I once sat in my grandfather’s office, sinking into the tanned-leather cushion, my naked feet dangling inches above crème-and-sugar carpeting. My blonde hair up in a ponytail resembling a whale spout, I used my fingers to trace the teal paisley pattern in the wallpaper while my grandfather hummed to Andrea Bocelli.
My grandfather was an incredibly intelligent geologist, a former Dickinson University professor, and I revered him. Even as a four-year-old I wanted to impress him so when he asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I sat up straight, bared my snaggle-toothed smile and declared, “I’m going to be an orange jelly bean.”
My grandfather thought that was a great idea and that I would be the best jelly bean in the bag. He picked me up and we went to get some ice cream.
Over the next ten years, my goals shifted into more composed professions: Pokémon trainer, paleontologist, egyptologist, until I decided upon being a large marine mammal veterinarian.
I attended a magnet school in Las Vegas which was a microcosm of hyper-stressed and overly competitive teenagers put into a rigorous set of courses that mimicked a regimented college career. I studied veterinary medicine and was the top student in my field.
At an ambitious 17, I got a job at a local veterinary hospital and my life quickly spun a dizzying 180 degrees.
Panicking, I found that this was not the career for me. I couldn’t handle the sadness and potentially life-ending decisions that veterinarians had to make. I asked the head doctor how he dealt with daily euthanasia and seeing the cruelty that people inflicted upon animals. He looked me in the eyes and said, “you get used to it.”
I turned in my scrubs and left a solid nine years of my life behind, knowing I wouldn’t miss the surgical steel tables and ever-present smell of peroxide.
Imagine the feeling you get when you read the last page of your favorite novel and the plot is yet to be resolved. Is there going to be another novel? Did I miss something? What am I going to do with myself now?
That’s how it feels to have your life plans uprooted.
With a little optimism, I realized that it was now time to explore my other passions that had been pushed aside to accommodate seven science classes and a full time hospital job.
This was actually pretty exciting. I decided I was going to be part photojournalist, part documentarian, specializing in travel and animal rights.
This feeling was completely freeing until my father’s words attempted to shake me, “you’re not going to make any money.” I realized I didn’t care.
The Simple Dollar, an online financial counseling and reporting website, published an article on the worst college majors due to their poor return on investments and earning power.
Communications, my major, was number one on the list, followed by psychology, theater arts, fashion design and sociology among five others.
Changing my major to one that has a better likelihood of making me rich has never crossed my mind. I know what it is like to be miserable at a job that would have made me more money but the consequence would have been me leaving the animal hospital everyday in tears.
There are a plethora of reasons to pursue a dream major, job or a passion in the form of work and I can say from personal experience that the process of becoming qualified to hold this job is rewarding in and of itself.
Any “unrealistic” major can be made into a “practical” one. Specialization in any field can give you an edge. Majoring in fashion but also love history? Major in both fields or choose one as minor. There is never a shortage of need for costume designers specializing in period clothing. Finding your niche will make you more competitive in the workforce.
There is an innate feeling of mediocrity that accompanies knowing that you are settling for something less than you want or deserve, even if it makes you a little more money. A mediocre life has never truly satisfied anyone.
No one should be working just to retire. The 20 to 30 years that are spent in the workforce should not be ones that are mundane fillers until it is time to buy a small condo in southern Florida and invite the grandkids over. There should be excitement every time you wake up for work, even though not every day will be perfect or easy.
Pursing your dream job gives you purpose. You become your own inspiration when you feel like you’ve defied the odds and have done what you always dreamed of doing.
Your passion will translate into monetary gain. When you are fiercely ambitious about your profession, people will notice, including hiring managers and bosses.
People are drawn to individuals who know what they want. Own your degree in dairy sciences. People will admire your passion and be impressed that you know how to make cheese.
You will set an example and inspire others. Sometimes people need a push to make changes in their lives and nothing works better than a success story to put those changes into motion.
Regret is one of the worst feelings one can foster. This feeling can reverberate throughout all other aspects of your life and leave you wishing for a time machine.
Live your ideal life. Things are almost never out of reach for those who recognize their passions and pursue them. Stories never end with characters doing anything other than what the author intended, so be your own character and write a life you will enjoy living. Make your grandfather and yourself proud. Find and become your own orange jelly bean.