When I grow up

Yesterday on the telephone, my pastor asked me when was I going to go to school. The unexpected question startled me and I stammered out an incoherent response, so she continued by asking me if I wanted to work where I’m employed for the rest of my life. The rest of the conversation revealed that this question was really a thinly-veiled compliment, and I must admit that it has me thinking about things.

I was the first person from my immediate family to graduate from high school. I don’t think any of my grandparents had either, so it felt like quite an accomplishment to receive that diploma and I remember beaming with pride as they all watched from the audience.

I had one English/History teacher in high school that would urge me to go to college, reminding me that my grades were good enough to get at least a partial scholarship. College really wasn’t on the agenda, as neither of my parents had even discussed that option with me. So, a couple of days after graduating, I became a full-time employee at the place I still work 15 years later.

My employment actually began at the age of thirteen, when I went to work during the summer months with my father. I would sweep or do other janitorial type jobs for a few hours and then basically sit and wait for the end of the work day to grant my freedom. It was a good learning experience for me, because it taught discipline and allowed me to have some money of my own.

That working arrangement continued until I was in high school and old enough to drive. I worked an hour or two after school until I was a senior and was allowed to co-op. I would attend the classes required to graduate and then leave to finish out the day at work.

I have been allowed great freedom to grow at my company, going from performing manual labor all day to being able to have a desk job that entails quite a bit of computer skill. Much of the initial computer knowledge was gleaned from a coworker, but I have managed to learn quite a bit on my own.

So, technically, this year marks twenty years of employment at the same company and I’m only thirty-three. I doubt many people can claim that and I consider it somewhat of an achievement, but there are regrets.

I really wish that I had went straight to college after high school and chosen a career that is more inline with my interests. Now I’m at the point that I could only attend night classes and it would take much longer to complete a degree.

I also feel that I have missed out on many different experiences in life because I’ve been with the same business for so long. What incredible friendships and career opportunities have passed me by as I remained in my comfort zone, scared of taking risks by trying something new?

It’s kind of a shame to be my age and still not know what I want to be when I “grow up”, but unfortunately I have no idea. Knowing what I enjoy is one thing, but turning those interests into a profitable career is another thing entirely.

Maybe one of these days I’ll figure it out.

Author: Brian

Blogger. Bookworm. Michael Jackson fanatic. Lives in Kentucky with partner of 12 years and three fabulous felines.

9 thoughts on “When I grow up”

  1. Brian,

    Congrats on 20 years–that is quite an achievement and you should be proud!

    Just a word of advice, if I may, from someone who is just a little older… don’t let the regrets paralyze you and keep you where you are.

    If you want to go to school, get a degree, find (or create) a more fulfilling job–you can do it!

    Night classes are an option, or you could take on-line courses from just about any university in the country. You could get an Associates degree in just a few months which could help land a job more in line with your interests.

    Once you’ve got a job in your career of choice you could continue to turn that associates degree into a bachelors degree… or even a Masters!

    While it’s true you may have missed out on some potential friendships and career options there are still great possibilities. Just explore your options. Contact someone who has a job that involves the kinds of things you’re interested in and see what some options are.

    It you’re unclear of the destination then just focus on the next step.

    Your pastor sounds like a great encourager and adviser; perhaps she has some ideas of what the “next step” could look like.

    You’re never too old. Grandma Moses didn’t start painting until she was in her 80s, or something like that. Some of the great musicians were ancient when the wrote their most renown pieces.

    You can do it. Keep dreaming. Don’t be afraid to go for it!


  2. I think about it often too, as I have been at my present job for 10 years now, and am bored with it. I know you can do it, you did exceptionally well in the college courses you took before.

  3. I’m a big believer in not needing to know the exact destination but, with God’s help, understanding the general direction. My whole adult life has been lived that way; I’ve taken a step, asked God to lead me, taken another step, asked for more guidance, stepped, asked, stepped, asked. If I’d known 15 years ago that I’d be where I am now, I’d never have had the courage or willingness. But bit by bit, step by step, God has led me and I am profoundly grateful.

    All this to say that you don’t need to see the entire map, Brian. Just enough to start out. It’s in God’s best interests to help you along the way; remember, it’s God who gave you so many marvelous gifts and who is eager to have those gifts come to life even more fully than they already have.

    One last thought: There’s something to be said for timing. I remember someone pushing me hard to quit my job and take a wild leap. The idea was right and eventually I did. But I needed to wait until the right moment; God made that clearer than clear and when my time finally came, I could see the many ways God had been getting all manner of things put together so that I could land gracefully.


  4. I agree with all the comments above, especially Jim’s encouraging and Karen’s reassuring words, which I have followed in my own peculiar way that nobody on Earth could have mapped out for me. As long as you are decisive, while keeping as many good opportunities open ahead of you, and are able to let go of mistakes in the past, without burning bridges behind you, you are doing better than most.

    As far as qualifications are concerned, it helps if they are related to what you want to do … However, when recruiting staff, I can tell you I would prefer to hire someone like you who is articulate, intelligent, flexible, eager to learn, sincere and reliable, than an arrogant person who has loads of qualifications on paper but is a dead loss in actually making a valuable contribution to the world and has no common sense to speak of. (There are, unfortunately, too many of the latter type in the world who rise to superior levels of incompetence.)

    So, all I would say is, don’t think about your next step as ‘growing up’ — I don’t intend to! Obviously, you need to take responsibility for your own life, and for others’, but it is also good to be able to see the world as clearly as a child does, and enjoy spontaneous moments when they happen out-of-the-blue. Ambition drives some people to success, but it can also drive all the joy from their lives: planning life too far in advance means they cannot live in the moment, because they are always chasing a future, or are disappointed because their plans did not work out the way they had hoped.

    Just think of growing to use your natural talents, and developing in ways you have not known before, a little more effectively. No regrets. You may surprise yourself.

  5. No shame in waiting for college. I went straight through and look what happened? I’m basically starting from scratch now because I didn’t know what I wanted then. Different strokes for different folks–if you like your job, why change? I guess I say that because it seems to hard to find a job where people treat you well these days…it’s not that I’m opposed to change (hell no) but…on the other hand, if it’s time to go to school, you can do that to. I know people in nursing school full time with four kids, full time jobs, spouses, etc. If they can do it, anyone can! MEANING YOU, TOO!

    Now, what do you want to be when you grow up? Why don’t you post something about your wildest dreams? :)

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