It’s okay to change your mind

Written on September 28th, 2017

My dad decided in middle school that he wanted to be a chemical engineer — and he did just that. He followed a linear path through high school and college and the entry-level workforce, and now he’s the plant manager of a chemical company in my hometown.

But it’s not always that simple.

For most of my childhood, I was convinced that I would one day be a marine biologist swimming with Beluga whales. I even presented a speech at my 5th grade D.A.R.E graduation about how in my future I would have lots of dolphin friends and a kid named Nigal, for good measure.

Then I fell more in love with writing, and I decided I would be an author. I kept this dream through high school until I realized that I should probably pursue a more stable career when I went to college, with the solace that I could always write and get published on the side.

So I picked marketing and nourished vague dreams of being a creative at an advertising company. The truth is that my major selection, though perfectly suited to me as I look back, was actually kind of arbitrary: I just selected a category that seemed to have room for the things I loved. I didn’t really know what exactly I wanted to do with a marketing degree… but when the Wisconsin School of Business directly admitted me and offered some scholarship dollars, the decision was made.

For a while my freshman year I was set on pure graphic design, thinking I could craft all sorts of cool advertisements until I rediscovered how much I loved web development. It finally seemed simple: I’d be a front-end web developer!

For the past year and a few months of my life, that’s been my end goal. I’ve supplemented my marketing degree and graphic design certificate with self-taught coding skills in an effort to be as well-rounded as possible. But as recruiting season in the business school rolled around this fall and I started to look at more companies, I’ve begun to wonder if I should broaden my horizons a little bit.

Yes, I do love web development — but I also love design, and it goes without saying that I’m crazy passionate about writing too. I still believe that I could be happy as a front-end developer, but I also know I could be satisfied in all sorts of other roles: an editor, a designer, a digital marketing specialist… the list goes on.

Ever since I was little my problem has never been finding something I love to do — it’s always the fact that there are too many things that grab my interest.

Case in point: when I was a marketing intern at my local news station the summer after freshman year, my supervisor brought in a book about filmography, and after watching me pore over it for about an hour she joked that she could bring in a book on anything and I’d decide it was fascinating enough to make a career out of.

She really wasn’t wrong. I still live vicariously through my roommates who are biology majors as I pretend that in another life I am swimming with the belugas. I’ve lately developed an interest in law and in the back of my mind think maybe I’ll get a JD someday if nothing else works out. I write almost every free second I find and still have dreams of publishing some of my work.

There are countless things that I love. Sometimes it’s hard to choose. And you know what? That’s okay.

I’m always reconsidering what I want out of life. Right now I’m looking for marketing positions with a digital focus that will let me reconcile multiple passions. Maybe I’ll find something great — or maybe I won’t. The worst case scenario? I’m not happy, and I change my mind.

If I’m not constantly reevaluating my own life path and desires, how can I promise to do those things for a company someday? How can I give advice to friends who feel stuck? How can I help my future children decide what they want to do?

I know that life isn’t simple. Things will always change. And while it’s awesome that people like my dad exist who can find what they want so early on, it’s also okay to readjust.

There are so many different ways to do the things you love. I may not be an author, but I still write every day, and I know that if I don’t become a front-end developer I’ll still build websites. Choosing a career doesn’t have to box you in… pick a passion to make you money and then pursue the other things you love on the side.

It has been unbelievably liberating to realize that I don’t have to give up any of my interests just because I can’t simultaneously have ten careers.

And I’ll be honest: I’m partially so confident about what I want to do right now because I know I can always choose something else if it doesn’t work out. There are many different things that get my heart beating!

So I’m going to give my career everything that I’ve got, and I’m not giving up on my dreams easily. But I will readjust my goals as needed — my life isn’t set in stone right now, and it shouldn’t be. After all… I’m just getting started on this journey.

Who knows — maybe I’ll be a marketer forever, or maybe I’ll be a lawyer, or maybe I’ll realize in my fifties that I’m meant to be a gourmet chef. At the risk of sounding like the biggest pre-graduation cliché to exist, the possibilities really are limitless.

And as I grow and evolve, my life plan will too.