Chasing Dreams: Pursuing Your Passion, It Ain’t Easy by Heidi

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Chasing Dreams is a feature about pursuing a career path that you’re passionate about and going after your dream job.

One of the perks of being a book blogger is you get to meet fellow book lovers that you wouldn’t have ever been friends with if you never had a blog. I will always be thankful for how my blog has introduced me to so many wonderful friends. Heidi of Bunbury in the Stacks is one of those friends. We’ve gotten to know each other through blog posts, email exchanges, tweets and even a readalong. Heidi’s pretty smart and when I found out that she could relate to my Chasing Dreams feature, I knew she’d have clever things to say about the topic.

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Bunbury in the Stacks

You know those posts you see about how hard someone worked to get where they are, but it was all worth it because they made it? This isn’t one of those posts. This is one of those posts written by a woman who strategically avoids Facebook, largely because seeing all of her old friends land their dream jobs, find the perfect home, and happily find marriage and children a part of their lives makes her feel a terrible mixture of jealousy and self-defeat when she wants to be genuinely happy. The reality is, it’s much easier to be happy for others reaching their dreams if you’ve reached yours yourself.

A decade (or a little more) back when I was in high school I was certain I’d go to college, meet my true love, get married, and of course find a job I was passionate about and completely fulfilled me, one I would work at for 30+ years before retiring. I thought that’s how life worked. Now, a lot of you out there are shaking your heads at young, naive little Heidi, but the reality is, that’s how it worked for my parents (I thought). That’s how it worked for my older sister who was very much a role model for me (I thought). Heck, when you’re from a town as small as mine, it really seemed like that’s how it worked for everyone. Truth of the matter is – that’s not how life works, for me, or maybe anyone. The world isn’t as simple as we thought when we were 17.

Heidi

Heidi’s photo from her About Me page

There have been a number of “ah ha!” moments in my life where I suddenly had it all figured out. Followed by a number of subsequent moments when I collapsed in a heap of hopeless disappointment.

When I went to college, I was so sick of having everyone say “oh, you’ll be majoring in English”, that I stubbornly chose not to major in this area that I loved. I also stubbornly refused to consider switching schools when I was unhappy with where I was, or ever ask for the help I desperately needed. So I instead floundered about for several years before realizing (as a senior) that I wanted to work in the book world. Ah ha! Of course, it was too late to change my major – this was a private school, I literally couldn’t afford to extend my education.

After college, I moved back home to Wyoming, and eventually found a job working for a local museum and cultural center writing grants and publicity, and helping to coordinate events. I loved my work. I felt that I was part of a driving force behind an educational, recreational, and community-oriented organization; I was so proud of what I did. I knew that my interests definitely bent toward engaging others, and being highly active in every single program and project we pursued for the enrichment of the community. Ah ha! Of course, I didn’t factor in a serious long-term romantic relationship.

I ended up leaving this job and my beloved Wyoming to move to New York with my serious boyfriend. As happy as I was, the value of my relationship overrode a job where there was really no room for upward mobility. I thought moving to New York would be the perfect opportunity to marry my two previous ah ha moments by pursuing librarianship. Ah ha! Of course, I didn’t anticipate that the area I was moving to wouldn’t hire so much as a page (heck, won’t even take volunteers) without going through the lengthy and difficult Civil Service process.

It would take a certain amount of time as a resident before I could pursue the Civil Service route (then testing/waiting for results/waiting to be placed, etc.), and knowing that I wanted to pursue librarianship regardless, I decided to work toward obtaining my MLIS while finding a paraprofessional position to obtain experience. Ah ha! But then… I never found a paraprofessional position while I was in school, and now that I’ve graduated I’m in that awkward limbo of being both overqualified (employers don’t want to hire applicants with professional degrees for paraprofessional positions because it is seen as a stepping stone and they will likely have to replace that position in a few months) and under-qualified (I don’t have the active library experience of other MLIS applicants. Stuck.

Maybe this entire post seems as if I’m throwing one big pity party. In a way I am. I struggle with the idea that I may never find a job I’m passionate about every day. I have so much drive that just needs to be tapped. I know that I’m good at what I do. I’ve excelled at every job I’ve ever had, and I know when someone eventually gives me that chance they won’t regret it. But waking up every day and remaining hopeful and persistent in your pursuit of dreams–that’s tough work. I certainly don’t succeed at it every day, but I also know I’m not alone.

