As I chatted with a girlfriend recently we got on the subject of second careers and setting out on new journeys. Even if you’ve only been working in your field for a few years you may feel a tug toward doing work that is more soul-fulfilling. And this is a trend I’ve been seeing more of recently.
Many people are abandoning the tenants of success that are focused simply on high wages, upper level management positions, notoriety or attaining a degree. What I’ve been seeing and feeling more of are the ideas that 1. Success is defined differently for each individual 2. Success has more to do with creating a living centered around your passions, convictions, talents, and for some, creating or promoting resources that may essentially change our world for the better.
I had my own revelation of sorts about this very idea a few years back when I was living in the beautiful beachside town of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. I arrived to the island dead set on completing my degree, applying to a prestigious medical school, becoming an OBGYN, and living out my days “serving” in the world’s most remote places. But what I realized was missing from this whole idea was the “why.” Why was I doing all of it? Why had I created these certain parameters and ways in which it all had to be done? How did this work fit into my life as a whole? Why wasn’t I enjoying life along the way?
I had somehow gotten sucked into an idea that wasn’t my own, but I don’t really every remember being told that success was mine to define. Yes, I have faith and personal convictions that guide me, but they are not limiting, they are ideals that help me in making decisions.
For some reason I’d allowed my academic surroundings and the western culture (at the time) to completely dictate not just my choices in education but how I lived out my life all together.
Once in Puerto Rico I took a full semester of classes, including Microbiology, all in Spanish– I don’t speak Spanish fluently. But I pushed through! I wanted so badly to be at a certain point in my career within a certain amount of time and I was bound to do anything I could, no matter how much it stressed me out. At the end of that semester I took a moment to evaluate things. I also had some quite profound conversations with the women in my life and came to the conclusion that school was not where I was meant to be at the time.
I have to admit, it was difficult. For 4 years I’d defined myself as a pre-med student. Someone who spent long hours studying, never had free time to just hang, and had completely abandoned my creative side. To then be without all of that, on this island where embracing each day, forming intimate relationships, and using nature as inspiration for life was more important, I was momentarily stunned.
What was I supposed to do next?
That time in my life was a schooling all its own. I was gently guided, by my faith in God and by the women placed in my life for that particular season. These are women that I completely revere to this day, and they helped direct me toward a path of contentment, simplicity, and community. Some of them have no idea of how they so greatly affected me. I remember the first time I was running late in Puerto Rico (which in all actuality isn’t really a thing there, but I didn’t know), my sweet friend Kelley said, “Oh don’t worry, take your time, I’ll see you when you get here.” I was sure she was just trying to be kind and that once I arrived she’d surely be angry, but she wasn’t! She was genuinely glad to see me and my tardiness was nearly unnoticed. This was one of my earliest introductions to the life I truly wanted.
I wanted a life rooted in authenticity, creativity, relationships, and meaningful work. I realized that becoming a physician wasn’t a problem on its own. The problem resided in how I was pursuing that path and the pressure I felt would be placed on me to keep up that rigor even once I’d achieved the “success” of becoming a physician.
Over the years since my early months in Puerto Rico I’ve had the privilege of reconnecting with my creative side, developing relationships with inspiring women, and developing my skills in order to still serve. But I’ve also held tightly to my values and new understanding of what true success is. I’ve recognized that no career or passion will truly mean success for me if it places profit over people, steals me away from my family on a regular basis, takes me out of community with women, or doesn’t provide adequate compensation for my work.
I’ve decided to define success for me (and only me) as well as work toward a life and career path that embodies those values.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and dialogue with you more about this.
How have you defined success for yourself? What values do you uphold but your employer does not? Do you find yourself constantly compromising in order to please or achieve?
Please share your experience below in the comments. I always reply.
p.s. I had the great pleasure of sharing my story and journey of success this past Friday at this powerful Guam Chamber Business Women’s Network Event. Video of my keynote presentation to come!
Kelsey O.February 19, 2017 at 3:52 pm
LOVE this SO much Anjelica… I think Guam has taught me many of the same lessons you stumbled upon in Puerto Rico (I’ve never been, but it sounds incredible!). I’ve noticed a shift in my own life after becoming a mother. The fast paced, “go-go-go”, stressful career attitude is not as enticing as it once was. I thirst to find a position that mixes my passions of health, encouragement and education to the general population, while still giving me time to invest in community and my family. I’m reevaluating my idea of success and what the next steps look like in fostering a career which aligns with my version of success.
Thank you for the thought provoking blog post.
AnjelicaFebruary 20, 2017 at 9:40 pm
You’re so welcome! I love sharing little tidbits like this with you ladies.
…Yes, yes, yes!!! I can totally see you in a career that mixes health, encouragement, and education! I think island life gives us this look into a different way of living that whispers “there’s more to life”, that is just way harder to hear when back stateside. Though I do feel that many women here and abroad are recognizing this idea that family, work, and play can somehow all work together in unison, just that it will take a bit more creativity and patience to discover exactly how it will play out.
Thank you for being such a faithful reader!
Alex HowellFebruary 19, 2017 at 9:12 pm
Hi Anjelica, this was an amazing post. You described exactly what most of us do with our education and profession. We put a certain degree or job on a pedestal and believe reaching it will bring fulfillment. If you asked me back senior year of high school I would have told you earning a degree in Exercise Physiology and becoming an Athletic Trainer was being success. Then it was becoming an Occupational Therapist. So much has changed since then. I had a different path and becoming either of those doesn’t exactly comply. I took a short cut to get some hands on work in and got licensed as a sports massage therapist. I love this work, but still it was a goal to have a bachelors. Marrying my military husband at a young age changed my career and educational routes. When I picked them back up, personal tragedy struck my family and I quit 2 jobs and dropped out of school. 5 months later I ended up on a beautiful island in the middle of the pacific ocean, without a clue on how to pursue my educational goals I had worshiped for so many years. I felt stuck and finally came to the realization I loved my husband more than ever working with a professional sports team. I mean how was I going to work the Los Angeles Angels baseball team while living with my Coastie husband? This was a dream put on a pedestal. It was unreasonable and there was no value to add to my relationship with him. Through a silly tv commercial I discovered an amazing online school and a degree program that fits our lifestyle. Of course I initially shot it down when I saw it was a business degree instead of a sports medicine degree. When encouragement and some tough love from my husband I agreed to enroll. Guess what?!?! I couldn’t be happier with decision. It’s only been one term, but I have been more fulfilled and excited about my education than I ever did in the 2 1/2 years I spent in junior college. I can travel around the globe and still access assignments and professors with ease. They want me to succeed and make an effort to work with my lifestyle. No other school has ever offered that. I finally found educational success and a clearer direction for my professional future. In that professional future I come home to my family and husband every night. I am working with a demographic I am passionate about. Success to me is fulfilling dreams on a smaller level than I have ever imagined. I can impact those often unnoticed by the world and it move mountains. Thanks again for sharing, this has been so applicable to me at this point in my life
AnjelicaFebruary 20, 2017 at 9:33 pm
Your story speaks to my heart so much! I had a very similar experience. I had to leave 3 colleges because of my hubby’s job, and ultimately it’s been a blessing! I still don’t have a degree but the more and more that I follow what seems right for my family I get closer to doing more fulfilling work that actually fuels my soul.
What an amazing journey you’ve been on! I love that though you aren’t working for the Angels you’ve grown closer to your spouse and are getting the unique opportunity to see the world….I’m super excited to hear that you’ve found a school that suits your life so well! Do you mind sharing the school you attend?
Thank you for sharing your heart and story!