I’m 5 years old and getting ready to make a pirouette, the same as the gymnast at the Olympic Games. I lean on the entrance door, squishing my body against the cold metal, thinking this will help me to have more élan for my full-twisting double-back move. As I ran through the apartment’s corridor into the living room for my performance, my belly shakes, and my parents applaud as their little hippo jumps on the wooden floor by making a big ‘bang’.
It was the first time I’ve grasped the concept of a career, and being a ballerina who also competes at the Olympics was the first job I ever wanted. For the months to come, I would ‘perform’ for everyone who was willing to watch me. I had no idea how to jump, and no flexibility, but my soul was happy, I was moving as I was feeling, with no shame, I was never in a living room, but on a stage in a tutu or a tight suit. Everyone was amused by my chaotic moves, a chubby kid playing ‘ballerina’ is a delight for sore eyes. It didn’t take me long to understand that I was funny, and in a way it didn’t bother me, I loved to see people laughing, but then I understood I will never be a ballerina. I didn’t have it in me, I was not skinny, nor flexible and there was no ballet lesson in my small town. My parents wanted me to be aware of this, while they were kind, they tried to explain that I might find something else to pursue as a career since I didn’t have the talent for this one.
It was probably the period when the inner critic in my head was brought to life. While I’ve always loved to perform in some way, around the age of 8 years old I’ve started to doubt myself and to recognize all the things I didn’t have a talent for.
The next career was pop singer, with a focus on being a star. A lot of kids go through this one. For me, it ended fast, as I was told that my voice stinks. I was just not born with it. Since then, I started to dislike singing, even in class or just for fun.
The chubby kid then went on dreaming, and as I loved watching anything fashion-related and playing dress-up with my mom’s high heels and dresses, I decided to be a model. By then I knew I was a bit chubby and that I should lose some weight, my journey into toxic body image started super early. I tried to lose the weight, but not very successfully, I probably tried for one week or two. I secretly kept the hope that when I will be 20 I will be magically super skinny and a model, but meanwhile, I moved to wanting to be a fashion designer.
This one was big for me. I loved color books, drawing, and painting, but again no visible talent on the paper, I struggled to reproduce anything from my head or from an image. Even so, I’ve started a drawing ‘portfolio’ with my designs, I wanted to present it at my birthday party. From parents to relatives and friends, they told me I don’t ‘have the hand’, that’s why I can’t draw, basically, I don’t have talent in this area either. When I showed my work at my party, my friends were not impressed, they made fun of some stuff, but also appreciated some, probably just to be nice. Even so, it hurt, and while I was aware that I was not good at drawing, my confidence was shattered again.
I’ve started to ask my parents how to find my talent. It seemed like I didn’t have a talent for anything. They didn’t have a recipe for this, but encouraged me to try other things. They also said that not everyone is born with a visible talent that can be turned into a skill, some of us have a really kind heart, and can help people, or they are good listeners. This didn’t tell me anything, I wanted something concrete. I wanted to find something and to dedicated fully to it.
Until today, I still want that (I’m 25).
As I was growing up, I started to think about more practical careers, but nothing seemed interesting. Some suggested police officers or a position in the army. No way I was thinking, my artistic side felt threatened.
Around high school, and even before, I’ve discovered the concept of fashion editor. I loved stacking fashion magazines in my room, and I came to realize that I can actually work for one. But it seemed impossible because of course, I was not good enough, I was afraid to prepare for something like this because I knew I would fail.
To distract me from this, I thought that I could be a dolphin trainer. There was no place near me where I could do that, but dreaming about something I couldn’t fail at was nice. Then I’ve considered being a vet, but while I love animals, I couldn’t see myself operating on them.
I went back to my love for fashion, and I’ve found that being a fashion journalist is an actual thing and that there is a university in London that teaches that. I was living in a town in Romania, it was a good life, but no way my parents had the money for such a school. Also, my English skills were quite bad.
