Welcome back to our collaboration with our friends at BUNCH Magazine! Over the next year, they will be sharing some of their infinite wisdom by answering pressing questions about career aspirations, transitions and callings. We welcome their knowledge on the creative, professional and entrepreneur space, and think you will love their insights as well.
Hello, BUNCH -
Until last June I was teaching at an elementary school. Teaching was always in my future. I'm from a family of teachers so I never questioned what I my profession would be because I thought I was made for it. I also always wanted to join the Peace Corps but got my job, where I did my student teaching, right after graduation so how could I pass that up? Needless to say, three slightly-unhappy-at-work years later, I quit my job and joined the Peace Corps! I'm just a few months into my two year service but already everyone is asking about my plans after the PC.
Since quitting my job, I realized I don't think I actually want to be a teacher when I get back. I've never thought about doing anything with my life other than teaching so it's a terrifying thought but also really empowering and really freeing to know I can do anything. My family has a history of working with women's rights groups, so that would be awesome. I live in a country filled with domestic violence so raising awareness or prevention is definitely, definitely something I'm thinking of, especially when I get back to a country where that isn't/shouldn't be the norm. Or, way off the beaten path, I love interior decorating. My first year teaching, I woke up every day excited and over the next couple of years I lost that passion. I want to do something where I have that same drive and my work isn't something I dread going to.
As a 25-year-old, I felt like I would already have a pretty solid grasp of what I wanted my future to look like but clearly I'm feeling pretty lost. I know this is an extremely broad question but is there anything I should be doing to help me figure out what I want to do post Peace Corps? Any career searching advice would be fabulous and so appreciated. I also LOVE Clementine Daily so I'm so glad you're partnering with them!
I couldn’t agree with you more—the future can be terrifying, especially when we let it behind the wheel. A little fear is healthy, but it’s far better when it takes a backseat because mostly, the future is exciting. Anything can happen! Close your eyes and pause for minute with that idea—let it fill your brain and body. You should still feel a little terror, but I hope overpowering that is awe and wonder, and like you said empowerment.
Here’s some good news—you’ve already figured out one path you don’t want to take. That’s a big deal! Most people get started down one potential future and stick with it because changing gears and taking a turn is too terrifying. So they settle.
You’re definitely not a settler. You’re in the Peace Corps for crying out loud! How brave is that?!? Who cares about what you’re going to be doing in two years when what you’re doing right now is so incredibly beautiful and amazing and inspiring? Two years from now will still be waiting for you when you get there. Instead of taking precious time out of your experience to figure out what they might look like, I think you should plan on giving yourself a window of time after you finish to decide in which direction you’ll move. And be generous with that window—it could be a few months, a year, or maybe even longer!
Maybe you’ll try working on women’s rights and you’ll find your life’s calling. Or maybe it won’t end up being the right fit. Maybe you’ll figure out some way to combine interior design, women’s rights and teaching! The possibilities are infinite, but you can’t stop questioning and searching. Always remember that nothing is permanent and nothing is forever. You can change trajectories at any given point in your life, it’s believing in that that’s hard.
I’m a 34-year-old waitress with a graduate degree, so I understand where you’re coming from. When I finished undergrad I thought I wanted to be a journalist. After four years of doing that, I felt like you did, a little dead inside. So I made a big change. I also considered joining the Peace Corps, but instead I moved all the way across the country to get my MFA in creative nonfiction writing. After I graduated I started waitressing and something about it just felt right. It also gave me the free time to do other things that matter to me—like teaching underprivileged high school students and Rikers Island prisoners.
People like to ask those of us who lead nontraditional lives what we’ve got planned for the future. It’s a pesky question and sometimes it’s got more to do with them than with us. And a lot of times they’re just trying to make conversation. If you could only see some of the looks I get when a customer finds out I have my MFA. Since when do waitresses have to be uneducated?
After grad school, I got the same questions as you from family about what I was planning on doing with my life. I’m lucky because they gave me the space to soak up the sun in my window while I tried to figure out what the next right step for me, not them, would be. And guess what? Almost seven years later I’m still kinda in that space. Because what I’ve realized is this window is my happy place. Leaving my future open to any possibility is my career choice.
My challenge to you is to think about your future with only your wants and needs, not those of your family or any other outside voice that’s filling your head. Try to take a step back and look at your unique skills and the parts of the world that inspire you and bring you happiness. I like to write my thoughts down. I’ll cross things off, circle some and then start a fresh page with whatever remained underlined at the top.
Most of all, I want you to have the confidence to do you, and to know that you don’t need to know exactly what’s going to happen. Don’t let anyone pressure you to close doors without even peeking behind them.
BUT, please think about all this later!! Bookmark this webpage, and I’ll see you back here a year or two from now. I’m not saying you should ignore the future, but I don’t think you should be worrying about that when you could be diving head first into your Peace Corps experience. Focus and embrace and enjoy and learn everything you can from what’s happening now. You’ll be surprised at what will come up. The future may just sort itself out for you.
I hope this helps! I’d love for you to keep in touch and let us know how things go.
Barbara Sueko McGuire
Features Editor / BUNCH Magazine
p.s. Do you have a pressing career question? Looking for advice on the next step in your professional path? Email us and we may share your letter here next month!