Ice cream scooper, retail clerk at Pottery Barn, set dresser for productions like "The Craft" and "Beverly Hills: 90210," art director for SeaWorld, manager of a bakery, and personal assistant. Those are just some of the many jobs my mom has had as an adult.
These jobs have taken her from New York to Los Angeles to Key West to Orlando to Gainesville, and now all the way back to where she was born — Brooklyn. As she packs up her home in Gainesville, ready to leave Florida behind forever, I can’t help but be in awe of her bravery to start all over again.
But then I think to myself, "Why shouldn’t she?" Pre-professionalism has brainwashed college-aged kids into thinking that their first job out of college has to be the last one they’ll ever have. That the ladder to success is a linear path, and you’re not allowed to jump onto a new ladder whenever you want. My mom, nearing 60 years old, is to me, the best rebuttal to this stressful and unproductive notion.
I thought I knew what I wanted to do with my life. I thought I would come to Penn, take English classes, graduate, and get a job in publishing. A few months ago, this plan was challenged by a professor who said I should go to graduate school to get a Ph.D. in English literature. Now I find myself Googling: “How do you apply to grad school?”
My mom never thought she’d be able to leave her job at a bakery, nor did she know that an opportunity up north would allow her to move from the bottom of the East Coast to the top, but in two weeks her Honda Civic will traverse the thousands of miles separating her present self from her future one.
Saying yes to new opportunities and new jobs will only open the world up to you. If you’re unsatisfied with the career path that your selected major will afford you, find a career path that will make you happy and run with it. Degrees are great because of their ability to open a variety of doors. So, don’t let your degree narrow your possibilities into exceedingly smaller options.
We don’t have to stay in any lane for any specified amount of time. In fact, lanes are just a fake construction used to manipulate people into being diligent, dependent worker bees. (I’m not saying don't be diligent or dependent, but do these things for people and places that deserve you).
Will this mean you’ll become a partner at a law firm by the time you’re 30? I don’t know because I don’t know how law firms work. Will this mean you’ll be in control of your own life, and making decisions that will ultimately make you happy? Yes.
You’re never too old to start over or change. When I was 10, I wanted to be an Olympic gymnast. When I was 13, I wanted to be a grownup. Now, at 21, I want to be happy. Use my mom as a template — she is making decisions that will make her happier with the work she has to do every day for the rest of her life, and uprooting a home in a place she hated in order to do so.
You don’t have to have it all figured out three months before you graduate, with a position at a job lined up and a clear path to the top. If this is how you want to operate, then I commend you, but if you’re putting undue stress on yourself in order to achieve this nearly impossible level of security, then I’m telling you to chill.
And so is my mom. She’s pretty amazing, so I would listen to her.
SOPHIA DUROSE is a College junior from Orlando, Fla. studying English. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.