I had to pick a university, so the most logical step that could in some way make a fashion journalist was to study journalism in Romania. During university, I’ve tried everything, thinking that I will find that passion for something. From volunteering at events to taking photos to help at the university, I was all in. I loved the student life, but no dream career was discovered there. But I’ve understood that I like to write and that I have an inclination for visuals and design. Too bad I didn’t do much with this because my confidence was still low.
Even so, when deciding if I should do an MA, I told my parents about that London university I’ve discovered in high school. To my surprise, they encouraged me to apply.
A few months later I was moving to London.
Will I find that dream job where I can give it all here? Seemed like the place that would offer that.
Well, 2 years later, plus some more internships and fun projects, I managed to get my first full-time job. This job started as a part-time one, while still at university. Imagine that until then, all my ‘jobs’ were either unpaid internships or small gigs at university (these were paid).
I kind of put aside the idea of a dream job when I was looking for the first job that could help me pay rent. I’ve understood then that the movies and stories that basically show workaholics in their desired career are not necessarily healthy or true stories.
This is not to say that finding a job that you really love is not possible, but for sure you will not love every minute of it.
I am still working at that first job, but luckily my position changed from an assistant to an e-commerce marketer, which meant that when the pandemic hit I was able to work from home. And this is how I’ve discovered the magic of being able to work from anywhere in the world. This really opened my eyes.
While I’ve never planned on staying at this firm for so long, no one planned for the planet to be in lockdown for a few months. I was grateful for having a paycheck, even if my work didn’t bring a lot of fulfillment at the beginning, I was still learning some new skills and discovering new career paths. Right now, I love working in the online medium and discovering how people interact with it, especially when you can do this from the comfort of your home or a hotel while having time to work on your other passions.
Today, I am still pondering on that dream career, but it’s hard to pinpoint what it is. I believe that we are exposed to a narrative that in order to be successful you need to find a job that you enjoy and dedicate to it completely, when in fact every period of your life can have a different ‘dream job’.
Psychologists tell us that in order to have a successful love relationship our significant other should not fulfill all the roles that we need in our life, such as father/mother figure, best friend, therapist, fun friend, and so on. I agree with this, and I am thinking then why would we base our meaning of life on one career path?
Could just one ‘dream job’ bring joy, improvement, challenges, safety, spontaneity, creativity, steady income, growth, fulfillment, love, peace, and more? Now, it doesn’t seem likely. We are trained from school and through our media exposure, firstly that we need some sort of a job to be able to live, and then for those who strive for a bit more a job that can become a career, which usually means that you have to fall in love with them or be very good at them, or have some sort of ‘talent’ for them.
I don’t believe in talent anymore, after reading Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, I realized that I was growing up with a fixed mindset, thinking that talent is something innate, and that practice will never make me talented like someone who was born with that. I can tell you that anything can be learned, practiced, and perfected.
Talent is just a concept, and while some people are born with some extraordinary skills, why would you compare with them or anyone else for that matter?
I think we should change the idea of what a career means, and we should get rid of the ‘dream job’ term. Firstly, I would use the term ‘desired job’. Then, we should see a career as a map for all the jobs & hobbies we will have.
A map that shows the geographical location, the year, the aspirations for that year(s), the current job + salary, current hobbies we can actually do, how contempt are we on a scale from 1 to 5, and how bad we would like to change something from a scale from 1 to 5.
For some of us, working from different places on earth might be more important than climbing the corporate leader as fast as possible, for others having the time to go hiking every week might be a critical factor when it comes to a successful, happy life, therefore a career that doesn’t allow that but looks extraordinary from outside might make them miserable.
I don’t want a linear career anymore, I’ve learned through all the things that I’ve tried that if I was to dedicate all my life to one career I wouldn’t have experienced so many perspectives that help me realize that there should be a symbiosis between our job, personal life, hobbies, values, and relationships. Creating rigid borders between them will only create conflict since they are all part of the same map.