Tuesday, October 23, 2007

What I Wanted To Be When I Grew Up

(To get it out there, I was never one of those girls who answered that question with "a mommy." It's not that I didn't want to be one; I just assumed that part. Every woman I knew growing up had kids and a career, so for me the question was what would I do for the latter.)

I was sitting at my desk today, drifting off (I have a minor serious daydreaming problem), and found myself imagining having dinner with someone Jo*sh Bec*kett (I'm working on honesty today), discussing childhood career aspirations. As I pondered my answer, I had the startling realization that my life has somehow veered completely off-track.

In contemplating this question before, I had always thought of myself as indecisive, as someone who had a lot of trouble deciding what it was she wanted to be when she grew up. As a small child, I really wanted to be a pediatrician. I love kids, and I love problem solving. Over time, though, I realized that I just didn't love science, and I definitely didn't love it enough to want to subject myself to medical school. I spent a number of years equally certain that I wanted to be a teacher, ideally a teacher of small children. This turned into a dream of one day working at and eventually owning/running a preschool. I attended a Montessori-style preschool myself and really loved it; I imagined myself running a similar place. In pursuit of this dream, I volunteered as a classroom aide in a local school and taught Sunday School at my church for the nursery school kids. I also ran the nursery at church for a while. I'm not sure what happened to this dream, but a couple of years after my parents' divorce (around the time I really started processing it), I stopped really giving a lot of thought to what I wanted to do with my life.

I honestly don't recall giving a single thought throughout the latter half of high school to what I wanted to do after college. I wrote a lot and I read a lot. Much of my reading and writing focused on issues facing adolescent girls, which makes sense since I was one. At my ten year high school reunion, a number of people commented on being shocked that I hadn't become a writer (including a few teachers), and I felt a burning shame at how little I had written in the ten years since graduation. But I never really imagined that I would write for a living. To be fair, I never really imagined that I would have any particular profession; in fact, I never really imagined my future at all (which seems odd now, given my current tendencies).

As for my lack of ability to imagine my own future, nothing really changed in college. I took a wide array of courses in a wide variety of departments -- my first year alone, I took courses in geology, anthropology, women's studies, government, literature, psychology, religion, and writing. For no reason that I can think of now, I decided to study psychology, and ended up focusing on developmental psychology. I periodically imagined myself going to graduate school in psych and become a child psychologist or a researcher in that area. But my thesis (on body image issues in children) took a lot out of me, so I decided to work for a few years first.

I looked for jobs in consulting because it was the easiest thing and I had become complacent lazy. I took the specific consulting job I did not because I had any passion for it or because it would advance some career aspiration but because it paid well and I liked the people who worked there. I ended up in law school largely because I was bored of my job and felt law school would provide a good foundation for doing something more meaningful, though I wasn't really sure what that something was. In law school, I took a number of family law/children's advocacy courses and, on a number of levels, thought that might be what I wanted to do. But I took a job at a big firm after graduation, mainly because it paid well and offered job security (my father, with whom I lived after my parents' divorce, lost his job my first year of college, so I developed some serious hang-ups about money). I chose my firm specifically because I liked the people and, more importantly, because it had family-friendly policies (i.e. 6 months maternity leave (3 months paid) and a flexible part-time policy), and I knew P and I wanted to have kids, and probably fairly soon. And, two years later, here I am, childless and unfulfilled.

We are in hiring season right now to bring in the next crop of new minions associates, and it has caused me to reflect a lot on how it is that I ended up here and why. And the reality is that I don't really know. Each time I have to write a review of an interviewed law student applying here, I find myself thinking about whether this (Big Law) is what they really should/want to be doing, which is more a reflection of me and where I am in my life than it necessarily is on any of these candidates. The reality is, everything I've ever really wanted to do revolves around kids. But nothing I do career-wise is kid related. And I need to start working on changing that. I think I'll talk to our pro bono coordinator about trying to get staffed to something kid-related (or trying to start something kid-related, as I have no idea if we even get kid-related pro bono projects). I also need to be thinking about doing some kind of volunteer work. Because my life has slowly come off-track, and I need to acknowledge and deal with that.

1 comment:

Katie said...

As a fellow "off the tracker", I hear you on this. And I think that volunteering is a great idea!