Your dream matters: Navigating a career change during a quarter-life crisis
October 09, 2015 at 2:00 am
“Trust in your ability to expand.” –Kerry Washington
The quarter-life crisis is rough. For the first time we have to pay taxes, listen to parents yap about procuring our own medical insurance and make enough money to avoid student loan defaults. I’m already counting down the days to retirement. But between now and then, I hope to find my professional purpose. I mean, that’s what college was about right? I invested in the expensive piece of paper that says I’m qualified and competent enough to change the world. I paid my dues, went to class and pulled all-nighters to neatly bridge the gap between who I am now and the doctor I aspired to be.
For the past quarter century, I’ve meticulously prepared myself for the arduous journey ahead. My education consisted of STEM classes, UIL competitions, AP credits, pre-medical prerequisites and MCAT preparation. My resume is filled with experiences that include shadowing and interning in various hospital settings. I did everything I could to get a head start on my career path — until I changed my mind.
Now I feel like I should be cast on True Life: I Don’t Know If I Want to be a Doctor Anymore.
Part of my crisis is that I’m now an eager, overeducated, underpaid millennial trying to navigate a career change. I’m what some would refer to as tabula rasa, or a blank slate. I have no prior knowledge base or professional point of reference to rely on when it comes to exploring the creative sector or really anything other than the medical field.
I’ve reached a crossroad marked by two signs. One sign points to the right, leading toward practicality, financial security and plenty of on-call late nights in hospitals. The other points to the left, toward music, editorials, fashion, creation and purpose.
This is the part where I insert a resourceful statistic that legitimizes the burgeoning amount of millennials making their dreams synonymous with their reality. Forget the data. I see it every day and everywhere. I watch Lupita Nyong’o insist that “[my] dreams are valid” in her Best Supporting Actress Emmy acceptance speech. Beyoncé has convinced me that I’m “***Flawless,” so why not “wake up like this” and live accordingly? These are two incredibly famous black women living their dreams. If I started naming the everyday phenomenal black women that are out here doing the same, it’d be an endless list: Chanelle Graham, Hannah Bronfman, Mamé Adjei… The bottom line is that all of these women motivate me to launch myself into any and every professional capacity that I please.
That starts with acknowledging your desires. You’re lucky if you have your dream job by 25, but for those of us who don’t, dabble in the things that make you happy. Write an article for your local newspaper, take an art class or buy a Nikon camera. You never know who will be inspired by your prose, your paintings or your photography. Business school, schmizness schmool; not everyone needs another “bagillion dollar education” to validate her entrepreneurial ventures. Draft a business plan, find investors, harvest your market and execute. Forget the lack of Facebook likes on your poetry post and the next-to-nothing compensation you get for your internship. Do it anyway, learn something new and get better. Opportunity knocks in the most unlikely of places at the moment you least expect.
Full disclosure: I haven’t quit my job nor have I completely abandoned plan A. It’s what got me here/what pays those wretched student-loan bills. But I have made a plan B and allotted time for the things that bring me utter joy. I’ve slowly begun cultivating the confidence needed to smear some paint on that tabula rasa. I’m dipping my toe into the creative lagoon and massaging my other passions. I’m putting on my big girl pants, filling up that glass of wine and taking Kerry (Olivia) Washington (Pope)’s advice. It’s difficult, but I’m trying, expanding and embracing the change.
True life: I’m an eager, overeducated, underpaid millennial and I might perhaps maybe someday possibly want to be a ‘Huffington Post Black Voices-meets-Vogue-esque’ Editor-in-Chief.
Hey, a girl can dream, right?