My Career Goals Over the Years

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

We all get asked this question at various stages in our lives. What no one tells you is that adults still feel as though they are wandering, and they still ask themselves this question. I think the U.S has an especially career-centric culture, in some places more than others. I live in New York, and while I live in the suburbs, I feel like there’s still a very fast-paced atmosphere where “What do you do?” is the first thing someone asks you.

I definitely know of people who say they don’t need a career that defines them. They feel a job is just a job, and it allows them to put food on the table and that’s all that matters. I sort of envy people who genuinely feel this way. Having a career that I can be passionate about has always been important to me. And I want to surround myself with people who feel passionately about their work as well. I don’t think people who value their careers are necessarily happier, in fact I think people like this are never satisfied, but I do think they’re the ones who blaze trails. I want to blaze a trail and leave my mark on the world.

Still, I wasn’t one of the those people who’s always known what she wanted to be. When I was a kid, the first career I remember aspiring to was wanting to be a pastry chef. I told my mom that I would open a bakery and make cupcakes for her all the time.

When we played the game Life (ya know, that board game that takes a hellishly long time to complete), I always was excited when I was able to pick the artist card for my career. Instinctively I knew I just NEEDED to be some sort of artist. And in many ways, I’ve done that for the past few years. I’ve written a bunch of poetry and fiction, wrote for a magazine, made lots of art, and I’ve been very poor.

No one tells you how lonely and challenging being an artist can really be. Don’t get me wrong, I still love it. But I realized that being able to support myself and having something to fall back on is super important. I can’t rely on getting a job by chance, like my parents many other Boomers did.

When I was a little older, I decided I wanted to be an interior designer. I thought that sounded like the funnest job ever (and I still do!), and I used to draw designs in my sketch pad.

Sometime around middle school, my aspirations became more social. I went through a phase where I wanted to be a massage therapist, and I would give massages to people in my family. By the time I reached high school, I’d decided that I wanted to be a pediatrician because I wanted to help kids.

Through all of these ideas, the arts were still very important to me. They were my passion. I still liked to draw and write poetry. I liked singing in my music classes. I didn’t always like high school, but my arts classes always kept me going. Things really changed for me in the tenth grade when I started acting.

I performed, took acting classes, did shows through my church, and took every opportunity I could to stay involved with theater. During my senior year, I attended an arts high school alongside my regular one and was a drama major there. I was surrounded by lot of other people who planned to study theater in college, so it inspired me to pursue theater in college as well.

By the time I’d taken my SAT’s and applied to college, I’d decided that I wanted to pursue a career as an actress. I went on auditions, and got accepted to a few theater programs. It was all really fun! But by the time I’d gotten to college, I felt really pressured to have a plan for my life, and I just didn’t have one.

I had way too many passions that I wanted to follow my career. I wanted to act, I wanted to write, I wanted to sing, I wanted to help people. I wanted too many things at once, and it gave me a lot of stress. By my sophomore year, I’d changed my major to English so I could focus on writing, but I still had a lot of ambition with no real plan.

It’s not that I thought a theater or English degree would get me a job. But I did think that, like most people I knew, I could get a job unrelated to what I studied. I imagined myself working in an office somewhere while I pursued my art on the side, or maybe working in advertising or publishing. I didn’t realize how hard it would really be to get a job in the communications field.

Now, I’m back to having goals in more social careers. I’m pursuing a master’s degree in social work, and I have a plan to be a mental health counselor, or to work in higher education as a career counselor, professor, or some sort of program director. It’s good, because it fulfills that desire I’ve always had to help others.

As for the artist in me, she’s still there, burning with lots of passion but not much direction unfortunately. I’ve done a lot of writing, but it’s not all I want to do, and it’s not all I want to be known for. I want to keep writing, but I also want to make visual art. I want to perform. I want to use the arts to address social issues as well. This is an area where I don’t have as concrete of a vision, probably because it’s much more self-motivated than other kinds of work, and it’s motivated by something other than money.

I learned a few years ago that my career types are artistic, social, and investigative. This makes a lot of sense, and it fits in with everything I’ve ever wanted to do. My personality type is also INFJ, and being an artist and social worker fits well with that as well. It feels good to know that there’s different types of work that can fit each of us.

