Updated: Jun 9
Like many people, I grew up being told that I could be anything I wanted to be. “You’re smart,” they’d say. “Look at you! You’re good in school and athletic. You’re the ideal package!”
I believed them. I believed I could be BIG.
I was the oldest daughter to a father who built the family business with his father. Hard work and grit were the keys to success. The ‘pick yourself up by the ole bootstrap’ concept was applied every night at the dinner table.
I believed them.
I entered the workforce at an eager 12 years old doing odd jobs around my father’s shop. In high school, I held at least 1, sometimes 2 jobs at a time. I worked hard in my studies and on the volleyball court.
My goal was to get to post secondary school. College. A place to go when you are chasing the American Dream.
I was told I could, and I believed them.
I was the first generation in line to entertain the idea of going to college. However, money and advice were tight. Growing up in the 80s and despite President Reagan’s best intentions, my family struggled to put food on the table. I was left to figure out college by myself.
I was doing my part to get there. Hard work, perseverance, and good grades were checked off every 9 weeks. You know...the bootstrap thing...
But I didn’t know how to get “there”. I was someone who set out on a road trip with my destination fully in mind, but with no road map of how to get where I was going.
In my 10th grade year I took the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) and received a very high score. Immediately military recruiters made the military life look appealing. The 1986 Top Gun movie and my infatuation with all things space, flying and speed made the military seem like a great idea. With my scores I started to explore the idea of going to the Naval Academy.
Recruiters were doing their job. They were the only adults who were giving me a road map to my success. It was strategically laid out for me right down to meal time and when I could “s&%$, shower and shave.”
I believed them.
Until I didn’t.
In my senior year this stable and righteous path began to waiver. Something deeper inside of me doubted going into the military because I felt it would stifle me. I realized I didn’t want to have someone that in charge of my life. I wanted to be in charge. I wanted my spirit to have freedom.
So I stopped believing them.
And I changed my mind.
Up to this point, the only guidance I had in my career exploration were the recruiters. Without them, I was flying blind again. I entered the college distribution system without knowledge or direction. I was their favorite consumer. The more I changed my major, the more money they made off of me.
I worked 2 jobs, changed my major 5 times, was kicked out twice for failing grades (sat out a year for each time), and tested for learning disabilities. My majors were Liberal Arts, English, Business/Marketing, Anthropology and Psychology. If you think about it each of those majors were interests that led me to my talent which was Psychology.
As soon as I took the class, I knew Psychology was the way. It tied into my natural way of thinking about myself, others, and the world around us. I saw connections in people that my cohorts couldn’t see in themselves. It felt good helping them uncover their inner parts.
In college, I was introduced to officiating basketball through a class I saw on a bulletin board. Refereeing basketball was a passion. I loved the game. I loved the adrenalin of being in the game. I was given coaches who directed me, taught me, and gave me a plan for what I needed to do.
To me, the lifestyle of officiating fit perfectly. I connected my physicality and people skills into a career that would take me places and make me money. I trained for years making good money and moving up the ranks. Finally, I understood WHAT I wanted to do with my life.
At this exact same time, I was learning that in order to work in the mental health field, I needed (and wanted) to earn my Masters degree.
Yet, the message that was sent to me was “You got your degree now. It’s time to get married and have kids.”
I believed them.
Shortly after tying the knot I was invited to a WNBA camp to try-out as one of the youngest female referees. At this point, my husband and I “decided” that I should quit refereeing for personal reasons.
I’ll never know how far I would have gone in reffing, but it is something that I regret to this day.
Not too long afterwards, I became pregnant and divorced in year 4.
Some might say that college and this time of my life was a disaster.
And maybe in the traditional sense, it was a disaster.
Yet, despite the 'disaster' of mining my interests and my talents, a diamond was pulled from the rubble.
I went into teaching High School English and coaching volleyball because that’s all I could really do with a BA in Psychology. I loved teaching, I enjoyed the classics in literature, and I adored the students. It was my dream job.
Then one day I sat on my stool that was signed by 15 years of students. In front of my classroom, I challenged my students to think big. It was a speech I patiently gave hundreds of times in my teaching career, but this time was different.
I was yelling at them.
Startled, they looked back confused.
I couldn’t figure out why I was so undeniably angry.
Then I realized it was my 25 year old self. She showed back up, and this time she was pissed. She reminded me that I never finished what I set out to do. I still had a burning desire to continue my education. The flame never went out, it just got covered with responsibilities, kids, and making money.
It was during this time that I forgot that I could be BIG.
I forgot I could be anything I wanted to be. I forgot to think outside the box and take big risks.
I waited until my kids were old enough and went back to school. I am a single mom who needs an income, but desperately needed a career change.
So I believed.
But this time I believed my own voice.
And I made the jump.
I am in my final year of becoming a Mental Health Counselor. It has not been without its challenges and surprises and there have been many nights that I think to myself, “What in tarnations am I doing?”
But it is totally worth it. I just have to hold onto the most exhilarating ride living out my BIG.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average worker currently holds ten different jobs before age forty, and this number is projected to grow. Gone are the days of company men keeping one job for life.
As I reflect back, I realize that there are many things that go into Career and Lifestyle exploration. Patricia Anderson’s Career Diamond (shown here in the diagram) demonstrates how personality and different phases in our lives play a part in helping us to self-actualize our career goals.
There is so much more to choosing careers then the movies make you believe!
The one thing that could have helped more than any other is outside guidance. A mentor or a coach who could ask me tough questions about myself so I could figure out how to avoid obstacles.
Who would challenge motives and relationships that might take me away from my goals. Someone who could help me to process just who my authentic self is and to figure out what makes her the happiest.
Someone who could help me sort through decades of mixed messaging and who would listen to me free from their own ulterior motives. Someone who would not judge me on the fact that I knew where I wanted to go, I just didn’t know how to get there. And someone who would help me to investigate my path and help me to make the right steps at the right time.
Our career choices settle somewhere between our awareness of our talents and vocational options, and access to those options. Access helps everyone to decide the best direction we should go. Audacious Life Coaching is here to help you build your plan.
You can do it.
You can believe in your BIG. And you can live your life BIG.