By my sophomore year in high school, I had it all figured out. I knew what I wanted to do in this world.
I wanted to be an English teacher. It made sense. My family was full of teachers, and since I was able to understand what words meant, I loved them. My parents always stuck by the phrase “it takes a village” and in my case, my village was composed of teachers. Ones who challenged me, championed me, ridiculed me and were there for me when life got difficult. It was a way to combine what I loved with my urge to give back what was graciously handed to me.
But then my aspirations shifted.
When I was seventeen, I moved from Connecticut to Chicago to go to DePaul University. I didn’t know a soul within a twelve hour radius of the city, but I was dead set on Chicago. I came there to make my dream come true – I wanted to be a comedian. As we unpacked my bags and stared out my window to the impeccable view of Chicago’s skyline that my Lincoln Park dorm offered, I got teary eyed. Everything in my life lined up to this moment. The television shows that I watched growing up, my years in theater, the divine intervention that happened which led to me visiting the set of SNL, my Second City camps, the fact that Elizabeth Perkins told me about DePaul on the same exact day that DePaul sent a letter to my house. It was destiny, and I was here. I was going to be a comedian.
But then my dreams changed.
As I met new friends, joined a sorority and changed my major as often as I changed my sheets (about twice a year), I soon forgot about comedy. It quickly became “that thing that got me here – isn’t it silly that I ever wanted that?!” as I fulfilled all the stereotypes, magic and blissful fun that came with being a college student.
I was a secondary education major for about three days until my academic advisor told me all about the tests, dates and classes that were pre-planned over the next four years, up until the date of my graduation. I ran from that office as fast as possible with my mom by my side supporting my decision to change my major before my first class even started and sympathizing with the fact that I didn’t want my life planned out quite yet. From there, I became a journalism major. I loved to write, so it made sense… until my first journalism class where I learned within a few minutes that journalism and creative writing are two completely different beasts. I spent the rest of the term learning about libel, writing obituaries, and counting the days until I could change my major again. I had no idea what I wanted to do. I decided to minor in political science just in case I wanted to try “that comedy thing” again. I thought it’d be smart to keep up with the news and the only way I could do that was to force myself to through school. I also settled on majoring in PR/Advertising after a conversation with my mom where I told her that I wanted “to do what LC from The Hills does”. During my sophomore year, I grew so fascinated with one of my professors, Dr. Khalil Marrar, that I decided to move my political science minor up to a major so I could reap the benefits of taking so many of his classes. I decided to be a lawyer – I loved debating, had a disposable metal database of supreme court decisions, and it seemed like a cool thing to do. With my life figured out, I started to study for the LSATS.
Except I never took them, because I changed my mind.
During my junior year of college, I got an internship with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. It was a dream internship – connection my love of kids (I had been a camp counselor for five years, after all…) with a cause that I feel strongly about. It also happened to be my sorority’s philanthropy. It was a dream internship and I loved every second of it. I got to help plan a major gala in Chicago, meet tremendous children and learned that I was a really good event planner. From there, I did event planning for the YMCA, our dance marathon and got heavily involved in non-profit work. By my senior year in college, I had my dream job all planned out. I wanted to be an event planner for a non-profit that I cared about.
After graduation, I got that dream job. I became an event planner at a non-profit that I had very close personal ties to. I did it! I was one of the few that graduated in a crappy economy but still managed to get my dream job. My job was “cool” (as determined by the standards set by my friends), I got to stay in Chicago and I was very proud of myself. I was able to help plan very cool events in a major city. What more could I want? I was also really good at my job. There wasn’t a moment where I doubted my ability to thrive in the event planning world. Perfect, right?
Except it wasn’t. After the allure wore off, I hated my job. It was stressful, took up my life and left me exhausted at the end of the day. As student loans piled on, the non-profit paycheck left with with only a few bucks to my name. I learned that a can of black beans and a bag of brown rice only cost $2.30 and lasted about four days, and I relied on leftover granola bars from our athletic events for breakfast. My boss was incredibly mean to me – yelling at me for no apparent reason. I rejoined, and was thriving in, the comedy world – which only made me realize how miserable I was in my daily life. I came home sobbing to my roommates on multiple occasions, and had many conversations with my family about how awful my boss really got. As I got more and more into the comedy scene, it became impossible to balance my job with my comedy career. I was miserable.
So I took a leap. I left my “dream job” that used to warrant reactions like – “No way! That’s such a cool job!” for a job where most people’s first response is, “that seems really boring.” And it is. Blissfully boring, which means I can turn off my creative mind during the day and fully utilize it at night, when it matters. I left a “cool” job for one that treats me well, pays me fairly, and shoves me out of the door after a 40-hour work week.
Here’s the thing about dreams and aspirations: they change. Let them. Follow what feels right – our instincts are usually correct. Right now, I’m enjoying the bliss of thriving in the comedy world, and hope that I can live the rest of my life that way. It makes sense. But at the same time, I might find that I no longer want that, which is okay too.
When my dream job turned into a nightmare, I could have done one of two things. Either sulk in the loss and remain terrified of my dreams, fearful that they may not pan out, or think, “Well… that was the worst thing that could have happened, and it wasn’t that bad.”
Jim Carrey once said, “I hope everybody could get rich and famous and will have everything they ever dreamed of, so they will know that it’s not the answer.” and I couldn’t agree more.
What’s the answer?
I’m still figuring it out. Until then, I’ll continue to follow what I love and what scares me just enough to get out of bed in the morning.