At the moment, I work two part-time jobs that are adjacent to things I love – knitting and books. Neither is a career, but both are helping me to broaden my mind-set and realize that there are more opportunities out there for me than I’d initially anticipated. I’m trying to make what experience I have work to get me to where I want to be. There are other venues for education, engagement, and creativity that I would love to be a part of – fields I could be passionate about that I never anticipated having access to. Sure, I lost all of my long-term social connections when I moved to New York, but I also entered an environment that holds so many more opportunities than I ever could have imagined back home.

The reality is, chasing dreams sucks. It’s brutally hard, full of emotional pitfalls and double-edged swords. Sometimes you’re going to have to perform triage on your life and determine what’s the highest priority. For me, that was my relationship. And while pursuing that has left me in a veritable drought career-wise, I don’t regret that decision for one minute. Is my life fulfilled by only that relationship? Unfortunately, no. I still have my heart set on a career as well. What I always assumed would be the easy part has been the most difficult aspect of my life so far. But I hope that someday I’ll be that person who has it all, the one who makes others scowl on Facebook. Until then, I’ll just keep plugging along for that next ah ha moment.

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Thank you, Heidi, for that insightful guest post. I’m sure I’m not the only one who will be able to relate to what you said. When I was younger, I thought I’d have figured things out by now. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. I do agree that chasing dreams and pursuing your passion is tough (if it were easy then we’d have all done it by now) but I remain hopeful for the future – for myself, for Heidi and for everyone else who is in the same boat.

Chasing Dreams: The Passion of Writing by Francisco Stork

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Chasing Dreams is a feature about pursuing a career path that you’re passionate about and going after your dream job.

To those who missed the introduction post for this new blog feature called Chasing Dreams, click here to check it out. For the first ever guest post for Chasing Dreams, I asked my good friend Francisco Stork to write about his own experience. I’ve gotten to know Francisco through email exchanges and during one of our conversations, we talked about how he writes on the side and has a day job as a lawyer. I was immediately curious about this set-up and I asked him what’s it like for him. For his guest post, I sent him this question:

How did you discover that writing was your passion and how did you actively pursue that career path?

Without further ado, please welcome Francisco Stork!

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Francisco Stork

Francisco’s photo from his website

I’ve been thinking about your question for a while now. I think the word “passion” threw me off. Is writing my passion? These days we tend to lift the word “passion” from the context of romantic love where it often means a kind of absorbing, exploding obsession, and apply it to other aspects of life. I’ve heard the word used with respect to golf, the stock market and rock climbing. But writing doesn’t quite feel like this kind of passion to me. There is another meaning to the word “passion” that is not much in use these days: suffering. Writing often resembles that kind of passion.

More than a passion, I like to think of my writing as a vocation – something that I am called to do. Whether you believe in a “caller” who is doing the calling or not, a vocation is, as one author said, the place where the gladness in your heart meets the world’s great need. Vocation happens when you discover your talent, something you are good at, and you find a way to make the world a little better place through the use of the talent.

I’m not exactly sure when I got the idea that I wanted to be a writer. Maybe it was when I was eight years old after I finished reading my first book and said I was going to write one too and my father gave me a typewriter. But there’s a difference between wanting to be a writer and wanting to write. I didn’t want to write until I was fifteen years old and I started keeping a daily journal. It was around that time that I first suffered an episode of depression and writing was the one thing that helped. I put everything in these journals: poems, thoughts, stories, rants of love and despair. I didn’t think too much about what or how I was writing. I simply wrote and the writing became a habit, the training ground that allowed me to write and publish a novel thirty or so years later.

I went to college and then to graduate school hoping to be a writer. But graduate school wanted scholars who wrote about an obscure area of literature that no one knew anything about, and that was not the kind of writing I wanted to do. So I went to law school thinking that I could practice law and write on the side. But the legal jobs I worked in were so demanding and time-consuming there was no time to write or even read books that were not legal books.

The Way of the JaguarI was about forty-five years old when I discovered that ignoring the call to be who you are meant to be will eventually lead to very devastating and painful personal results. If you don’t exercise a talent given to you, the energy behind that talent will explode in addictions or depression or in physical illness or in countless other painful ways. So, I took it upon myself to turn my daily habit of journal writing into the writing of a novel. I woke up at 4:00 A.M. and wrote for two hours before going to my legal job. After a year or so I had a draft that I sent out and after five years later after many rejections and many revisions later I found someone willing to publish it.

