The Call to Listen to My Heart
It was a warm afternoon in late September 2003 (how I remember these dates is beyond me). I was a senior in high school in anatomy lab with three of my classmates and we were in the process of dissecting a cat cadaver. I remember my lab partners discussing the ins and outs of how they were going to dissect the poor little guy and how they were excited about it. As I stared at the cat in awe, not only was I sad about it, I was wondering what the hell I was doing in that class. The only reason I signed up for it was because I needed the class as a prerequisite for the nursing program I was pursuing in college. I really didn’t care about anatomy and furthermore I didn’t give a damn about becoming a nurse (no disrespect to nurses, it is an amazing profession and I love all of you) Plain and simple: my heart wasn’t in it. Most of the women in my family were nurses so that is what I thought I wanted too. I didn’t and I knew the truth at a very deep level. It wasn’t a surprise to me when I barely made it out of anatomy class that fall with a C.
This was my first epiphany about going my own way in my career. I still intended on becoming a nurse in college during my senior year in high school just to go with the flow even though my intuition guided me to other things. For example, I really excelled in the arts and languages and scored the highest level in writing for my college English entrance exam. Foreign languages seemed to roll right off my tongue, I enjoyed dancing, singling, and expressing myself. It was when I performed in front of others I felt absolutely alive and full of energy. I started to do a lot more of the things that gave me that natural high. When I went to college I continued to purposely seek out activities that gave me energy and pursue the things I looked forward to doing. I chose to take classes that centered around languages, the arts, and communication. By my second semester away at college, I switched my major from nursing to Spanish. I didn’t yet know what I wanted to do with Spanish, it just came naturally to me and I learned it very quickly. It was at this point I realized the importance of following my heart and doing the things that came naturally to me. I decided at that point I was only going to do what my heart desired.
Until it was time for internships, graduation, and facing the real world. I thrived in academia where I knew my professors, my classmates, my friends, and the people that worked for me at the smoothie counter at the campus recreational center. I was thriving in my comfort zone and didn’t really have any major cares in the world. I mean I had some bills to pay here and there and the comfort cushion of student loans paying for my living expenses. During my junior year in college many of my classmates were talking about the importance of getting an internship in order to secure a good job after graduation. I started to apply to everything because I wanted to keep up with the crowd. I knew I wanted something where I can use my Spanish language skills. I saw a posting for a Human Resources Intern at a retail manufacturing center near my parents house. One of the prerequisites for the job was someone that was studying Spanish and also interested in human resources. I didn’t really know anything about HR and I was still excited about speaking Spanish so I applied and got the job. I really enjoyed working with the employees and helping them get acclimated to the company culture. Not only was I naturally good at helping people, I took a lot of pride in learning how organizations function and working in a professional environment.
After college graduation I still wasn’t sure of what I wanted to do. I was young and having a great time with my friends. I honestly wanted a job I enjoyed while having enough money to move out of my parents’ home. My degree was in Communications and Spanish so I felt like my options were wide open. Trying to get a job would be easy for me with a degree and already having leadership skills from my job in college. After submitting several applications on Careerbuilder and having a few interviews, I needed to earn some money so I walked into Target near my parents home to see if they were hiring. When I approached the woman at the counter and asked if they were hiring, she asked me what I was interested in doing. I told her I had just graduated college and was looking for my first job and needed some extra cash in the meantime. She took a look at my resume and asked me if I would be interested in the executive team leader program. Of course I was interested.
I went through the extensive interviewing process and learned I would be responsible for managing departments within a specific Target store in the area. I would go through six weeks of business school prior to starting my journey in retail leadership. In August of 2008 I got the job and officially began my professional career. While that year of working for Target was amazing, it definitely wasn’t my calling. I was 23 years old and managing a lot of people and financials. The reality was, I needed the guidance more than anything and I wasn’t yet emotionally mature to handle that kind of responsibility. Plus my heart wasn’t in it and I didn’t care about how well my store was doing in meeting sales goals or when the next spring clothes transition was coming out. It wasn’t a surprise when I was “let go” with a severance almost a year after I was hired. It felt terrible for me at the time, yet it was really a blessing in disguise since it wasn’t for me anyway and this really propelled me forward to the next chapter in my life.
I felt panicky only because I was planning to rent a townhouse with one of my friends and move in day was only weeks away. Living at home was no longer an option for me at age 23 (sorry–love ya mom and dad!) So I decided to take on two jobs–one as a server at a sports restaurant on weekends and the other a barista at Starbucks. I was definitely making ends meet and sometimes the tips at the restaurant were really good. I would frequently get $100 plus tips from drunk and overly flirtatious men. I appreciated the gesture but couldn’t help but to feel yucky about taking someone’s money and they were plastered. I also frequently asked myself what I was doing and why I wasn’t putting myself out there to do more. I mean I had a college degree and one year of management experience. I liked my job at Starbucks (um hello…free coffee, lattes, food at the end of the night, what more could a girl ask for?) I knew I needed to leave the restaurant even though the money was pretty good, I was tired of working late evenings, every weekend, and holidays too. I was also very much a party girl during these days and I knew deep in my heart that these days of staying out until 4 in the morning were getting old really quickly. I started dating my now husband too and knew I had to start getting my act together.
Back to the online job boards I went, polishing off my resume still feeling the shame of getting let go at my management job. I was ashamed of getting fired and I was afraid no other place would want to hire me because of that. I remember the moment I saw a job ad for an HR/Training Specialist for a local casino. One of the qualifications for the job was HR internship experience, which I already had, and advanced presentation skills. This was right up my alley so I applied and got the job. I enjoyed it so much and it was my first time working in a casino. The employees were fun and I never had a dull moment working with the new hires from security guards to cage cashiers, to table games dealers, and servers. Not only did I enjoy working in HR and connecting with all of the different kinds of people, I had the opportunity to utilize my creativity everyday. I designed the new hire training classes and put my own unique spin on what I was teaching. Although the starting pay was fairly low and I still had to keep my Starbucks job to pay the bills, time would just naturally fly by