+ By Emma Mudan Harrigan Campbell
Over the course of eight years, I have switched career paths constantly. My first idea was to become a singer, then a dancer, and then an actor—maybe even all three at once. I liked how people would occasionally compliment me on my voice when I sang, and I figured why stop there?
I wanted to become someone great, someone who changed the world; mainly through theatrics. Then I switched to a more political standpoint and thought about being a lawyer. My mother said I would make a good lawyer since I manage to avoid questions by not directly answering them.
Today, I aspire to be a writer, any sort of writer—an author, a journalist, a blogger, anything. This was the doing of my third grade teacher, who read a short story I wrote out loud and said, “If this girl doesn’t become a writer, I don’t know who will.” The underlying connection between all of these jobs is that someone else told me I could be them. That I would be “good” at singing, or a “talented” writer. But, the idea of choosing something based on what other people say doesn’t appeal to me. Yes, I want to be a writer, but is it for the right reason?
“Do what you love, love what you do.” I found this quote while trying to break my writer’s block for an English essay. It may be cheesy and overused, but I think there is more importance to it than just a saying on a hand towel. When most people read this, the first thing they think of is their career. Why is that? I think it is because we automatically correlate the verbs “do” and “be” with a job. When someone asks, “What do you want to be?” People tend to say their future or current career choice. I have never heard someone respond with an emotion or a nontangible idea.
Pondering this, I found my answer for what I want to be when I grow up. Instead of choosing a potential job that will change time and time again, I need a long-term plan. In the course of one lifetime, I want to be happy. Realizing this, the question, “What do you want to be?” might not provide the correct platform for my answer, “I want to be happy.” Maybe the appropriate question for this answer is, “How do you want to exist?” When I “grow up” I want to exist happily. Although it sounds simple, I can imagine it probably won’t be as easy to carry out. There will be highs and, there will be lows. I plan to take on the lows with a smile as my sword, and with the knowledge that I will make it out alive. Maybe I will become a writer, or maybe I won’t. Whatever I choose career wise, I know it will be because I am happy doing it.
About the Writer: Emma is 13 years old and lives in Annapolis.
How to do this: By being creative. Positive. And by reframing everything you’ve been involved in since graduating high school (even the tough stuff) as preparation for your big awesome future.
Some examples of making the best of your experience at a school you’re about to leave:
There was no formal Makeup Department, so guess what. I STARTED ONE. WE’VE GOT 16 MEMBERS. BOOM.
My classes were so much bigger than I thought they’d be AND there were no formal study groups set up, so guess what. I ORGANIZED ONE. AND I EVEN BAKED BROWNIES. #glutenfree
There were no legit dance studios on campus OR in the dorms open after 7pm, so guess what. I PETITIONED TO LIVE OFF-CAMPUS AS A FRESHMAN, FOUND A TINY APARTMENT WITH A BASEMENT THAT OUR TEAM COULD REHEARSE IN, AND WE GOT TO WORK. #werrrrk
You get the idea. How did you make the best of a just-okay situation while you were waiting (or before you decided) to fill out your transfer application? If you’re thinking that the part-time job you took, the decision to quit school, or even the Netflix shows you binge-watched wasn’t ultimately preparing you for your big awesome future, you’re just not thinking creatively enough—yet. Ask yourself: could it be that I was gaining other skills and values along the way? Could it be that I was doing more than just earning money (hint: learned organizational skills, or discipline, or collaboration), more than just quitting school (hint: learned to put your health first), more than just binge-watching Netflix (hint: learned how much you value productivity by being totally unproductive for three weeks straight).
Here’s a list to get you thinking.
And if you’re like, “Um, well, I didn’t do anything,” chances are that either a) you didn’t really think carefully or creatively enough yet, or that b) YOU DON’T DESERVE TO TRANSFER.
I’m kidding about that last one. Kinda’. Keep thinking. This part’s important.
Paragraph 5: What do you want to do/be/study? (aka: What’s your dream?)
What you’re trying to do here: Paint the Big Picture—the vision for your life, or a dream job. Don’t have one? Uh-oh. Quit now. (I’m kidding.)
How to do this: By dreaming. Ask yourself, What would a dream job be--even if it isn’t your only dream job, and even if you aren’t 100% certain that this is what you’d like to do--and use it as a placeholder, like these students did...
I’m particularly concerned about beauty waste because I am morally disturbed by the fact that my personal grooming is damaging the environment for everyone. The problem is that cosmetics are often objects of desire--we want to be pampered and we crave a luxurious experience--and packaging reflects these consumer instincts. My dream is to rally college communities nation-wide in a drive to reduce packaging waste. As a community of passionate learners and intellectuals we can spread the message to student groups in colleges that protecting the environment trumps our desire for the most wrapped-up, elaborate, expensive packaging.
My dream is to become a special effects makeup artist with a specialty in fantasy-based creature makeup. Through an extensive process that includes concept design, face, cowl, and body sculpting in clay, molding the pieces using liquid latex or silicon, applying the products to the human model, hand-painting and airbrushing, and fabricate addition components if necessary, I will create original characters that will be featured in movies and television shows.
I know, that’s pretty specific. But again, these were written by students who weren’t 100% certain that they wanted to do this--they picked something they loved and built an argument (read: essay) around it.
If it’s hard for you to think in terms of careers or dream jobs, try asking one of these questions instead:
“What’s one Big Problem I’d like to try and solve in the world?”
“Why do I want to go to this other school anyway?” Have you ever stopped to really articulate that? Have a friend ask you this and see what you say. And it can’t be simply because it’s more prestigious, or because you like living by the beach, or because you just really (like really) want to live in a big city. You need more specifics and more specific specifics. (That’s not a typo.)
A Really Good Tip for This Paragraph: Think of this as a set-up for a “Why us” essay, in particular the part where you’re talking about YOU… your hopes, dreams, goals, etc. Because if you can pick something specific--and even if it’s a placeholder (like the examples above)--this can lead directly into the next paragraph. How? Because, once you pick a Thing you’d like to do/study/be, then you can ask yourself, “Okay, what skills/resources/classes will I need in order to do/study/become that Thing?”
For more “Why us” resources:Click here for a three-part post on How to Write a “Why Us” Essay. Or click here for a Complete Guide to the “Why Us” Essay.
To recap: In Paragraph 5, you’re setting up the specifics that you’re seeking. Then...