I am sixty now and my sixth novel will be published next year. I’ve written all my novels while working as a lawyer for a state agency that builds homes for low-income persons. I was fortunate enough to find a legal job that is less demanding and less stressful than those early jobs I took right out of law school. But it is still hard to find enough mental and emotional energy to do both the legal work and the creative work. I find a way to do it by realizing that it is a slow process that requires patience and persistence and lots of kindness to myself. I write because I’m somewhat good at it and the world needs us to do the things we’re good at.

But I don’t want to leave you with the impression that writing does not share any of the enthusiasm and fun that is associated with passion. There’s a joy that I find in writing that is deep and meaningful, a joy that, strange as this may sound, doesn’t always feel good, but is always worth having. If you ever find yourself doing the right thing, no matter how hard it is, you’ll know the joy I’m talking about.

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“The place where the gladness in your heart meets the world’s great need” is such a nice lovely way of describing vocation. Thank you, Francisco, for that beautiful post. It is truly inspiring how you managed to find your vocation. I would love to discover mine as well because it would be good to find fulfillment in doing something that I feel like the world needs me to do.

New Feature: Chasing Dreams

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I feel like I’m at that stage of my life where I’m trying to figure out where I should be headed, career-wise. I’ve mostly been just going with the flow when it came to my studies right up to my current job. I was a scholar in a science high school and in exchange for free tuition for four years, I had to choose a science or technology major in college. I picked Electronics and Communications Engineering because it sounded interesting – to be honest, I wasn’t even really sure what it was about. Even during my early years in college, I knew that my major wasn’t a good fit for me. I wasn’t passionate about what we were studying and I didn’t see myself working as an engineer for the rest of my life. For the most part, I just wanted to get a degree that would look credible enough to get me a decent job. I didn’t shift out because I had no idea where I would go. Psychology, humanities, history, English literature, philosophy – so many majors seemed interesting but I didn’t feel compelled to take up any of those courses. So I stayed and finished my degree, took the board exam for a license than I never used. I’ve never practiced in that field.

In terms of work experience, I’ve been with three companies so far. I’ve been an analyst ever since I started working. It is such a generic title because I’ve had different tasks and responsibilities in the three jobs that I’ve taken up. I’m thankful because I’ve gotten all those three jobs through friends or former colleagues. Even before going into the roles, I had an idea of what would be involved so I wasn’t clueless during interviews or when I first started. Out of all three, I like my current one the most. I feel like it’s a good fit for my personality. I would probably like it a lot more if I could have my current job and still be based in Manila but sadly, that’s not possible. Although I do have to say that working in Singapore is a great experience in terms of personal growth. I’m exposed to different industries in my current job and while I’m here, it’s my goal to find a career path that I can get truly excited about. It’s even possible that I might end up loving this job, I feel like it’s too early to tell at this point. I have to wait and see where things will lead – I’m planning to stay for at least two years anyway. I apologize if my descriptions seem a little vague, I’m not comfortable giving details about my profession since it’s not related to reading or blogging anyway. My colleagues know that I love to read and that I have a blog but I don’t think they understand the extent of my involvement in the blogosphere.

Do I feel like I got derailed since high school? Would I have taken up a course that isn’t technology-related in college if I wasn’t required to do so? Who knows! At this stage, there’s no point in looking back and having regrets. I’d rather look ahead and explore options. As you all know, I’m passionate about books and reading. It would be amazing if I could find a book-related job that I’m qualified for and something that I can do long-term. But like I’ve said previously, I’m not even sure if that path is something that I want to take. Reading is my hobby and something I love to do, would I get tired of it if I had to work with books? That’s one question that I need to know the answer to before I actively pursue this path. I also know that it’s not just about doing a job you love, because fulfillment is tied to knowing that you’re helping other people because of what you’re doing. I think corporate jobs become frustrating because you don’t see yourself helping others. That’s another thing that I’m interested in thinking about – passion tied with purpose. This is where my new blog feature comes in. I want to put up posts focusing on this topic – going after your dream job, pursuing a career that you’re passionate about and being able to help other people while you’re at it. I thought it would be a good idea to ask fellow book lovers, bloggers and even authors to share their thoughts on how they discovered a job that they love. I think it would be inspiring to hear other people’s stories.

Is this something that you could relate to? Are you also interested in finding out the right job for you, doing something that you love while helping other people? Have you decided if you’ll pursue something that’s book-related or are you quite happy to keep reading and blogging separate from your professional life? Let me know what you guys think.