October 3, 2014

education + work history | resume of a restless creative.


I just finished reading #GIRLBOSS this week. I have to say- this is the book I wish I'd read when I was 20 years old! Here I am, 14 years later, and I feel like I've been kicked in the butt majorly.

So many things about Sophia Amoruso's story truly resonate with me. She and I are about 180 degrees apart in many ways, but I've really come to enjoy stories about hard work and determination. I've been soaking up so much literature about creativity and business- this book in all it's grit and honesty and coarse language is one of the best I've come across so far!

I thought I'd like to give you a glimpse at my resume today, and it's going to be a hard post to write + a long one to read. It's taken me a long time to get to a point where I can tell parts of my history without being overwhelmed with the regrets. I'll be honest- it's been about nine years since last time I was in counseling, and sometimes I think I need to go back. I'm amazed how much this blogging thing has taken over that role in my life: I spill my guts and you all come alongside me and let me know I'm not alone. That's a way better (cheaper) prescription for me than the couch time and antidepressants I had back then!

I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I've dabbled in so many things, I'm certain my family wrote me off as "flighty" a long time ago. I've worn that label with some shame in recent years. You know, I turned 34 this week, and with the upward tick of years spent on this earth comes a burdened feeling, like I haven't accomplished enough with the time I've been given.

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My first major in college was Fashion Merchandising. Let's be really honest, though- how many 18 year olds really have a clue where they want to go in life? I think I'd have loved that if I'd stuck with it, but the nagging feeling I wasn't creative enough and the admonitions from my family that I wasn't being practical got to me. Before my first semester of freshman year even wrapped up, I'd already changed my major to Education. The world always needs good teachers, you know.

It wasn't long before I sensed the Education department would suck the life out of me. I hated it, and that's putting it mildly! I loved my history classes, though: looked forward to them, even. So, by the time I was a sophomore, I'd changed my major again: this time, to History. My family applauded me. There's so many opportunities for you, they told me! Even law school!

I didn't know where I was going: I just knew I wanted to wear nice clothes and have my own office one day. In the back of my mind, I heard, You can do it- you're smart, you can learn to be strong enough. I even imagined moving to New York City. I thought, maybe I could do something with magazines. I loved magazines- the images, the type, layouts and designs, fashion, interiors, and glamour that was so far removed from any reality I'd ever known.

I confessed to my granny one day that I was considering another change to Journalism. It was still early in my college days: I was working on core curriculum, so major changes weren't a big deal yet. I trusted my granny's advice: she was a sharp lady. This time, she said, "You know, it's hard to make it in journalism. That's a pretty competitive field. It's especially hard for women." I heard, I love you, sweetie: you're cute, but you'll never succeed at something like that. Let's be realistic.

My parents were having a hard time paying for my school, and they never complained to me about it but I could sense the mood between them when tuition payments came due. I decided to leave my prestigious liberal arts school and come home, enrolled in the local University part time, took a full time job and found an apartment with my best friend. Oh goodness, independence felt good. It also got me in a lot of trouble eventually, but that's another long story for my memoirs.

Cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education. (Mark Twain)

I hate to admit I let my creative dreams die so easily. When I tell parts of my story, I'm always afraid I might be judged for not being stronger when I was younger. I can't tell you how many bad decisions I made in my youth: I almost feel like my memoir could be titled Consequences. Because I've had a lot of them!

I made one final attempt to follow my heart by deciding to drop my History degree and start over at another college with a major in Interior Design. I was like a fish out of water in design school. I loved the work and I was great at it. I looked around me, though, and all I could see was the difference between me and the people around me. They were well dressed. They were, obviously, "rich".

I looked like a street person. I was anti-fashion at its finest: baggy jeans, chains, heavy black makeup and a scowl. A little cloud of cigarette smoke followed me everywhere I went. I felt poor, and when tuition came due and I had to charge the balance to my credit card- I knew for sure I was in over my head.

I wound up involved with some pretty grungy people during this era. I got myself in so much trouble that my mom and dad had a hard time even talking to me. I'm fortunate that I never wound up in jail, but I was living with a guy who was abusing me and using my credit cards to satisfy his cravings for video games and lewd music (CDs, merchandise, concerts and festivals- we did it all), eyeball deep in debt, friends with thieves and drug dealers, and I felt like I had no escape.

But my story doesn't end there. Let's insert an ellipsis here-

...

Whew, that's like a sigh of relief. Everything in the middle of that ellipsis is my "rock bottom" and the way that God reached down to me in the pit to draw me out of the consequences of all my bad decisions.

I'm amazed, looking back, how far removed my worldview and my life are now from what I imagined it would ever be back then. It's chilling how close I came to something much more sinister than the gifts I have now!

