As a little girl when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up I always said a million things. I wanted to be a teacher and a doctor and a farmer and a cowgirl. My little brain did not have the capacity nor the desire to break down my dreams into separate plans called A, B, or C. I also lacked the ability or desire to see life as a linear pattern of experiences. My baby brain saw a teacher/doctor/farmer/cowgirl. There was no either or. I didn’t compromise or negotiate my existence. I just knew what made me smile and decided I wanted to smile all of the time.
It didn’t take long to learn that to avoid a lecture or the occasional laugh at my sweet naive thoughts, I had to scale back. Everyone told me that I couldn’t do all of those things. A well-meaning teacher would ask me which one I wanted to do the most because one day I’d have to pick. My mom would remind me that I would one day make a great doctor (I was young, but not dumb. I understood that you were ignoring the other options mom). I can remember an older kid one day telling me that, “people don’t really “become” cowgirls. That’s just silly.”
Over time I learned logic, sensibility and career tracks. I learned that I wasn’t great in math so I couldn’t be a doctor and teachers had to deal with little kids who didn’t listen and well…there weren’t many horses in Akron, Ohio. I adjusted. I became what made sense, except it never really made sense. There was always something missing. I love dressing up to go to work and being looked at as a professional and I claimed that identity without much hesitation, but being a grown up all of the time is boring!
It was when I turned 30 that I began the process of allowing myself to have multiple identities. I now see life as this continuum that I bounce back and forth on every day. I don’t have to choose a place to land. I can just be. I am the happiest that I have been in a LONG time. I’m teaching, just not in an elementary school classroom. I started gardening a couple of years ago and I’m learning to grow what I eat. I’m healing even without a medical degree and this year for the first time I rode a horse. I’m a long way from a Cowgirl, but really at nine it was all about Black Beauty anyway.
Part of the reason why I find joy in assisting women through professional transitions is that I get to help navigate spaces. I am always filled with joy when I’m working with a client who realizes that she can work at home AND be a professional. She can make money off of her hobby or that she can be an accountant AND a doughnut glazer (even though someone laughed at her for saying that when she was nine).
Now that I am an adult I realize that I knew so much more about myself as a child. We’re sent out into the world to learn, how to survive and somewhere in Life’s textbook there’s a chapter titled: You now nothing, listen to everyone else because they know what’s best for you. This chapter includes tons of brainwashing text that fool us into believing that we must seek answers about ourselves from everyone except us! My clients bring that textbook into our sessions and it is my job to help them rip the pages out one by one.
If done right career counseling is personal counseling. I help clients unpack the personal crap that gets in the way of their professional happiness.
Andrea Holyfield is a counselor specializing in career counseling and womens' empowerment. For more information go to www.LiveWellCPS.com