A couple of weeks ago in my Decade in Review post, Jen asked me to tell the story about how I decided on my chosen career (public relations). It’s not terribly exciting, but I know most people struggle with career choices, especially when our backs are pressed against deadlines and life-altering decisions such as picking a college and choosing a major. These are questions that will essentially change one’s life forever. How is any 18 year old supposed to know the right answers? Until then, the biggest decisions we’ve had to make are what clothes to wear to school, what to eat for lunch, and who to take to the prom.
Transitioning from high school to college life isn’t easy. Especially when you’re someone like me who can’t even decide what to have for dinner. When I graduated high school, I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I had an idea – well-paying desk job, office atmosphere, tall building in a city – but that was about it. No stay-at-home wife/mom for me, and certainly no blue-collar jobs either. So I picked a school based on things like cost (in state), location (far from home), class sizes (small), and how many of my fellow high school classmates would be there (the fewer the better).
When I started college, I felt pressured to pick a major. “You can always change it later,” the counselor told me. I don’t remember talking much about this decision with anyone, and so I just checked the “Political Science” box. I knew a lot of future lawyers started out that way and it sounded impressive. That was my reasoning. I was immediately put into a History class for people with this major. The professor had a reputation for being one of the most difficult and the class itself had a reputation for being the hardest of anyone’s college career. A week later, I dropped the course and also my major. The syllabus alone was enough to send me running.
I spent the rest of that year making bad choices, or at least just feeling like I did. As someone who had always made smart decisions before, freshman year of college was a rude awakening that real life choices aren’t always so black and white when it comes to right and wrong. By the end of the school year I felt lost. I was no closer to deciding what I wanted to do with my life than I was the first time I walked through the door of my dorm room. But a final family vacation and a chance meeting in Washington D.C. changed all that…
My parents don’t take a lot of vacations. Or at least they didn’t when I lived at home. My friends would all go to California or Florida while I was stuck riding in the car to places like Branson, MO and Pigeon Forge, TN. That summer after my first year in college, my parents surprised me by saying they wanted to take me on a real vacation, probably our last one as a family. The caveat: we were driving. No flying. I wanted to go to NYC more than anything. They had already been there and hated it, so they did not. We compromised on Washington D.C. and Philadelphia. My step-dad is a huge history buff so even though it was a vacation, he was going to make it as educational as possible.
I don’t remember what day it was or exactly what historical thing we were looking at at the time, but I do remember us wandering into a Burger King. The place was packed. Something was going on at the MCI Center (or that’s what it was called at the time. AKA the place that holds concerts). So my mom, the always curious and will-talk-to-anyone kind of person that she is, started chatting up these two young ladies while I stood in line to wait on our order. Next thing I know, we’re being offered 7th row Bon Jovi tickets for that night’s show. For free! My mom almost turned them down even though she’s a fan, since they only had two tickets and there were three of us, but my step-dad was more than happy to spend a few extra hours roaming the city and reading every historial-looking plaque or marker he could find. So we took the tickets and spent the next 30 minutes or so chatting with these two young ladies over our burgers and fries.
One of the girls had beautiful long dark hair and big brown eyes, and was sporting a jean jacket. Her name was Lauren. She looked to be about 27. She gave me her card which said “media and artist relations manager” and had the record label’s logo on it. I didn’t really know what her job entailed but I knew she had the hook-up with awesome tickets to awesome bands. Which is why she gave those tickets to us – because she had to WORK, backstage, with the band! In my eyes, she had the coolest job in the world. I wanted to BE her. But our meeting was cut short as she left with her friend to go do some media wrangling. I had so much more I wanted to ask her.
A couple days later my parents surprised me by taking me to NYC for a day after all. I was ecstatic. Before we even crossed over into Manhattan, just looking at the city and picking out the World Trade Center and Empire State Building, I fell in love. If you can imagine a wide-eyed 19 year old girl with her nose smushed up against the glass, jaw open, gawking at the biggest skyline she’d ever seen…that would’ve been me. I was in awe. I’ll skip over all the sight-seeing and sheer amazement I felt as we toured the city. (side note: I hailed my own cab for the first time and went to see Les Miserables – BY MYSELF. It was the most adult thing I had ever done at that point in my life. And on the way out, as I went to hail another cab, a homeless looking dude bumped into me, copped a feel on my chest and kept speed-walking past me. It took me a moment to realize I’d been violated. But hey, it’s New York. It just made the whole experience that much more “authentic.”)
On the day that we were leaving, my parents took me by the record label where Lauren worked so I could give her a thank you card and flowers in person and offer to buy her breakfast. I walked into the enormous, heavily-secured building and asked to see her. Several minutes later she came down, flattered to receive my thanks, and although she was in a hurry, agreed to a quick breakfast. She took me to the bagel shop in her building and bought me a bagel (despite my efforts to pay) and I asked her a few more questions about her job. Basically I just wanted to know what she did in college to get to where she was now. She told me she had majored in communications and journalism, did a couple of internships, and here she was. Just then, it was as if the proverbial lightbulb above my head had just lit up. I had a path laid before me now, I just needed to start walking.
Later that fall when I returned to school, I immediately declared my major: Communications with an emphasis in Journalism. And I’ve never looked back. Oh sure, I’ve learned some things along the way – like as much as I love NYC, I could never live there; and working for a record label isn’t as glamorous as it seems. I know that now, after living in NYC and interning at a record label. I don’t work at a record label, as I originally set out to do, but I know I chose the right field. I’m in the right profession. I have the job that I was meant to have, a job that I love (most days). And it all started with a chance meeting. A moment and a person that changed my life forever. And I know that I’m incredibly lucky to have had one of the hardest decisions any person has to make, become the easiest for me.
So maybe that’s why I’ve never really believed in coincidence. A wise man once said, “coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.” And I’m not really one to argue with the likes of Albert Einstein.
Read Full Post »