Our View From Here

Perspectives of Five Women

Finding my Calling

on September 15, 2011

Similar to Isabel, growing up I had a long list of things I wanted to be when I got older. One of the first professions I can remember selecting was a chef. This is somewhat ironic when you review the number of posts I’ve had discussing how I don’t cook. But when I was little, cooking was fun. “Cooking,” mind you, usually consisted of stirring ingredients that my mom or grandmother put together. I specifically remember when I decided I wanted to be a chef. I was pretty little – probably not more than 5. I was “helping” my mom make scrambled eggs. She must have set up a stool for me to stand on because I have a vivid memory of looking at the stove top (which would have been above my head at that point) and stirring the eggs in the pan. I must have had an excellent stirring experience because I remember that was the experience that convinced me I would be an exceptional chef. I maintained this interest for a year or two, but then got distracted by other interests.

Once I got a bit older, I had a sustained interest in a science-related profession. In elementary school, science typically consisted of the physical sciences. I remember learning about forces and electricity and other things that did not hold my interest. While I was a good student, I always struggled with these lessons. I was devastated once when my teacher chastised me for not paying attention in class because I couldn’t answer a question related to the lesson. It’s not that I wasn’t paying attention – I just didn’t get it. Things finally changed in middle school when I had a life sciences class. Now this was interesting! Plants and animals and cell biology just clicked with me. I could totally get on board with this.  I think what really inspired me to pursue a career in science was a television show I saw about a zoo that had a polar bear that gave birth to two cubs. I believe the mother rejected the cubs so the zoo’s staff hand-raised the cubs. THIS is what I wanted to do. I would be a zoologist so I could play with baby animals all day long. Of course, once I realized that zoology would require many, many years of schooling and I would have to pay my dues doing un-fun things like cleaning out cages, as opposed to cuddling cute baby animals, I lost my interest. Still, throughout high school I explored being a biologist, a geneticist and finally a physical therapist.  I briefly talked about my stint as a physical therapist wannabe here

The stumbling block to all of these science-related careers was that I couldn’t just take biology in college. When exploring majors, I discovered I would have to take high level chemistry, physics and math classes, which were never my strong points. I realized that it would be incredibly difficult for me to succeed in any of these classes, and that I didn’t have a strong enough passion for these fields that would see me through these classes.

What I’ve always been good at, and what I’ve always enjoyed, is helping people and creating programs or organizing events to solve their problems. Once I realized that, transitioning to the nonprofit field was easy. I majored in business because the supervisor of my internship majored in business, and it seemed as good a field as any to prepare me for the nonprofit world. So, for nearly the last 7 years I’ve been working in the nonprofit sector. As I mentioned in a recent post, I just accepted a new position at NYU. While I will still technically be working for a nonprofit, my new clients will be businesses and universities and I will be helping them with business challenges they face. It will be a different industry with new challenges, but at the end of the day, I’m still going to be helping people with problems. I’m becoming pretty confident that’s my life’s calling, and I’m pretty ok with that.

Even at two, I was ready to enter the high-powered corporate world!

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