many lightbulb moments reading your comment! Very insightful. Thanks for sharing. :) I love this, ‘That moment of clarity was the best feeling of all, admitting to myself that while I didn’t know what I wanted, I definitely knew what I didn’t want. ‘ Brilliant.

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Maria @ Oh Healthy Day January 29, 2011

Even writing my comment gave me the chills as I reflected back on my prior decisions. So glad to be happy and confident in my decision making now :)

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Baking 'n' Books January 29, 2011

What did you end up doing instead? And did you find it difficult to pay off loans with making a change?

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Maria @ Oh Healthy Day January 29, 2011

I’m now an Office Manager for an estate management company. I plan all kinds of parties and events, do some IT work and coordinate meetings. I’m in the process of transferring to an HR position, where I’ll do hiring, benefit administration, and conflict resolution. My degree will actually be used after all, but in a different way that makes me much happier.

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Lauren January 28, 2011

Awesome post! I transferred schools and switched majors last year after being halfway through nursing school. It was a big change, and I had a lot of people tell me to just finish my nursing degree, then do what I want. I was scared at first, but I am so glad that I made the change, and I’m still going to be able to graduate on time.

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Amanda (Eating Up) January 28, 2011

This hits right at home for me. I’m graduating in six weeks and am having to field questions about my plans every single day. And I don’t have an answer! I’m okay with that, but I’m in an environment where people put a lot of pressure on themselves and have very high expectations about what the right path after college is. I have to ignore the looks or snide remarks when I don’t give them an answer they’re impressed with.

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Ilana January 28, 2011

I’ve always been terrified of choosing the wrong thing for my life, so I’ve never been satisfied to settle if I dislike where I’m going. I went to a high school that specialized in performing arts and I was a star pupil – I was basically poised to become a professional opera singer. When I got to college and began studying music on a college level, I realized I hated the whole thing. I’d chosen a college for its music program, I was miserable and incredibly depressed, but mostly terrified of letting everyone down – my teachers, my parents, my peers, myself. After all, wasn’t it my dream to be an opera singer? I gave up on the program, declaring English lit as my major instead. I was much happier in an intellectual field and eventually discovered a second major studying Middle Eastern affairs, but when it came time for me to graduate, I had no idea what I would do with my life, so I kind of fell into that slump again. Over the past year or so I’ve been slowly rediscovering passions in my life. I’m halfway towards being a fully certified Pilates instructor, I’m teaching part time, and on Tuesday I start school all over again. I’m going back to get a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Exercise, after which I am either going to get my Master’s in nutrition, or pursue a PT cert. Dunno which yet…It just feels like the right track this time, something I can really see myself being satisfied with. Today on the phone, my mother told me she really respects how I’ve never been afraid of starting over.

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Angela (Oh She Glows) January 28, 2011

I love your story :) Thanks for sharing

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Emily January 28, 2011

Angela, thank you so much for this post. I think one of the main reasons why I love you blog (aside from the incredible recipes and awesome photography) is that I relate to your career path so much. I am in a psychology graduate program, too (counseling psych) and there are day that I feel like I really rushed into this program way too fast. I graduate in the middle of the U.S.’s stock market crisis and there was no other option for a psych undergrad really than to keep on getting your degree (or so I thought). I am half-way done my three year program and the course work is getting emotionally heavy and I feel challenged not only to decide what I want to do with the degree but also to discover every bit about who I am and to get through all of my emotional struggles to be a perfect counselor. In my family, my parents and brother are all in working-class jobs that did not require a college degree. They have always been extremely proud of me but never pushed me to do anything I didn’t want to, I am definitely the person who has put expectations on myself. My parents are content with their careers and lives but I’m not sure if their work is their true passion in life. I think they have each found ways to make sure that they do what they love with the means provided to them from their job. I believe I will finish my degree program but I think that I will take some time to do some soul-searching after to see how I will make this degree work for what I want to do in my life. I think that there was some big reason for why I chose to do this work but I don’t know if it’s a “perfect straight and narrow” path.

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Angela (Oh She Glows) January 28, 2011

I can relate to what you said a lot…especially ‘I am definitely the person who has put expectations on myself.’ I was always the one who put the expectations on myself too. It was only when I started questioning those expectations and how I defined success did I realize that many of the expectations I placed on myself were unfounded.
I also think you can use your degree in many unconventional ways too. I never say my psych degrees are a waste. I feel like I am able to help others doing what I am doing now, even if it is not in the traditional format of counselor-patient or researcher role.

