Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Who Are You?

While chatting with Archbishop Wood's principal about my speaking on Career Day, she commented on the pressure placed on kids when we ask what they want to be when they grow up. I agreed and offered an alternative. We should be asking them, “Who are you?”

That question gets more to the crux of the matter. Decisions based on personal truths tend to work out better than those based on desire. Our wants can be misinformed and fleeting.

I wanted to be a rock star when I grew up. Never mind that I couldn’t sing or play an instrument. (That hasn’t stopped some.) I've never been one for relentless travel or repetition. So much for worldwide concert tours with night after night gigs. It's no surprise that never worked out.

Who was I in high school? I was curious, communicative and very social. In my spare time, I wrote notes, stories and poems. I’d answer that question the same way today. I do what I am in my job, and not so surprisingly, I’m very satisfied. Do what you are!

Whether you’re an astronaut or laying Astroturf, you can bring yourself into any job. Former QVC host Mike Rowe, who is famous for his show “Dirty Jobs” on the Discovery Channel, once wrote, “Never follow your passion, but by all means bring it with you.”

I think that’s brilliant. He explained it further in an interview for Outside magazine. “If you bring your passion with you, you can apply it to anything that makes sense. If you follow it, you’re going to be miserable until X, Y, Z happens, which might be never.”

Whether you call it fate, God’s plan or luck, life takes many unpredictable twists and turns. The one thing that is stable enough to rest your future upon is you. Who are you?

Detention Diva

I was recently invited to be keynote speaker at my Alma Mater’s Career Day. It’s an honor but more than anything it’s hilarious. I barely escaped with my diploma from Archbishop Wood High School due to disciplinary issues. Don’t get the wrong idea. I wasn’t lighting up in the bathroom or cursing out teachers.

The pink demerit slips were for uniform violations and I was taken down as a repeat offender. It wasn’t that I minded uniforms. They are practical and a terrific time saver in the morning. It’s just that these were damn ugly. Picture if you will a dark green polyester jumper over an ecru polyester blouse with a Peter Pan collar. What it lacked in beauty, it also lacked in breathability. The green knee socks and green and yellow saddle shoes didn’t have me kicking up my heels, either.

Mutiny was mine, but I paid a price for my insurgence. I failed conduct every year. The grade was calculated into my G.P.A. - earning me a spot at the bottom of my class. I was told I couldn’t graduate unless I spent two additional hours in detention for every point under the passing grade. That meant many hours of pulling weeds in the convent garden.

“Disciplinary Difficulty” was stamped in red across my transcripts with no explanation as to why I was a difficulty. That made getting admitted to college challenging despite a decent SAT score. Finally, Penn State accepted me on probation and I promptly reversed my fortune. I was the best-dressed student on dean’s list.

All is well that ends well. I have fond, if not fashionable, memories of high school. I’m thrilled for the opportunity to share my insights on career and choices while not wearing green polyester.