Dear Victoria: An open letter to career confused creatives
Victoria and I met through the wonder that is blogging and social media. Please consider this a PSA that you should also meet Victoria through blogging and social media. Her blog, Vicstorya, is awesome, as are her Twitter and Instagram feeds.
Recently, in an exchange longer than 140 characters, she asked one of my favorite Frequently Asked Questions:
What was your major? And what exactly is your job/how did you get there/how do I best go about having your life in a few years?
She had no way of knowing that she would receive a dissertation in response. It was such an innocent question.
However, we decided it should be
unleashed shared with general public. First, to unite the career confused creatives in the crowd, and second, as a cautionary tale to anyone else who decides to email me on the subject of career.
It will end in a novella. There is no other way.
You asked the million dollar question, which is why it took me approximately a million years to answer. And I haven’t even actually started replying yet – those million years were just thinking years. The dinosaurs (or Jesus) may make a prompt return by the time I press send.
(The fact that I’ve changed my Spotify playlist 4 times since I started writing (no joke) is not helping matters. Final decision, because I’m sure you won’t sleep tonight if you don’t know: Sam Phillips, who I found via Gilmore Girls. That show just gives and gives. It’s a limitless resource.)
(And in the ultimate irony, the internet just died. So my Spotify indecision was ultimately in vain. As is the ability to save this email. But we plow on.)
So, funny story: I started college as an elementary education major, and continued down that path until the second semester of my junior year because my actual major was denial. I’m awesome at it. Which explains why I spent 5 semesters talking myself into wanting to be a teacher… until I had to sign up for student teaching, and literally could not put my name down on the paper. I knew that student teaching was essentially the last step in becoming a teacher, besides, you know, graduating, and I did not want to graduate with a piece of paper that motivated people to hire me as a teacher. I hated teaching. Oh my word, did I ever hate teaching. But I stuck with it because of practical reasons, like, mostly, not having an ever-loving clue what I would do otherwise.
The decision to change my major to English was built on the foundation all lifelong career dreams are built upon: it was the only thing I could finish in 3(ish) semesters after jumping ship on Education. However, through very little of my own orchestration – a condition indicative of most of my career – it became clear that English was a perfect fit. I absolutely loved it.
And then I graduated.
And then I realized the only marketable skill in my possession was a slightly higher capacity to do something the rest of the population had been doing since 2nd grade: I could read and write.
And thus began the Broad and Twisty road that has been my career path. I graduated from Roberts in 2008; I had 15 jobs before I found The One this year. I worked in college admissions. I started working for a local newspaper and realized that I hated hard news. (Which should not have come as a surprise, since I hated my journalism class.) (Denial FTW.) I nannied. I worked at a juice bar. I went on a cross country road trip and did volunteer farming. I was sure I wanted to become a wedding photographer. I worked at Anthropologie. I worked at Starbucks/Target. I was sure I wanted to work for Southern Weddings. (They did not share that sentiment.) (And I should have had the same one, because I hate weddings.) (DENIAL.) I decided I was going to make writing happen and get a magazine job in an awesome city… and took what is now known as The Faceplant of Faith. I moved back home. I worked at a doctor’s office. I was sure I was going to have a long career as a freelance writer. I was sure that path was Football for Normal Girls. Then, precisely a year ago, I went back to admissions to do one fall travel season. Then, CURE happened.
Let me pause to state the obvious: I had no idea what I wanted in a career. I had no idea what I wanted to do, or even what I was good at. I’ve never known. There has not been much in the way of “constants” in my career path. My inability to determine what I actually wanted to do was the only one.
Here’s the thing. I did very little to orchestrate my current circumstances, but did very much to fight for the possibility that they could exist. Taking a similar stance is the best advice I can offer you.
I took so many jobs because I knew I wanted more than just a job; I wanted a career I could be all-in passionate about. I wanted something that was an extension of who I was, not just a place I went to every day from 8-5. I had no idea what that looked like, but I knew I loved all things visual and verbal, so I did what I would have done whether I was searching for a career or not: I created. I wrote a lot. I took a lot of pictures. I cooked and baked and read and listened. I engaged that piece of me that was constantly saying “Hey! Make stuff!” even though I hadn’t yet figured out that I’m an artist and would have called you crazy if you tried to tell me so. I did the things I felt made to do, and I trusted the Lord with the specifics of how it would all turn into a paycheck.
Sometimes, it didn’t. That’s why I moved home at the ripe old age of 26. It’s how I ended up working temp jobs and writing how-to articles for pennies a piece and asking people if they’d like whip cream with that. It’s wasn’t at all what I envisioned after a very successful career as a student. The next chapter was supposed to be equally success-filled, and it wasn’t panning out that way.
Or at least, from the outside looking in, it didn’t seem like it was. But what actually happened was essential to ultimately finding my dream job: I learned to never settle, and to work really, really hard, even when there were no tangible results, and to always believe that I was created to do something, even if I didn’t quite know what that thing was.
I did the broader work of working. God did the precise planning. He’s so good at the sovereignty thing.
I started working for CURE last December. And while I was genuinely excited about the job, I still had my sights set on full-time freelance at some point down the road. It was a great way to get my feet back on the ground by doing something I hoped I’d love, but I thought I needed freedom long-term, and working full-time in an office was anything but. I was planning on working 8-5 and then going home to write – keeping up the variety of freelance work I had established – thinking that eventually, I’d move back into full-time freelance.
And then I got punk’d.
CURE turned out to be everything I’ve ever wanted in a career, plus all of the things I really wanted but didn’t dare ask for, plus plenty of things I didn’t even know to ask for. I was hired to do blogging and social media. I’m currently doing that, plus traveling the world to write stories and help shoot videos of kids whose lives have been transformed because of the healing they received at our hospitals. (I could fill pages upon pages about what all of that means on an emotional level. It’s nothing short of life-changing.)
Note: I had pressed the video button on my camera approximately twice before coming to CURE. The first time they asked me to go on a trip to the Dominican Republic to shoot video, I said no. (They sent me anyway.) As it turns out, I absolutely love shooting video, and I’m not bad at it, and I’ve been to the DR, Zambia, Malawi, Kenya, and Ethiopia this year because of it, with another trip coming in October.
Once again: nothing I could have orchestrated. Something I actually tried to prevent. Yet, God’s sovereignty endures.
All of that (ALL OF THAT) to say, do what you love. Work really, really hard at whatever you do. Make sure you never get complacent and settle because it’s tempting and easier. Create all the time. But mostly, trust that the Lord made you with a specific set of skills to accomplish a specific set of tasks. You likely have no idea what any of those specifics are yet. But figuring out the specifics is not your job. Following the Lord, trusting that He will lead you where you need to go even when it seems like He’s leading you nowhere, is the best and only thing you can do to arrive at a career worth having.
Ok creatives, I know you are out there. What additional thoughts do you have? If you are established in a career you love, how did you get there? And if you are still in the foggy figuring-it-out stage, how are you doing? (Feel free to vent in the comments.)