I’m bright, I’m curious about the world around me, I can gain proficiency in a skill or application within a short time, and I can often approach problems from unconventional angles. This sounds like a winning combination that would put you ahead of the pack in school and in the working world. For some people, intelligence, curiosity, and creative problem solving are traits that enable them to become highly successful and influential community leaders, innovators, executives and scholars. This isn’t the case for me. Not yet at least.
I’m 30, and I haven’t even started my career yet!
Last year, I turned 30, and I began to think about where I was in my professional life. Was I doing what I loved? Was I giving something back to the world? Was this what I wanted to do for the rest of my life? The answer to all of these questions was a resounding “No.” So I began to evaluate my life. I was approaching my fourth year in the print shop at Webster University in a position that I was overqualified for. I took a pay cut when I accepted the job there because the university offered tuition remission for full-time employees. When I started, I only had a little over a year of coursework left to complete my B.A. Four years later, I was still working in the same place, and still hadn’t earned my degree. At home, things were better, but not much.
I didn’t have any real hobbies other than occasionally building computers. I had an amazing partner, who I’d been with for about five years, but I felt like my lack of enthusiasm about a career and my inability to finish college killed my confidence in myself, which had a negative impact on our relationship. I was unhappy at work, at home and in life in general.
Time for some changes
I realized that nothing was going to get better if I didn’t make a few changes.
The first thing that I felt that I had to do was to finish my BA. I was down to one
class, my senior overview. I had to write a paper to demonstrate that I was indeed worthy of earning a degree. Finishing this paper was going to take weeks of planning, research and writing, and honestly, I didn’t think that I could do it. So I put the paper off. For about two years.
The second thing that I needed to do was to find a hobby, so that I could start to have fun again. So one month after my birthday, I started a 365 day photo project.
The third thing that I had to do was to stop living in the past and plan for the future. I was so focused on what I hadn’t accomplished, that I couldn’t see or plan for what was yet to come. I had no real hopes or dreams for the future because I was constantly comparing myself to others, and I wasn’t taking responsibility for my own mistakes and inaction.
What I learned
There was a point after all
So, I finished the paper about a week before it was due, but ended up quitting the photo project. My senior overview was the hardest academic challenge that I’ve ever had, but I got through it and finally learned how to successfully complete an extensive research paper. I graduated with a B.A. in December, and started grad school the next month.
Excuses won’t get me anywhere
In the past, when I didn’t do a homework assignment or couldn’t meet a deadline, I would make up an excuse instead of admitting that I was at fault. Now, I don’t make excuses. If I make a mistake, I try to own up to it. If I don’t complete an assignment, then I try to be as honest as possible about why I didn’t or couldn’t do the work.
Excuses held me back in the past, and I won’t let them hold me back anymore.
Hobbies are essential
I didn’t finish my photo project, but I’m glad that I tried. Those months of daily practice changed my perspective about my city and encouraged me to develop my photographic skills. I’m not a great photographer now, but I am a lot better and more confident. Photography gives me a creative outlet that I didn’t have before and can’t imagine being without.
Where I am now
I’ve made a lot of progress in the 10 months since I turned 30. I am still working in the same place that I was before, but my attitude has changed and I’m working on finally moving on. I had no clue what I wanted to do this time last year. Now I know that, in the short term at least, I want to be a copywriter and focus on social and digital media. After I have a few years of experience, I want to teach at the college or university level, work as a brand consultant and see where life takes me from there.
My long road to success hasn’t been the easiest to follow, but it’s getting me where I need to be.