Career Nomad: Confusion to Clarity

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” This beautiful quote is from one of the most loved and well known American authors, Mark Twain.

Some people in life have a distinct plan for what they want to be; their future is clear, and they take appropriate steps from a very young age to achieve the goals they have in mind. Unlike those people, I never had a specific plan for my life. I’ve been somewhat of a ‘career nomad’, wondering throughout different opportunities on my journey and building my toolbox for what may come later on realizing that each endeavor is there to teach me something specific. To illustrate this perfectly: I started playing piano from a very early age. I enjoyed it, and was really good at it so I figured I would be a music teacher. The only problem: I can’t sing. Sure, I can karaoke with the best of them (and may be known to have won a competition or two), but that’s a major career de-railer if you can’t execute on half of the job requirements. I entered college with this plan, only really, my goal was to be a college majorette. I tried out, made the squad however that opportunity didn’t end up being what I had hoped. Many of the girls had values that were different from mine, so I learned a lesson very early on about staying true to my values. I left the squad. Still as a music major, I took Calculus for Math/Physics majors on a dare, even though my math requirement was Math 101 (adding and subtracting) and ended up falling in love with math. I forged my way through my math degree, was the first to establish a math internship program for my department and ended up working for a company that presented so many different opportunities. Many, many, many years later, I find myself in a Program Management role, utilizing my strategic training and leadership skills to drive my team. Very different from the view of where I started my journey.

2020 has been an interesting year to say the least – I see so many posts on the internet about how folks can’t wait for 2020 to be over and start fresh. I have a slightly different mindset. While this year has been frustrating, to say the least, I see so many benefits:

  • Personal benefits: I started working out regularly, at home. I get 7+ hours of sleep, my reading is off the charts. I don’t feel the struggle between home and work because I can integrate the two.
  • Family benefits: We aren’t in as much of a rush as in past years. We eat lunch and dinner together every day. We go for bike rides in the evening, and started golfing together as a family to pass the time. We established family game night, regular read-aloud bedtime routines. We feel closer and more connected as a family, developing a bond that will stay with the kiddos for (hopefully) the rest of their lives.
  • Life Purpose: This is the BIG ONE. This is where the ‘spark’ comes in…keep on reading

My oldest has struggled with reading and comprehension from the start of learning to read. We found the issue in third grade, and thought we had cleared the hurdle with the grades he was bringing home in fourth grade – all As and Bs. No sign that he was struggling. Sure, he’s a slow reader, and often has to pause for understanding but there was nothing alerting us that there was a continued issue.

That is, until we started virtual school a few short weeks ago. Virtual school requires a ‘Learning Coach’ to provide instruction through the learning modules online. (And yes, this is terribly challenging to be a learning coach and full time Program Manager and do both well.) We discovered that he still was struggling with reading and comprehension as we were executing the tasks in the lessons. He struggled with finding the theme of the story, of coming up with a topic sentence, finding details in the text to support the topic sentence, trying to make sense of the paragraph that he struggled to write over a span of two hours. He struggled with summarizing what he just read. These challenges resulted in many hours of frustration and tears but through the frustration and tears, a spark generated. I realized a ‘perfect storm’ for integrating my passions for reading, leadership and motherhood with the skills that I acquired on my career journey. My ‘purpose’, the day I found out why I was born, what I was intended to do with my life, emerged. I am determined to use those skills to help my oldest master reading and comprehension and through it, share those lessons with others to help them along the way.

I do not know where we are going to end on this journey, but I do know that we are not the only ones struggling with literacy. I encourage you, if your child struggles, or if you know of someone who is experiencing a similar journey – please share this with them and invite them to come along for the ride!

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