The Career Box
March 17, 2021
Sometimes convincing yourself to stop holding you back can be more difficult than overcoming external obstacles. After making a big career commitment at a young age, Low Entropy Volunteer Writer Janki Patel was able to look back and realize that it’s okay to make decisions that are right for you now, regardless of what you thought in the past.
I was 17 when I made the decision to pursue a career in childcare. At the time, I thought it was the perfect choice for a person like me – a person whose top qualities involve being empathetic, patient, and caring. I was sure of my decision, but people around me expected better. It wasn’t perceived as a ‘notable’ profession, and I was referred to as a babysitter or nanny. I was constantly told that the career pays very little, is highly stressful, and not suitable as a long-term option. Despite the negativity tossed towards me, I started my three-year certification program with a positive attitude.
Throughout those three years, as many students do, I experienced several breakdowns. One of them involved nearly dropping out of college because I doubted myself. I doubted my ability to be a successful educator. I dreaded most of my internships, and toward the end of the program, I felt like I had put myself in a box: a box where each side was sealed tightly, and as much as I wanted to get out, I couldn’t bring myself to. This was a choice I made, so I felt too guilty to complain.
Nevertheless, I completed the program and spent several years working at a preschool. I surprisingly fell in love with the job, but I didn’t know how I would feel about it on a long-term basis. I enjoyed planning and implementing activities for my group, consoling a child whose crayon broke, or gathering the group for story time. I don’t think there is anything more rewarding than being able to view the world from a child’s perspective. I don’t think I was a terrible educator. I doubted myself as a student in training, but I was confident once I gained work experience. Even then, as each year passed, I became more restless and that empty feeling inside of me revisited.
Fast forward to last year, when the unwelcome pandemic hit and boy, did it hit hard. It was mid-July when I got the call to start transitioning back to work. I immediately felt anxious, and I knew exactly why. No, it was not because of the virus. It was because I wanted to finally let go. I wanted to rip that box open and give myself another chance. I wanted to tell my 17-year-old self that she would not be a failure if she didn’t know what she wanted to do, that being lost is a part of the process and that, since she robbed herself of it before, she’ll deal with it now.
Eventually, I left my childcare job. I still love working with children and could even see myself going back to it later in life, but for now, I want to explore. I was abnormally exhausted at the end of my workday and, at rare times, I didn’t look forward to the next. It takes a lot of energy to work with a group of young children, and I lacked some of it as time passed. I constantly pondered other possible jobs I could try that would, most importantly, allow me to pursue my love for writing.
In December 2020, I graduated with another degree in education. As I reflect back on my professional career, I don’t regret any of it at all. I will always take it as a learning curve and be grateful that I had the opportunity to grow mentally, emotionally and physically. While some teenagers are encouraged to take their time, explore their options and then work toward a career goal, I simply thought I didn’t have that option. The truth was, I didn’t need somebody to tell me, I just needed to accept that fact myself.
I think, as individuals, we get sucked into this whirlpool of academic and professional chaos – the type of chaos that begins the moment a child goes through their first day of school. From there, say goodbye to your personal growth and identity. It’s all about what you can and cannot do, alongside constant improvement. Don’t get me wrong, these things are great, and usually necessary to thrive in a fast-paced society . . . but at what cost?
I decided to break free from this whirlpool. At first, I felt ashamed to start exploring new career options and start afresh, mostly because I’d thought I had everything figured out and there I was, at 23 years old, breaking away from six years of education and work. I’m in a much better place now, mentally, emotionally and physically. I feel like I have room to breathe after years of believing I only had one option: to stay contained in the box I created for myself. I accepted that it is okay to start over and pick a pace that matches my needs. There is no race I need to win, and there is no finish line in this career journey.
Choosing a career is not a joke and should not be taken lightly, but it’s also important to understand that life goes beyond a position and paycheck. It took me some time to accept this fact, but the moment I did, I felt a sense of relief – a feeling I had not experienced since I was 17. And this time, I plan to keep it alive.
Have you ever decided to steer your life in a whole new direction? Would you like to? Tell us about it in a Low Entropy meet-up, or simply pop down to the comments section and leave us a note!
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