Saturday, July 25, 2009

Career path? What career path?

(Me, circa 1979, possibly designing my "girl detective" business cards.)

Today I gave my seventh of nine presentations to incoming firstyear college students about the academic expectations at the institution where I teach - about 10 of these sessions run concurrently and a large percentage of incoming students attend. The two main points of the presentation are the classes they need to take to graduate (aside from their major) and how college will be different from high school.

There are two sets of statistics I like to quote to them. One is that the average college student changes his or her major three times over the course of their undergraduate years. The other is that the average person will have seven discrete changes of career in his or her working life - and two of those probably don't exist at the time you are in college.

They seem to find this discouraging - along with the fact that in college you don't get time in class to do your homework. And, that homework? It isn't crossword puzzles of vocab terms. (Horrifying!)

Anyway, this has set me to thinking back and remembering all the careers I imagined for myself over the years. I'm leaving out "girl detective" - a Nancy Drew inspired choice - and mainly thinking of once I hit high school and through college.

So, my aspirations included: UN translator, marine biologist, oceanologist, bookstore owner, teacher, writer. (Writer: check. But that has hardly been a career. A vocation, yes. Definitely NOT a hobby. ) (Teacher: check - or maybe I get a check-minus for only being part-time? Without that precious published book, it's as far as I am likely to get.)

Career paths actually walked: bookstore clerk and then asst. manager, library services, technical writing, graphic layouts, marketing manager, adjunct professor, and virtual database manager (a new one! also part-time, like the teaching).

But tonight I was especially thinking about "bookstore owner" and I was remembering that I actually spent quite a bit of time, as an undergraduate and shortly after graduating, drawing up layouts of my store, thinking about programs I would have. So, this is back in 1992-1993, and Chris and I were figuring out where the cafe would go, where there would be a space for live performances, making sure there was room in the kids section for kids to actually flop down and look at books, where authors would stand to give their readings. And so on.

Don't get me wrong - I like what I am doing now. I'm pretty happy with my working life (though it could pay more, and hey part time people like health insurance too). But tonight I'm feeling a little sad about dreams gone by or dreams held in abeyance. I am pretty sure I've missed the boat on UN translator - the languages I used to be pretty fluent in are slipping away. But I'm not quite ready to completely close the door on the bookstore dream. Not yet.


Cara said...

ME NEITHER. I still think about not only opening a bookstore, but about opening one with YOU! :-) That picture is great - I had to look at it twice before I realized it was not a Cora with suddenly longer hair. I am also quite nostalgic about possible career paths that have passed me by, and am working hard to think about what happens for me next (when my hubby embarks on his latest path!).

triciadm said...

Well, first of all, I think someday the three of us need to open a bookstore together...maybe we call it The Weird Sisters or something (alright, I've never been good with titles as we all know). Secondly, here's my plan for you, Merie. 1) Write a slightly literary but popular piece of genre fiction (I'm thinking detective - a la #1 Ladies Detective Agency) that becomes a franchise sensation; 2) get it optioned for movies; 3) have Chris do the music for the film; 4) get Chris discovered as the next Hollywood music sensation; 5) invest your earnings in a bookstore. See, sooooo easy ;>