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Kristin January 28, 2011

I graduated in May with a journalism degree but haven’t really pursued finding work in my area of study. A number of factors seem to hold me back, namely fear. Lately I’ve been wrestling with the notion that I’m “settling” and have come to realize that I am lacking joy in my current job situation. This post was so encouraging to me. I desperately needed a reminder that I am not a failure for not knowing what to do with my life and not finding my dream job yet. Thank you!

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Katie January 28, 2011

Loved the post. I’m finishing up a 2-year career change process (teaching math to accounting) and it’s been a huge struggle financially and emotionally. It’s difficult to give up your ‘young professional’ identity for a ‘student and pt sandwich shop worker’ identity, especially when you see old coworkers, parents, students on a regular basis. But I’ve realized I should be proud to have had the strength to make a change when I knew I wasn’t happy, and almost everyone – well, everyone who cares about me, anyway! ;) – has understood and supported me. Glad you were able to find something that makes you happy too!

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Karla January 28, 2011

You have no idea how timely this post is. I’m graduating from grad school in May, and I literally have no idea what I want to do. I feel like people are disappointed when I say I don’t know what I want to do or where I want to live and that’s really disheartening.
I’m trying hard to remember that having a Master’s degree doesn’t mean I have to work in that field. Education can only help, not hurt.
Thanks for this post!

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grace b January 29, 2011

Oh man I hear you on this Karla! i’m a second semester senior too. I can’t wait to graduate and at the same time everything is so unknown for me right now. There are so many different things out there and I want to experience everything–how will I choose one thing and be okay with it?

Also the questioning that you get from adults on an almost daily basis (yesterday it was my piano teacher!) is really draining and frustrating.

Checking out your blog girl, glad to know we are all in this together!

Thanks for such a strong post Angela, I love the quotes!

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Jessica January 28, 2011

Wow, Angela, this really hit home for me. I am 23 years old and just started Graduate School this month (I graduated from undergrad in December) and I am going through the doubting motions where I think that this is not where I should be because it’s too hard or I’m not good enough compared to the other people in my classes. In reality, it’s not hard (well, it’s challenging but doable with effort) and I got there the same way these people did so why shouldn’t I be as good as them? I’m not worried that this isn’t where I should be… I changed my major a bunch of times in undergrad which is why it took me from Fall 2005-Fall 2010 to get my B.S. (elementary education, BTW), it’s just hard sometimes when those self-doubt and negativity demons come creeping up making you think you’re a failure. Thank you so much for writing your beliefs and those quotes… I read your blog every day, but this was definitely a right post, right place, right time kind of situation for me :)

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Angela (Oh She Glows) January 28, 2011

In psychology we called that the ‘imposter syndrome’- feeling like you secretly should not be there with your peers and that one day, others will figure out you arent as smart. Myself and some of my friends went through this in grad school and it was really tough. But just be comforted in knowing that most people feel that way too. :)

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Amy @ Teach, Write, Cook January 30, 2011

This really hits home for me, too. I have realized from talking to lots of other people that almost every graduate student goes through “imposter syndrome” at some point in their education (and sometimes all throughout it). Something that’s really been helpful is talking about it to other people, because it’s made me realize that even people who seem like they have everything together often feel like “imposters.”

It also strikes me that this is why I really love blogs (like OSG!) where people talk about their failures along with their successes, because it makes me realize that even the most prolific, poised, and put-together blogger has her bad days, too.

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Bronwyn Coyne January 29, 2011

I go through this feeling at least once a week in my program! Totally feeling the “impostor syndrome”.

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Jacquelyn January 28, 2011

I completely agree with you!
My mom was a stay-at-home mom until I was about 11 when she decided to go back to school. She was in her late thirties getting her bachelor of education degree and she mentioned to me that some students commented on her age. I’m so proud of her I think her choices were really inspiring and I know she loves her career.
I’m in university right now and I love seeing other older students and second career students!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) January 28, 2011

wow kudos to your mom!

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Baking 'n' Books January 28, 2011

I am bawling right now. God – to have that passion and to have found what you want to do…I hate my job; but I have 2 degrees and student loans that amount to over $100k…what choice do I have?

I’m scared to death…scared to death because everyday, everyday, I feel like quitting, I can’t take it – I feel so “outside” of who I am and what I want to do, it’s killing me. Literally, the stress, the fatigue, the fighting with what I have to do and what I want to do…

But it’s not a matter of choice for me. I can’t quit and do something else – just like that. And this has been going on for 3 years now at least. I’m only 30, but feel like I’m 50. My life is just a series of wishes and dreams.