I’m 24, and I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. But I have more clarity than I did before, I’m more knowledgeable about my opportunities. I don’t want a job that’s just a job. I want something I can be passionate about. My ambitions have changed a bit over the years, but one thing hasn’t. I don’t want to settle. I want to find work that is right for me.

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Childhood Memories and Reflections

When I was a kid, I used to go to my grandma’s house every day after school. And I was usually there in the summer, when my parents were at work. I’d always bring a book to read, or my sketch pad, or one of my poetry journals to pass the time. I’d also play outside with my cousin and other kids in the neighborhood. I was never a kid who felt popular or social or well-like. I was teased or bullied a lot. But the older I’ve gotten, the more I learned that you don’t need to have a lot of friends or be liked by everyone. A few good friends are far more valuable.

I’m only 24 years old, but it’s amazing how much has changed. When I was younger, there were no smart phones, and most kids didn’t have a cell phone until they were thirteen. I didn’t use social media, most of it didn’t exist yet anyway. I never had a MySpace page. The most I used a computer for was to play games on Nick.com. When I did get my first cell phone in middle school, it was a silver flip phone and I only used it to text my mom.

My grandma was a smoker. She drank coffee every morning, and her favorite foods included shrimp, avocado, scrambled eggs with bacon, and crab cakes. She watched soap operas every day, so me and my cousin were very familiar with General Hospital and The Young and the Restless. She watched the news a lot. She wasn’t always easy to get along with, which is something only my family (and a handful of nurses) could understand, but she still did a lot for the family. She used to take my cousin and I to the park, and would make us sit at the kitchen table until we finished eating our dinner.

We also had to eat our food before we could have juice so we wouldn’t fill up on the drink first. My cousin and I used to take our food to the trash, one forkful at a time, if we didn’t want to finish it all, and were too scared of getting caught if we dumped the whole plate. We used to draw with crayons under the coffee table in the living room, playing tic tac toe, but it wasn’t discovered until years later, when she got a new table.

Grandma liked opera music. She used to sit in her car for a while, just to listen to it. She used to make the best lemonade I’ve ever had, and she also made really good spaghetti and meatballs. She used to drive me crazy when I was younger because she would never. stop. talking. Even when I was trying to do my homework. She used to to say she loved me, and that she thought I always sounded so sweet on the phone.

When I was still figuring out my career, she said she thought I would make a good school teacher. It’s kind of funny. A part of me regrets not being certified to teach, even though I don’t want to teach k-12. I have an interest in teaching at the college level, though, and I’m pursuing my master’s degree in social work. I may still end up working in a school after all.

She always liked when we would go to her son Frankie’s house for Thanksgiving because he lived in a nice house out east. There was a lot of peace, quiet, and nature, so she liked to spend some time outside to look at the trees.

I always liked writing and art classes. My cousin liked playing basketball and dancing. I don’t have siblings, but I was always at their house, so we basically grew up together.

In a lot of ways, I’m still the same person. I still write poetry and make art. I still sing and love expressing myself. I’m still patient and want to help people. But I’m also more confident, at least I’m trying to be.

I had a good childhood because of my family. I always had people there to help me, and to take care of me. I know that I’m blessed with a lot of love. My journey has been shaped by everything I had when I was younger, all of the things I didn’t have to work for.

Now that I’m older, the future can feel really uncertain. It feels like I have to figure everything out on my own. I still have my family, of course. But I feel like I’m always worrying, always feeling like I’m not doing enough. When I was in school, succeeding there was enough. I’m hoping I’ll be able to find that kind of focus again in grad school.

I’m turning 25 in one month, and I find myself feeling like a failure again and again, because I want to succeed in everything all at once. I feel like I’m being pulled in so many different directions. I look to the future and feel uncertain. I look to the past, and I feel regrets. But I also feel blessed, and loved. The good moments of the past will always belong to me. They are treasures I can carry on my journey. I am blessed, and I can’t see the future, but I’ll be fine.

Things I’ve Accomplished In My Twenties (so far)

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To speak like an elementary school kid, I am 24 and a half. It’s easy to look back on this decade in my life and feel like I’ve gotten literally NOTHING done. I’m “between” jobs, I’m single, don’t have my own apartment, and I don’t drive. It’s easy to feel like I’m not getting anything I want done, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t accomplished anything in the last four and half years, right? Of course not! Here are ten things I’ve accomplished in my twenties (so far):

I Graduated From College: This is probably the first big thing that comes to mind. I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in English just a few days before my 22nd birthday. I completed it in four years, which not everyone does, so I guess that’s pretty awesome?? I graduated with honors, cum laude, and all that fancy stuff. And I made friends I still chat with today!

