I recently had a conversation with my president about my future in the company, career aspirations, and plans. It was a two hour conversation, a good one, but ultimately one thing he said keeps repeating over in my mind, “What you’re good at and what you enjoy might be two different things.”
The guy is deep, y’all. Deep, intelligent, and wise. And full of these little gems.
As an 18 year old fresh in college, I had a plan. It was not one my parents thought would provide enough income or direction or job opportunities. In fact, they begged me to go in to Computer Science. “THAT, Leslie, THAT is the future!” My dad has a PhD in Educational Technology, the man can program, has years of troubleshooting experience and taught me BASIC when I was 12. When his oldest daughter declared she wanted to get an Undergraduate Degree in Exercise and Sports Science with a minor in chemistry, and a graduate degree in Nutrition, he rolled his eyes. “But you? You can CODE, Leslie. That’s the future. Not ... PE and food.”
After college I searched for jobs but there was a very big shortage of anything relatively career worthy. In fact, it looked like my parents were right. I couldn’t use my degree. It was useless. I nearly cried, “I learned how to lift weights! FOR TWENTY THOUSAND DOLLARS.”
Of course that’s not true, I learned a variety of chemical reactions in the body, I understand physiology, I knew every name and location of every bone. I learned every metabolic process your cells go through and I learned how muscles react under stress and rest. But while this was wonderful information, without a graduate degree, it was useless.
So I started learning web design.
Within a year, I was teaching computer applications and learning how to support computers. I went in to the tech support field. I learned more web design. I learned PHP. And, finally, I made it official by getting a masters degree, at last, in Information Technology.
This? This made my parents proud.
I always tell people I switched from Nutrition because I wanted a field that wasn’t always changing so rapidly. (HA! I laugh. I kill me.)
This path you know about, have shared with me, have watched me grow. The Interweb has been a huge part of this life, this experience. I am faced now with this single fact: I am not as good at code as I am at other pieces of business. I am not as strong at PHP as I am marketing. As my grad prof once told me, “You’re smart, you understand the logic, you can code in processes, but the syntax bogs you down and drowns your ability to produce.” That’s another one of those advice quotes that just kind of stuck.
I like code, I enjoy coding, but I’m not as good as it as I should be.
This brings up a realm of other issues. What am I good at? Why do I like coding? And, ultimately, is there something I might be great at that I’ve completely moved away from simply because I thought I couldn’t succeed? And does this, at all, have anything to do with my.. obsession… with nutrition, alternate medicine, and sustainable food?
And if so, what does it all mean?
I’ve been watching more and more documentaries, reading more books, talking to more farmers, Natural-paths, nutritionist. I talk to them and feel a sort of connection. I recently watched Food Matters and kept muttering, “Why the fuck did I give up nutrition?” I tell this to my friend Sara, who admits she wanted to be an artist and ended up in Advertising. “We sold out” she says. “We got jobs because we needed them, we went the easy route. But if we change now, our families would suffer. We’re a little… stuck.”
But are we? Are those pieces of our passions, art, humans, interacting, sustanable living, is that independant of our technologically driven careers? And if we went in pursuit of those passions, would we end up wondering, feeling less fulfilled because we miss the fast-paced life, the producing, the online aspect of this life?
I have no idea.
This weekend I got back in to coding. Front-end coding, but coding non-the-less. I beamed at my husband when I produced the most clean HTML5/CSS3 I’ve yet produced. “See,” he smiles, “You love coding. I don’t know what you’re worried about.”
I remind him, “What you enjoy and what you’re good at may be two different things.”
He nods, I nod. We both know, without saying, that finding that thing you’re truly good at might be the hardest part of our careers yet.
I do totally get this, because I got my degree in journalism (“I want to WRITE!!!”), then I graduated and found out that journalists make no money. So I got into tech support, then more into network/systems engineering stuff, got an MCSE, etc… Then a company hired me as a systems engineer, looked at my resume, and said, “Journalism? You can write???” Um, yeah. So now I’m a tech writer. And what’s weird is that I love it. I don’t think I was ever all that great as a network engineer. This is so much more up my alley.
I’m not sure how you can mix the coding side of you with the nutrition/health side, but I never thought my writing and IT thing would mix either. So I think you’ll figure out how to blend those worlds at some point, I’m guessing.
By cindy w on 2010 11 08
Or DO I? I mean, you know how you love something until it’s your job? So maybe I just keep them separate.
I’m noticing I’m a much better marketing person than I am a coding person. Which, um, whod’a thunk? I guess knowing analytics (which I LOVE) and social networking (also: WHEE) i s the new marketing. :: shrugs :: Never would’ve thought that in college either.
I love that you combined yours and love your job. Did I say congrats yet? Congrats, mama! Welcome to the juggle. :D
By Mrs. Flinger on 2010 11 08
I’m lucky in the respect that I have managed to carve out a career that meshes both what I enjoy and what I am good at. Nonetheless, it’s a perpetual struggle to balance the fine artist with the businessman who has to “create” work simply to put food on the table.
That said, the best job I have ever had was ski instructing. Alas, I have no complaints. I change green to red for a living.
By Paul on 2010 11 08
Yep. Totally get you here. At 32, I’ve found myself in a career very IT-laden, and while I *can* do it, its neither anything I ever thought I’d do nor want to do. I’m just not challenged by it, though the pay is very very good. I’m stuck in that I no longer know what I might really like to do (though I’ve always been a writer and creative thinker) yet I’m the primary wage-earner in the family. Just how does one find time to analyze one’s self to find and then move to a career that is more fulfilling?
By Colleen - Mommy Always Wins on 2010 11 08
That is the prettiest high school photo ever!
By Betty in Munich on 2010 11 09
I’ve got a book I’d love to give to you to giveaway on your blog. Please shoot me an email. Thanks!
By Ariah Fine on 2010 11 11