I feel ridiculous, ridiculous and selfish for even saying any of these things. I am grateful for what I have, but still struggle just to pay my bills – with no end in sight.

Sometimes, I wonder if all this – if this is all there is? And if so, is it worth it…

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Sam January 28, 2011

I could have wrote this, every word of it.

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Baking 'n' Books January 28, 2011

Oh…it’s suffocating isn’t it…I just don’t…well, there really are no words to describe it anymore – I’ve vented and complained. But I try! I do…it’s not like I expect something to fall into my lap – God no! But things don’t just happen. Reality exists and the reality is that I have to pay huge bills every month. So I suck it up and do it and desperately search for some sort of peace in my future – because I truly don’t know if I can do this much longer…

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Sam January 28, 2011

I know what you mean. I think everyday is this all that life has to offer? This is what they ingrain for us to do from when we are little. This is awful. I don’t expect anything to fall into my lap either. It’s also scary for me because I don’t have any hidden talents or whatever: I can’t cook, bake, blog, craft or write. I’m not waiting to be discovered because there is nothing to discover about me. I suck it up everyday and try to smile and be grateful that i have a job because well, that’s what the tell me to do………………

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Sam January 28, 2011

Wow you just spoke the unspoke word. How’s a person going to spend 18 years on their education and then not be happy? Society has so many comments about this type of person and I have tried not to be that person. I’m miserable at my job though and I don’t think I chose the right career path; however, I have no idea what I want to do with my life. I don’t think I ever knew–I just went through the motions because I wanted to make my parent’s proud–the first person to go to college in my family and the 1st person in my extended family to go for a graduate degree. I’m 27 years old and I have no idea what I want to do and that’s scary because until I figure it out,I’m stuck at a job being miserable,working the 9-5 :-(

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Gypsy January 28, 2011

I struggle with this everyday! I have moments of my job that I like, that I feel content with, that I can put up with, that I am bored with, that I dislike, and that I hate, but never that i LOVE. I know I keep going solely for the paycheck.
So until I have the guts to leave and find out what I truly love to do I live vicariously through you :)

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Kelsey January 28, 2011

I struggle with this on a daily basis. I am a few months away from completing my PhD in the sciences (I’m in the horrible thesis-writing stage right now), and I have realized that research is not what I want to do with my life. I find it most frustrating when people say to me “So you are doing your PhD, what are you going to do when you are finished?” and I have to answer “Well I don’t really know.” Its nice to know that others feel this way too.

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sassy molassy January 28, 2011

AMEN to this post. I’ve worked for five years in a job that doesn’t fulfill me, but i truly believe everyone is allowed to find their dream career. I’m simply searching for the thing I want to get my next degree in. What a decision when you love SO many things. Thank you for this post, Angela.

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Freya January 28, 2011

My M.A. is in English Literature and I’m constantly asked if I’m going to be either a high school English teacher or become an academic; and I plan on becoming neither! I wish there was less emphasise on which subjects you major in, and more emphasise on studying what you love and are good at, and on the quality of the skills you learn while at university (writing, research, team-working, communication and analysing skills).

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Angela (Oh She Glows) January 28, 2011

I agree! I also don’t think a degree is a waste no matter what you end up doing…even though Im not in the psychology field I still learned invaluable skills while in school and that can’t be taken away. :)

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Emma January 28, 2011

I’d like to disagree. you ARE in the psychology field! Your background knowledge about psychology definitely shines through on your blog entries. Especially ones like these! I think it’s exciting to see how interests and academic backgrounds can fuse into something so great! I like to call it the results of educated passions ;)

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Angela (Oh She Glows) January 29, 2011

Thanks Emma. I do agree that I use my psychology degrees in my current work, just in an unconventional way. I still get the satisfaction of helping others which is what I always wanted to do, even if it is not in the ‘normal’ way. :)

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grace b January 29, 2011

I agree Freya!

I am a religion major and a political science minor and I get asked pretty frequently if I’m going to seminary. I’ve already decided that isn’t the right choice for me but still find myself telling people that I chose my major because I enjoy it–and I’ve gained some great thinking/writing skills because of it. Not to mention my department is small, welcoming and incredibly supportive.

I wish people would focus more on the skills you’re gaining that the “Will this get me a job?” question.