I did finish college- I got the degree in History, after all. Look, I can be practical after all! But I still didn't know where I was going, and my work experience is a litany of dead-end retail jobs. To my credit, I never jumped jobs frequently- I am dedicated and loyal even to a fault. I worked at Blockbuster five years, back when video (then DVD) rentals were a brick-and-mortar business. I was an assistant manager for four years, and the last year of that, I doubled up- taking a night job at Starbucks.

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From then on, I almost always had two jobs at a time. I was paying off all that ridiculous debt! I was promoted to shift supervisor at Starbucks pretty quickly, and I decided to make that my main job, leaving Blockbuster on faith that a part-time job would come along quickly. It did: a week later, I started working three days a week at this local organic grocery and bohemian boutique that smelled strongly of peppermint, Nag Champa, goldenseal and cumin. A lot of people say they can't stand the smell inside that store, but I love it. It smells like home to me.

I was being groomed for management at Starbucks, so I eventually left the grocery store and gave myself full-time to the cafe. I put myself into my work 110%, soaking up all I could about store operations and preparing for my promotion. Meanwhile, Eric and I had hooked up and were quickly engaged. It looked like I had things figured out! A Starbucks store manager (at the time) could make $45-65,000. And I loved the work enough to stick with it forever.

My plans and God's plans didn't line up here. Starbucks didn't pan out for me, and that's another long winded story for my memoir. I was sad to leave, but I had to resign and took a full-time job working for Lowe's Home Improvement in the Installed Sales department. I didn't love Installed Sales like I loved being a barista, but I thrived on the problem solving and customer service. I was a whiz at the computer system from the start, even though it seemed to mystify everyone else. I eventually became the go-to person for operational troubleshooting among all the sales associates and even some of the senior management. But, if you ever want a job that will suck your soul- go work for a big box retailer! I knew I didn't want to move up into salaried management there. It was another dead end.

Lowe's was a dead end I stayed on for five years before it was said and done. When Eric and I got married and moved into our house, I went back to Starbucks part time- so I was working two jobs again. I kept that up until I was six months pregnant with Seth, and my (last) last day at the cafe was the week of my thirtieth birthday- four years ago this week.

...the $h**#! jobs made the good ones more meaningful. Most people don't land their dream job right out of the gate, which means we all have to start somewhere. You'll appreciate your amazing career so much more when you look back at your not-so-amazing jobs in the past, and hopefully realize that you learned something from all of them. (Sophia Amoruso in #GIRLBOSS) 

I left Lowe's for an opportunity to be an office administrator at a new construction company. I was recruited for the job by an old co-worker. The company was growing, it seemed- but it wasn't long after I started there that I noticed a lot of problems in the company structure and sensed that the books weren't being managed well. Sure enough, one year later the company folded and I was let go.

In the meantime, I'd fallen in love with blogging and the online creative community. I'd been praying for a way to stay home with Seth. I'd started to learn photography and got really good at it. I loved writing and connecting with other bloggers. I can't tell you how much I appreciate this creative outlet and the way it's helped me learn so much about myself over the last few years.

I don't regret the start-stop-start-stop-start again nature of my blogging career so far because it was important to me to get it right- like the writer who keeps ripping the page out of typewriter and crumpling it up to the trash bin until the draft feels like it's headed in the right direction, I've been going through a process of figuring out who I want to be and learning how to express my creative side in a way I was never been taught to do.

In some ways, I think I've been walking the road to self-discovery now I should have taken when I was 18, before enrolling in college because "that's just what you DO after high school." For those on the tail end of the millennial generation, this may appear self-evident. For the first of us, it was not! In 1998, college was still the logical next step, even if you didn't know what you wanted to do. Most of us had no idea how drastically the internet would change the world in the next few years!

Sometimes, especially after reading a bestselling book by a successful entrepreneur who's a few years younger than me, I feel like I missed all the good opportunities. Then I realize perhaps I'm just beginning. Julia Child was 37 when she started culinary school, after all! There's so much I am capable of doing- I am a pretty good writer. I love photography. I'd like to learn graphic design. I've picked up a good bit of coding and web design knowledge- I want to know more. I can imagine myself designing jewelry or handbags. Maybe I could go back to Interior Design school.

I know now that I have what's called a multipotentialite personality. It's almost like the world is my buffet but I am a deer in headlights at all the possibilities. I can do whatever I want! But what do I want? It can be paralyzing.

For the time being, I know I have a responsibility to my family. I'm so thankful Eric and I have worked together as a team to manage our resources strategically so I can spend a few years focusing on the children. But there's danger in thinking that this season will last forever. Inevitably, I'll have to move on. Likewise, chances are I won't be a blogger forever, either. At least, I don't think so- there's no precedent for this! What comes next?

Whatever the answer is, I'm thrilled to have you all along for the ride. I definitely believe that God can use anything- even my mistakes- to help people, and that makes me thankful even for the hard times. If you got through my story, I have to give you props! Thank you for hanging in there. I hope telling my story is encouraging to someone out there!

What do you want to be when you grow up? 

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