Growing up in an Asian culture, everything revolved around my career. Having both of my parents graduate from nursing school, it was a no-brainer for them that I, too, was going to step into the medical field. But as I got older I realized that there was a huge scope of professions, and before I knew it I was researching and dreaming a world of possibilities.
It was a constant internal and external battle trying to figure out what I wanted to do as a career, while also appeasing my parents.
Despite my parents’ opinions, I took a risky move and focused on communication studies in college. I joined newspaper and yearbook and fell deeply in love with writing. But it was much deeper than just typing words onto a blank document. I loved meeting and interacting with new people almost every week (which was oddly satisfying to this introvert), hearing their stories, and sharing their hearts.
Several months after graduating, I landed what I had envisioned was my dream job: working for an arts and crafts magazine publishing company. I started as a basic administrative assistant and worked my way up to join the writing team. At 24 years old, I was a Managing Editor for several arts and crafts publications. I loved it! I got my feet wet into the arts and crafts industry, traveling to different conferences and workshops, and got paid to talk about it. But most of all, I made my parents proud - proud that I succeeded well in my career field.
But, after my initial high (and tucking several published magazines under my belt), I reached a lull. I hit a wall in all aspects of my job. I didn’t enjoy it. And worst of all, I lost my love for writing. Instead of having freedom to write whatever I wanted, I felt constrained to the standard arts and crafts format, and grew tired of doing the same thing every round. The more responsibilities I was given, the more pressure and criticism I received from the publisher of the company - and the more I spent my free time being consumed with work. There were moments throughout my day where I found myself staring at the computer screen, watching words blur into one another.
I lost my passion. My dream job had become a chore.
So much was weighing me down mentally and physically. I wanted to leave, but I heard my parents’ voices of disapproval inside my head. My husband and friends had been so supportive of me in this endeavor, now I worried I would let them down. Plus, I was exhausted from working long hours during the week. Migraines developed, and I became anxious due to the quality of my work. I didn’t want to disappoint anyone, but I also wanted to take care of myself before I lost it.
So, like we all do, I set aside my pride and eagerness to appease everyone, trusted my gut, and left. I was scared, uncertain, and most of all, guilty. Now, I’m 29 years old and am still trying to figure it out. And I’ve learned that’s okay.
Since leaving what others might call a “dream job”, I’ve certainly had my freak out moments, doubting myself and questioning if I made the right choice. Months after leaving, I slowly started writing on my blog again and taking offers for freelance writing. Slowly but surely, I was back on my writing game. Even if it’s not my career, it’s my passion. Stepping away allowed me to re-learn that.
I know that many of you are either struggling to land that dream job, or may be in the middle of one, realizing it isn’t at all how you pictured it to be. If you are, I’ve learned a few lessons from this season that I hope will help you through this time. Reflect on them, and remember them.
You are unique. We are not made to be like one another. Each of us were created with our own unique paths and passions. It’s time that we celebrate who we are - all of it. I identified myself so much with my job, that when I finally left I felt like I didn’t know who I was anymore. The world taught me that if I didn’t have a career set I was a failure. In reality, our career doesn’t define who we are as a person, it simply plays a part of it.
No one is perfect. No one has everything together, including those who’ve landed their dream jobs. In today’s world, we limit ourselves way too often. We limit our abilities, our time, and even our self-worth. Sometimes, we need to remember to trust our guts and go for it. Release all expectations of perfectionism, and take a risk. Even if you don’t succeed, it doesn’t mean you failed, because no experience is ever wasted. Instead, learn from the past and use it to fuel the next chapter in your life.
Be open to possibilities. Sometimes your dream job doesn’t turn out the way you planned. Many people go in and out of different careers throughout their lifetime. Sometimes the career path we’ve chosen doesn’t match our initial expectations, but that shouldn’t stop us from venturing into other opportunities.
Photos by: Eun Creative