As many of you know, I've been building up and ironing out a speech for my graduate school graduation, as I have been selected to represent the graduating graduate class at commencement this year. I figured, since I wrote WAY more than I can use, I would share some of the other stuff with you guys. For those of you who have heard some of it, pieces may sound familiar, but they have since been edited.
This past Thanksgiving I had the opportunity to sit down with a pile of stuff that my parents and I had collected over those past 30 years; old report cards, papers I had written, notes from my friends that we had passed in the hallways in between classes, and college entrance essays. For a whole weekend, you could find me parked on the floor surrounded by all these remnants of my past. I read my grad school entrance essays, papers, and blog posts that I had written over a year ago. It was like a time travel device had been plopped in my lap. I sat there, getting transported back to different stages of my life, realizing how far I have come, how much I have changed, and how much my perspective has widened.
When I was in fourth grade I wrote a book for class. It was one of those "What I Want to Be When I Grow Up" books. I wanted to be an author. I wanted to write hundreds of books to fill libraries all around. When I think of who I was then, all I can remember about myself was how much of a bookworm I was. I would come home from school and read a whole chapter book before dinner, or hang out in the library for fun. As a fourth grader, my frame of reference for viable job options included a doctor, teacher, and author… maybe a librarian… but that was pretty much it. It was only natural that I wanted to be an author at that point in my life.
When I was in Junior High, I wrote an essay about my life goals. In those goals, I declared that I wanted to get married, move to a big city, wear chic business suits, and work as something in a tall fancy building. I didn't know what my job was, but I know what I wanted to look like. I can imagine myself at that stage in life, surrounded by teen magazines, chick flick movies, and books where the main character always ended up with the good guy and lived happily ever after. My perception had been altered by the mass media by that stage, and it showed in my starry eyed vision of life in the city with a fairy tale marriage, and a job where I was fabulous and well respected. I wanted to be like the pretty girls in the movies who always seemed to live life flawlessly.
As I began preparing for college, I was called to write several items marking the transition from youth into adulthood. I had to begin to take the career thing more seriously, and come up with more than just a chic business suit as my career goal. At that point, I began proclaiming that I wanted to be the world's best secretary, or executive assistant as I preferred to think of it. At that point, I had no belief in myself that I could be the person needing the assistant. I hadn't yet crossed that confidence boundary that would be required for me to believe that, but I knew I was a good at taking orders, and figured it would be best to just find a comfortable space in that support role instead of trying too hard at being successful myself.
While I was in college, I had many teachers who helped me to see what was possible for me. Together, we chartered my next phase of growth based on my desires at that point. After college, I landed a very appealing business opportunity working at a major university in Boston. I wore fancy outfits and pointy heels, I lived in the city - the building I worked in wasn't tall but it was a little fancy. I had a job that from all external appearances looked like what I had imagined those years before. A few years into that position, I realized that the big city apartment was awfully expensive, the job was boring and unfulfilling, and those heels hurt. When I left Boston, I knew I was on the hunt for something else, something more. I had just been moving along based on the steps I thought I was supposed to take, but it wasn't working out the way that I thought it would. I couldn't put my finger on what was wrong just yet but it I knew it was time to start getting curious about my options.
When I arrived as an NEC employee, I knew immediately that I wanted to take courses here. I wasn't sure yet what I wanted to study, but I was itching to get back into a real classroom. I realized at that point that I didn't care about what I wore to work, what the building looked like, or how important I appeared from the outside, but I knew I needed to figure out what it is that I did care about. Up until this point, my family, the movies, my friends, and my teachers had all guided my path and brought me the lessons I needed to learn. Now, it was my turn to take the wheel and steer.
Throughout my human services program here, my classmates, professors, and the materials we used in class opened doors in me that led to many inspirations for many different dream careers and life paths. I suddenly would realize that in a moment's time, I could decide to become a therapist, run a women's center, buy a bed & breakfast, write a book, design a website, run a sandwich truck, build a tiny home, become a food critic, or to design my very own multi-faceted and ever evolving career, where I could dabble in spattering of interests and accomplish a timeline filled with good work that reaches across the community and the world.
My favorite lessons gained from curious exploration, however, were not from others, but ones that I discovered about myself with myself as the guide to the depths of myself. I believe that one of our on going assignments in this school that is life is to constantly keep searching within to become more aware of how we operate. We must explore our passions, learn what we are capable of, witness the restrictions we inflict upon ourselves, and where to find the eternal spring of creativity within us.