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Andrea January 28, 2011

Ang – I totally agree with this! My mom used to always say “education is lost on youth” and it would annoy me to no end! But I think I didn’t understand, and at the time I thought I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life.
Now, at almost 27, I still don’t know “what I want to be when I grow up”. I started university in the Concurrent Education – French Honours program and in 2nd year I did a placement in a grade five class and decided then that teaching was not for me. I then dropped the con. ed. but continued in French, all the while keeping those 2nd teachable subjects “just in case”. I thought that maybe I would look into post-grad programs but couldn’t narrow down which one I was most interested in but didn’t want to go back to school and take a program I didn’t truly love, as I had in my undergrad. Once out of university, I was faced with student loans that I thought I would never pay off, working at a job that had nothing to do with my degree, but I love it! I still don’t know if this is what I am meant to do but it’s helping me narrow it down. As they say, hindsight is 20/20 and I’m much happier working in a job that maybe pays a little less than what I would have been making had I continued with teaching, or jumped right into a post-grad program.

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Monica January 30, 2011

I’m in the midst of a concurrent education program right now and felt the same way after my 2nd year placement. I know I don’t want to be a teacher, but I’ll certainly use my education degree since I’d like to work in the field. However, when I tell people that I no longer want to teach they seem shocked. It can be hard listening to them comment on how great teaching would be (everyone seems to want the summer vacations!), but I know there are other careers out there that I would enjoy much more.

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Stacie @ Imperfectly Healthy January 28, 2011

I’m in the midst of grad school and am constantly wondering if I’ve made the right decision. There’s a part of me that feels like I chose my career field because it was the safe thing to do since it’s where I have all my experience. I seriously don’t even know how I would go about switching into something else at this point, which is depressing because I’m only 26! But at the same time, I have really good days and love what I’m doing — it’s so confusing!

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Caroline January 28, 2011

I’m one of the many people to whom your story means a lot. My brothers and I were all somewhat pushed into college by our dad’s expectations. I graduated with a degree I’m not using, the older of my brothers dropped out for a few years and is now back in school, and the younger failed out. I’m now a huge believer in taking time to figure out what you want (and figure out that retail isn’t it!). I’m now in school part time, taking prerequisites for a grad program in dietetics (I didn’t even take bio and chem the first time around!) and I’m happy about where I am. The one piece of guilt (and it’s a big one) is knowing that my parents basically wasted their money on a private college education that I am not using. But I figure that as the oldest I’ll just make sure I’m in a place to provide for them in their old age. :) (Thanks again for all of these posts!)

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Kristy @ KristyRuns January 28, 2011

I literally starting tearing up when I read this post. Thank you for the hope! I know all to well what it’s like to feel ‘stuck’ in a job…

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Amber K January 28, 2011

I still struggle with what I want to do with my life. I really want to be a stay at home mom, but my husband and I have been trying for over four years with no luck. Right now I am working part-time, but I do not feel fulfilled. I desperately want things to change, but feel pretty stuck right now.

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Ally January 28, 2011

Golly. I really needed to see this, particularly the part about not being a failure. I gave up my lifelong dream of being an actress after I moved to NYC and realized that being a professional artist was not the life I wanted, and I’d rather come back home and be a writer. Since then, I have had a lot of hardships, but I wouldn’t trade my life at home with my family for anything.

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felicia January 28, 2011

Thank you so much for this post! I’m graduating from college at the end of this year, and everyone keeps on asking me what I’m going to do after I graduate. Endless questions. “What are you going to do?” And I always feel silly just shrugging my shoulders and saying, “I don’t know.” Knowing that there are other people out there like me makes me feel a little more relieved. :)

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Stephanie January 28, 2011

Thank you so much for this post. After getting rejected from yet another job yesterday, I have been trying to convince myself that I am not a failure. This was exactly what I needed. I got two BA’s last June in history and political science, and I have been job-searching for over a year without any success. I initially majored in political science, realized I hated it, but I had already taken too many courses to just drop it. Luckily, I still had time to add a history major before my four years were up. I hope I can go back to school in a few years and get a career in history, but right now, I’ll settle for any job offer that comes my way.

