When I was four I told my mother in no uncertain terms that my life goal was to one day become a grocery store checker. I loved seeing what people were buying and I would envision what they might cook with their ingredients. To placate me, my mom bought me a mini cash register for my fifth birthday, complete with plastic food staples you might find in your cabinet and fridge. I stole food from our kitchen cabinet to use and borrowed my parent’s credit cards to swipe. My parents told each other it meant I liked math, and that one day I would turn out to be a brilliant businesswoman and/or mathematician. A couple of weeks later they took the batteries out of my cash register (the noise was driving them berserk) and gave me a calculator, which was quickly lost in the depths of my toy drawers.
Some odd twenty years later, I’ve found myself recently graduated from a master’s program with a degree in Public Health. Obviously at the age of four I had no idea that this was where I’d end up. I grew up as a prime example of a millennial; my parents had started with nothing and worked hard for everything we had. They believed that their children should be able to follow their passions and achieve the same successful results they did.
Enter the 2008 recession and the knowledge that it was no longer about following a passion so much as it was about finding something that you were good at and paid well. While I could blame my decision to attend graduate school on the economy, lack of jobs, enhanced education, etc, I still remember writing my personal statement for my applications and thinking they were total crap. At 23, I had no idea who I was and the idea of professing what I was going to do with my life was terrifying. I’d learned from a few life experiences that my undergrad degree in History was not going to get me very far. I’d just followed my passion like all of the adults had told me to do, yet there were no jobs knocking on my door. I was interested in health care and health discrepancies and had internships in those areas, so why not follow something I thought I might end up being passionate about?
Luckily for me I found something that I am not only passionate about, but I actually enjoy. I loved my two years in graduate school (for the most part) and the internships and resources I had access to as a student. Graduation was an elating and terrifying time. As a student, I was shielded from the real world with class projects and exams. Internships were readily available for graduate students and professors were happy to put in a good word. Suddenly I find myself without the regular class and exam schedule, the office hours and open doors of professors, and the internships relegated to students. While I should be scared, I’m not (yet). I’m trying to limit the amount of Netflix I watch, or at least combine it with job hunting. I’m not holding myself to one location, one profession, or one organization. The terrified part of me is waning, while the excited part of me is looking forward to the next chapter and all of the possibilities that a new job, a new city and a new home hold for me. My goals have changed since I was four, as has my outlook on following my passion. I miss the stress free days of ringing up fake plastic fruit and using my parent’s credit cards (for both pretend and real situations), but the last two years of hard work, internships and inevitable debt are all mine. Moving forward those are things I can take with me wherever I go.