This We Believe

Separated by Differences, United by Beliefs

Following Unforeseen Paths

[audio http://www.fileden.com/files/2012/2/27/3271213/kristen_audioessay_fix.mp3]

In May 2010, I committed “career suicide” – or so I was told by a colleague at the time. After months of agonizing, I made the difficult decision to leave a job I loved in order to make room for other priorities in my life – namely, love and family. I was a professor in North Carolina, but unfortunately my husband, who was living in Michigan, could not find work in or near the city where I was working. Meanwhile, my father was experiencing health problems back home in Minnesota and I wanted to return to the Midwest to be near family. Thus I made one of the most difficult decisions of my life: I resigned my dream job – and walked away from the professional path I was supposed to follow.

The first step off that path was terrifying and the threat of “career suicide” seemed a real possibility. Despite the happiness I was moving towards, I felt like I was failing. For years I had been diligently moving through the required stages of a successful career – earning a PhD, landing the ideal job, and writing scholarship in my field – and all that time I never really imagined another path for myself. So when I made that fateful decision to leave my job and risk that career, I started to doubt myself, my motivations, and even my sanity.

Yet now I know that confronting that fear was necessary, perhaps even long overdue. The decision allowed me to strike a better balance between my professional goals and my personal dreams, between my head and my heart. In the process, I have been forced to reconsider who I am and what I really want out of my life. More importantly, I have come to realize just how little I know about myself outside of my career, how little I have ventured down those less traveled roads of my own potential.

Indeed, I am only now beginning to truly understand the poet Robert Frost when he wrote: “Two roads diverged in a wood. I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference. Ironically, even after years of following a winding, seemingly aimless path through my own education – transferring schools three times in six years to earn my bachelor’s degree – I had not appreciated the sheer bravery needed to step from the conventional path and try to find one that is uniquely my own. Nor had I recognized what an amazing opportunity each crossroad was for getting to know myself and my interests outside of the path defined by others.

Now I see and truly believe that we all deserve the chance, at some point in our lives, to follow new unforeseen paths and discover something new about ourselves in the process. There is tremendous value in changing course, even if that course deviates from our best laid plans. For when we take that risk, we become new versions of ourselves that we may not have otherwise discovered if we had followed the path worn down by others’ footsteps and others’ expectations.

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Honest Words

Sirens ring out, and a quickly exchanging set of red and blue lights fill my rear view mirror. It’s at this moment I realize not only will I not be getting to school on time; I might not be driving anywhere after this cop is done with me.

At this particular moment I quickly began surveying the scene at hand, and trying to see just how much trouble I’m really going to be in. Once the realization has set in that I will be in trouble, I always go over a check list in my head of how many things I’ve done wrong. First thing that came to mind immediately was my speed, being that it was a 25 mph zone and I was cruising somewhere between 40 and 45 mph I certainly failed.

After going through the exercise in my head I ended up with four separate things that I was in the wrong for; speeding, not wearing a seat belt, and having an Arizona license plate and license while being a Wisconsin resident. Shortly thereafter the police officer had finally made it up to my driver’s side window.

He first questioned how I was doing that morning followed by if I knew why I had been pulled over. As the officer began to survey the inside of my car, I fumbled my first words out by saying my morning was going poorly already and that I did in fact know why.

I was nervous and unsure about what I should tell him. I felt that I knew a book of secrets he could write me tickets for, but then again would he ever find those out if I didn’t tell him. I took a deep breath and then openly told the officer about what I had been thinking about moments before his arrival.

He looked deeply surprised at how open I was about the things that could potentially put me in a heap of trouble. When I had finished speaking he said to me, “Son I appreciate what you just told me and the fact you owned up to your mistakes. I’ll be back in a little while after I run your license and registration, and I’ll see what I can do for you.” Telling the truth had not put panic over me, but a calming nature that made me feel ready for the worst to come.

Fifteen minutes had passed by this point since the officer had the dumb founded look upon his face at my window, when I finally saw him step back out again from his patrol car. He handed me back my license and registration first and then followed up with an apology for the longevity of the traffic stop. He proceeded to hand me a brochure followed by a piece of yellow paper. He then went on to tell me that because of my honesty, I was only receiving a seat belt violation for the stop and I would need to pay a ten dollar fine.

As he turned to leave I thanked him for his kindness and reminded him that it won’t happen again. He turned and said, “No thank you for being honest. It takes a lot for some one to own up to their mistakes and take full responsibility, and today it helped keep you from hundreds of dollars in fines.”

I believe in the power of honesty.

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Follow Your Passion

A person once asked me, “So what are you thinking of doing for the rest of your life after you’re done with school,” and I took a moment to answer. When I said I was interested in fashion journalism, he looked at me questioningly and laughed. “How far are you going to get with that?” I looked him in the eye and said, “As far as I want to.” Telling people that my major in school is journalism raises some eyebrows already, including the fact that it’s fashion journalism not only gets me the same reaction, but a scoff as well.

People believe that the fashion industry is egotistical and materialistic, and although at times it can be, it is also an extremely important aspect to life. Why are people so quick to judge the ones who design the clothes they have on their body? They only see one side to it; that every person in the industry is stuck up and they only care about the inanimate objects.

I am not like that. Sure, I like buying things and looking pretty but that’s not where my personality stops. I’m not some dumb girl who likes clothes; I’m a person who’s passionate about something. Whatever our passions are, we should never be ashamed of them. It’s unfair when people try to make me feel unintelligent, because I know I’m smart. I may not be straight A, honor roll material but I know I’m intelligent. It takes brains to be in the fashion business. I have to be one step ahead of my competition; otherwise I fall to the wayside. Keeping up in an industry is difficult, but when that industry is constantly changing it makes it almost impossible. I could easily lose myself in the shuffle but I won’t, because I’m not dumb.

Whatever a person decides to dress themselves in, at the end of the day it is their decision. No one can tell you what you can and can’t wear, just like no one can tell you what you can and can’t do. Even though people may judge and assume who I am through what I am deciding to dedicate my life to, it in no way shapes my personality.

I believe if you are really passionate about something, you should go for it. If you don’t do what makes you happy in your own life, you’re never going to know what could have come from it.

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