He was right that I wasn't cut out for military life.
When I was eight, I saw the words "technical writer" in a book somewhere. Dad said I shouldn't even think about that career, since it was a dead end job. Back then, before the information revolution, it was. But more about that later!
When I asked Dad about college, he said only one thing. "If you're going to go to Berkeley, you better learn how to spell it." He thought he was encouraging me. I think.
I loved my father, even when we fought. He was a man who spent most of his career coaxing monitoring equipment to last a bit longer through each nuclear weapons test blast. He was good at that, but really not so great with career advice.
He said, "Why do you have to choose? Why can't you combine them?" It would take me years to realize that his insight was important: avoid assumptions based on black-and-white thinking!
Also, the whole "the best things happen by accident" lesson was important.
It took me two years of office jobs (thank you recession of 1989, anybody remember that one?) before I finally stumbled into technical writing, this time by chatting up another geek girl at a party full of artists. Thank you, Elisabeth Hendrickson and Risa Galant.
It has been a good career, challenging me to grow in surprising ways, and giving me enough income to make spending time and money on fiction writing possible. I'm grateful for it, and for Professor Hankamer, who encouraged me to challenge baseless assumptions. Thanks!
But I think the best career advice I ever got came from a coach I chatted with recently. She said, "Write down the three things you love most to do. Then figure out how to do more of them and less of what you don't love as much." So simple!
Just write down the three things you love most, and figure out how to get there from where you are, in your current job, in a new job, whatever. But identify your real, deep, heartfelt desires, and treat them like priorities. Such a new and exciting idea, that I might be able to choose, and obtain, career happiness!
Here's my list:
2. Figure out how things work (oh how I miss syntax class, and school in general).
3. Make things better for other people.
Now, it took a while for the shame to wear off--I love to write more than I love saving the planet! How selfish! After I got over myself, I realized that my day job of technical writer/content strategist afforded me all three things--plus enough time to do more of number 1 at night, early in the mornings before work, on weekends.
I told my boss about my list, and she nodded. I think she realized that barring some freak accident of popularity with my writing, I was hers for life!
What are your three things? Is there a way to get more of them in your life?