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Chelsea January 28, 2011

I can totally relate. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do when I started college, but I ended up studying things I really loved and double-majored in religion and European history with a music minor. I’ve always like school and figured I continue on to grad school and maybe teach, but struggled a lot deciding which major I wanted to continue with and if that was the right path for me. I felt unprepared to make that decision in the beginning of my senior year, before I’d even taken my upper-level courses. I really wanted to take a year off to teach or volunteer, but my mom talked me out of it because I’d have to start paying back my loans and the whole thing made her anxious. I ended up enrolling in a library and information science program that I’m not really happy with. I’m not sure what my next step is, and I may end up going back for my masters in religion or into one of the teaching positions I was looking at before, but I just really wish that I had taken the time off to figure out what I really wanted to do before continuing in school.

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J. January 28, 2011

I really really am struck by this. I hated my second degree (my first was tolerable). And my second degree ..it was bad…and I knew it…my god, I would sit on the floor at night in complete darkness wondering why I continued it. It drove me mad, quiet, sullen, depressed, everything.
Now, my health is really bad..like, not good. And the job I currently work at? It pays half…half…of what I used to make…and I have major loans, major debt, major bills, everything. I’m just coping. I rented a movie this weekend and I’m filled with shame for it…because I literally need every penny I can get. I have no extras; I spend a lot on food…but I long for a lot more in terms of …everything.
I should be grateful for my job…no matter even if it pays me in 1 week what most people make in one day…literally. And it sucks me of all my time…I’m constantly doing it and it is not sparkling. Just sitting twenty four seven.
And I thought 2011 was going to be a time of exploring more and trying to figure it all out in my head and heart. BUT, I suffered huge health setback in beginning of january…and it looks like 2011 is the year of getting my health back. I have to because right now, I barely walk. I can’t do anything beyond a walk…and it will be a long long time before I do anything else. So, health first. And paying bills and food, and some guilty splurges when possible. Survive…but be grateful. And just keep the faith, right? Just live each day and not think too hard on it.

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Shari January 28, 2011

I just wanted to say thank you for sharing your journey with us all! Reading about your change in careers has been very inspirational. Growing up my parents attitude toward their jobs was that it was something you do to pay the bill – I never considered the idea that it could be something you loved! I would agree with a lot of comments that coming out of high school and into university I simply went through the motions as if it was something that I had to do but never thought about why I was doing it or what I wanted to get out of it. I will be graduating in a few months and although I am still uncertain about my career path I am thankful for the opportunities that my undergrad career has provided me which have allowed me to learn a lot about myself

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Stephanie @ The Travelling Tastebuds January 28, 2011

This is a great post! I am VERY pro-job satisfaction… haha. It took most of my twenties to have the courage to pursue my passion without the fear of judgement :)

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Angela W January 28, 2011

Wow, Angela… thanks for this post. It’s so clear you have a gift for relating to people and encouraging them with wisdom from your own experience and your positive spirit. Look at the positive difference you are making by being you and being so open and honest!! It encourages me to see someone functioning so effectively in their gifting, as I hope to discover and do one day soon as well! Way to go, girl! Thanks again for the encouragement, I needed it.

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Karly January 28, 2011

Whenever I stress about my major being a determinant of my career path, I read this address, given by Andrew Abbott at the University of Chicago: http://www.ditext.com/abbott/abbott_aims.html. He provides evidence against the claim that there is a strong relation between what you study and your occupation later in life, and he even argues that college learning does not have a significant effect on cognitive functioning. Instead, he emphasizes that education is “the emergence of the habit of looking for new meanings, of seeking out new connections, of investing experience with complexity or extension that makes it richer and longer, even though it remains anchored in some local bit of both social space and social time.” Essentially, education – not the aim of something else, but an aim in itself – enriches life, making it more enjoyable and more meaningful.

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Angela (Oh She Glows) January 29, 2011

I’ve heard about that before and I think it is fascinating! Thanks for sharing the link…will be checking this out.

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Andrew Abbott February 1, 2011

I came here by accident, but it’s nice to know that the message in the bottle ended up in somebody’s boat. Best wishes to all seeking what to do with their lives. To seek is to live. The people who know exactly what they want to do are already that much closer to death.

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Suzanne January 28, 2011

I just graduated in December with my Masters in Public Administration. I thought I wanted to work in Non profits until I realized it was just like the business world I was working in, minus the money. Now I’m about to start taking pre req’s for medical school. I don’t know where life will take me and some days it seems like way to much to take on, but I know I at least have to try. I wish I had taken my time and focused more in undergrad so I would not be here right now. Everything happens for a reason though and I think the majority of people are unhappy in their jobs and afraid to make a change. I do not want to be one of those people. Thanks for the inspiring quotes today!

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