Thursday, November 13, 2014

What Do I Want to be When I Grow Up?

For a brief period of time when I was little I wanted to be a veterinarian. I love animals, and I loved the idea of working with animals all the time. Then I found out that vets have to put animals down, and the idea lost its luster. Then for the bulk of my life I wanted to be a journalist. I remember writing extensive stories in second and third grade. I would fill journals and notebooks with the things I would write - stories, poetry, anything. I wanted nothing more than to spend the rest of my life writing, and journalism seemed like the best path for me.

I told my junior high gym teacher that I wanted to be on SportsCenter. This was back when women were not on SportsCenter. Maybe Linda Cohn was...I don't recall. I went to college as a broadcast journalism major. My first class at West Virginia University was an introductory journalism class. I took it with several hundred of my closest friends. I liked it well enough, but that same day I went to my first political science class. I was hooked. Most WVU freshman who have a polisci requirement take the huge classes who at that time were taught by the infamous Dr. Robert DiClerico and the Silver Fox Dr. Alan Hammock. I took my introductory political science class with a guy named Lyn Dotson. He works for the WVU Foundation (is kind of a big deal there now 18 years after he was my teacher.) His class changed my life. I fell in love with political science, and I wanted to do something (anything) with it. I decided to double major in broadcasting and political science.

My first two years of college were an ambitious quagmire of classes, work and 6 am sessions at the gym. I carried 18-20 credit hours, worked at least 20 hours a week and maintained fabulous six-pack abs. Ultimately I decided that the broadcasting just wasn't for me. I didn't love it. This was back in the days before digital recording, and I hated sitting in a lab splicing together tape for stories I was working on. I no longer enjoyed one of my two majors, and I dropped to solely political science at the beginning of my junior year.

I had no idea what I wanted to do with a polisci degree, but I knew I loved the subject matter. My senior year I was starring at acceptance letters from both grad school and law school wondering what on earth I should do. During an internship with the WV legislature my senior year, I worked with a legislator who was an attorney. He suggested that for the extra year law school was worth it, and I took his advice. I was off to law school with no intentions of ever practicing law.

My law school experience was probably unlike a lot of other people's. I had three surgeries my first year. I visited by third year at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, leaving my friends, family and familiar school behind. It was disjointed, and I made it through with average grades and an extreme distaste for personal injury law after a stint at a law firm in Texas my third year.

I left Texas and went to Virginia where I lived with my sister and brother-in-law for a while. I answered a classified ad and applied for a job as Executive Assistant to the Mayor.  I got the job. I did everything from writing speeches to attending meetings to working on the Mayor's float for the Christmas parade. It was exhilarating and wonderful, and I fell in love with a city and with my boss' vision for his hometown. 

I was dating a guy from Michigan, and it seemed like a fun(?) idea to move here. I was offered and accepted a job working on local government policy in the Michigan House Republican Policy Office. I will never forget a few comments when I took the job. Norfolk's vice mayor at the time incredulously asked me, "Wait - you're a Republican?" And the Mayor's first words to me after I gave notice were: "You know it's cold there, right?" I arrived in Michigan on a 7 degree day in February, and my life changed forever.

Two years later I began working at the Michigan Municipal League, and I'm now leading the lobbying team. Working in the legislature is crazy and awesome and frustrating and exhausting...there is nothing quite like it. If I had told 8-year-old me that one day I'd be a lobbyist and love it, I don't think that would've gone over extremely well.

As much as I love this job, I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up. All I know is that I want to be involved with communities. I want to be a part of community projects. I want to see change happen. I get to see it now, and I can't imagine not working with communities in some capacity. It turns out that answering that classified ad in Norfolk changed everything I thought I knew about what I wanted to do with my life. 

Last week I stumbled on this blog titled "7 Strange Questions That Help You Find Your Life Purpose". I love question number two: "What is true about you today that would make your 8-year-old self cry?" My answer is that I don't write regularly, although this blog is a band-aid to that problem. I love writing, and it is good for my soul. Growing up in a small town my 8-year-old self didn't know I loved cities, and I didn't know that I'd love running. But writing was my jam. My childhood self would weep that I don't do it often enough anymore.

Me at 8 years old (front row, second from the left). I also loved cheerleading back then.

I'm 36 years old, and I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up. I know it involves cities and writing and being true to what I believe in. I incorporate much of that my current job, and I'll continue to work on the things that feed my soul. We're constantly evolving as people, and maybe one of these days I'll figure out the answer to the question as part of my own evolution. Until then I'll work hard at the things that would make my 8-year-old self happy.     

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