Do you ever wonder what you should have been?

I believe our culture or at least our parents teach us that we could all be great at something, and as a mere teenager we were supposed to know what that was. At a time when all we really care about is fitting in and learning about sex, we are supposed to do a in-depth analysis of our innate abilities and determine our path to greatness. That’s just crazy! All I remember about high school was that I loved to read, write and ice skate…

I have always envied those who just seemed to know what they needed to be at an early age. You know, those totally career-oriented nerds who took off on their career path at age twelve and succeeded in their early twenties. How did they do that? Probably mostly from heavy parental support and pressure!

Mike and I had a funny conversation the other day about what unique combination of talents and skills came along with our personalities. You know, the career where we could have made some real contributions.

Well, first of all, how many of us do make any real contributions to human history? Very, very few. And second, there is a reality to all of this dreaming. We do need to take into account where the jobs are when we need them.

Boomer World: “Because our generation was such an unusually large cohort, our very existence greatly increased competition for everything, but especially jobs. This was most true for those born after 1954.” from my book, Find Your Reason To Be Here: The Search for Meaning in Midlife.

Thailand, 1974

I became so frustrated with my lack of career potential after graduating from college with a B.A. in East Asian Studies, I next focused like a laser on a career in academic librarianship for my next degree, and it worked. I immediately got my first professional position at the University of Utah and then told myself that I would be a librarian until I figured out what I really wanted to be. In other words, reality rarely matches your ideal image of career development. It was only much later that I became a writer.

My alternate title…

Mike took a more scientific route. After leaving the Navy in his twenties and trying out a few different jobs, he took an “Inventory of Aptitudes and Knowledge” test to see where his innate talents lay. He found his best areas were electronics and acoustical engineering, so off he went on that career path. I just kept being a librarian to support my private interests and love of international travel. I was naturally drawn to the study of human behavior and it still fascinates me.

Sometimes I wonder how many boomers question the way their lives turned out. I find it’s best to not be too hard on yourself and the choices you made so many years ago. You need to give yourself a break, because you did the best you could with the decisions before you!

4 thoughts on “Do you ever wonder what you should have been?

  1. I always wanted to be a veterinarian like my Dad. But my school guidance counselor told me to give up on that because I didn’t have the brains for it. (And, sadder still, I believed him!!!) So I turned to what I’d always loved, writing. And that was the big hit for me! (Interestingly, that same counselor told my little brother the same thing when he expressed an interest in engineering. But he was made of sterner stuff than me and, not only did he succeed, he finished a doctorate and is now teaching at the University of New Mexico!)

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  2. Diane:
    First of all, that counselor should have lost his/her job!!! What a sad but too common story about women and careers! I always wanted to be a writer, but did not have enough confidence in myself until my midlife crisis in my late 40s, only after I lost my job as a librarian.
    One of my first interests was veterinary medicine. I actually volunteered at a vet’s office in 9th grade, but the sight of blood did me in. I have always loved animals, but I couldn’t cut them open to help them.

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  3. I wanted to be a librarian (specifically, a bookmobile librarian) when I grew up. I never did become a librarian, but I did volunteer at my son’s elementary school during a period of being between jobs. That’s the closest I ever got to this dream career. I don’t regret what I did end up (and am still doing, even after official retirement) doing. Alana ramblinwitham

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