"When I Grow Up"

Editor’s Note: This is our first piece by a guest contributor, Karen S.

It’s funny that we go through high school and by the time we graduate, generally when we are 17 or 18 years old, that we are supposed to know what we want to do with the rest of our life.  Most of us are expected to go to college and become something with ourselves. I remember thinking,I want to stay in high school and I don’t know what I want to be when I “grow up.”

So I did it: I graduated high school and moved on to community college.  I tried several different things until my parents said “the money is running out, choose one.”  I chose to become a sign language interpreter because I was taking a signing class and liked it, not because it is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.  I got into it and started to enjoy it, but then a professor rained on my parade and I ended up hating it.  I did graduate in 2000 with an AAS degree from a community college, focusing on sign language interpreting.  Do you think I went on to pursue that degree? No, I sure didn’t.

In January of 2000 I also started working as a customer service agent for a well-known healthcare company.  Being the age I was, I was making decent money and living in an apartment.  I kept working at that company and making more and more money and getting more and more comfortable in my job.  I thought, I guess this is what life has in store for me and this is as good as it gets, so I stayed.  In 2004, I transferred to a more challenging position in the company and I really enjoyed it, for the most part.  I was making money, making friends, and doing what I wanted when I wanted.

Guess what? 2010 rolled around and my company was letting people go.  On March 1, 2010, I was laid off from my comfortable lifestyle and the only real job I had ever had.  The only thing I was thinking is, I’m 34 years old and have no training, really, in anything. What will I do with the rest of my life? So I thought and I thought and the only thing I could come up with was to apply for jobs in the healthcare field again.  I did just that, and guess what? It is 2011 and I’m still unemployed.

During my unemployment I’ve taken up photography and have discovered a love for it.  I love capturing life’s moments.  I love seeing the world through my viewfinder.  I love turning my photos in to works of art.  I have my mom to thank for my love of photography and my mom to thank for teaching me what she knows.

So now, in my mid 30’s I have had my “aha moment.” I decided that since I can’t seem to find a “real” 9 to 5 office job that I will pursue my passion and learn to become a professional photographer.  I’ve signed up for the professional course with the New York Institute Photography with the hopes of becoming a professional photographer.  I thought to myself, why should I follow the “norm” and get a degree in business or IT or teaching?  Why can’t I follow my passion and become what I want?

I don’t think all teenagers know what they want to be straight out of high school.  If they don’t know, I don’t think parents should pressure their kids into going to college.  It really can be a waste of money and time for the parents and child.  The kid may need to go out into the big world and discover who they are first and what they are passionate about.  It may have taken me 16 years since high school to decide what I want to be when I grow up, but at least now I know what it is I want to be when and if I ever decide to grow up.

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