I Made Friends: Ya know, I spent a huge, and I mean huge chunk of my life believing that I was bad at making friends. Starting in elementary school I had bullies, in fifth grade I moved to a different school district (you know what THAT does for a kid’s social life), and it wasn’t until middle school that I started having “best friends.” In high school I had a few best friends, and then in college I had even more.

I have one or two friends I’ve kept in touch with from high school. And about four or five I still keep in touch with from college, so you can see how things improved! And it only took like a quarter of a century! Seriously, I hadn’t thought about making friends as an accomplishment until this moment, but it is one, isn’t it? You’re lucky if you can find good, kind friends. But it’s also something that requires effort and good habits to keep in touch.

I Embraced My Sexuality: This is a multi-faceted, complex one, the main part being that I embraced being bi/pansexual with a preference for women. I still have some anxiety here and there, but ultimately I feel really good about who I am, and I couldn’t be prouder to be queer. Learning and connecting more with the LGBTQ community has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

But there’s more to sexuality than my orientation, so it’s kind of like I’m working on phase two of my sexuality confidence. For me, this means learning to feel more comfortable in my body, and feeling sexy, beautiful and confident by own standards, not by society’s. It means conforming sometimes to my culture’s standard of beauty for women (i.e- shaving my legs), while also needing to love my body for everything it is in its natural state.

This is a big thing to work on, and honestly, it’s a no wonder it feels so daunting. The U.S has to be one of the most sex negative countries in the world. Especially if you’re a women, it can be hard to unlearn all of the toxic things we internalize. Like needing to be “pure,” waiting until marriage, slut shaming, etc.

Sooo this is a work in progress for me. Maybe I need to watch more French films. The French are cool with sex, right?

I Wrote Things: One thing I’ve definitely focused on since I graduated from college is writing. I self published six poetry books and a book of short stories, and gave a book to one of my favorite bands. I wrote articles for a magazine in Manhattan, did freelance work for a marketing agency (short-lived and under paid, but it still happened!), I started (and maintained) this blog, submitted poems, articles, and stories while facing rejection, persevering with my work like a BOSS, and I worked on bunch of other projects that only my eyes have seen.

I’ve also seen how my words have been able to move, comfort, and inspire people, whether it’s in my poetry books, or something I post on the internet. It’s confirmed that words have power, and that this is one of my gifts in this life. I’ve learned that it’s hard, I mean really hard to make money as a writer, but I’ve also learned how satisfying it is for me to take a DIY approach to this craft, and other artsy things as well. It’s a huge part of my life, and it’s one of the best things to come out of my twenties.

I Went To Vegas: It was rad. First time on the West Coast ❤

I Voted For A Woman For President: Okay, we all know how this one turned out. But still, I got to vote for a woman! How cool is that?!

I Applied To Grad School: Applying to grad school is something I considered doing for a long time. I thought about applying for something related to my current degree, like English or creative writing, but it didn’t create more job opportunities like I wanted, and needed. Eventually I decided to apply for a master’s degree in social work, and if I get accepted, I’ll be starting school next fall. Fingers crossed!

I Went To Concerts: I’ve gotten to see a few awesome artists in concert. Demi Lovato (got a photo with her, too! Thanks to my cousin), Miley Cyrus, Tegan and Sara, Kesha, DNCE, Kristen Chenoweth, Christina Perri, Kiesza, and Little Mix. Here’s to many more!

I Learned How To Navigate The NYC Subway: For reasons I can’t explain, I had this weird thing where I associated being an adult with being able to navigate the NYC subway system. I guess I felt like, if I can learn my way around Manhattan, I can learn my way around anywhere. Hit me up if you need directions to the Financial District.

I Celebrated Samhain: I didn’t do much, just made some art and had my own little dinner. I’ve been learning more about witchcraft, paganism, and other forms of spirituality. I’ve been meditating with crystals, and following different thought leaders like Mastin Kipp, Gabby Bernstein, Oprah, Tony Robbins, and the Dalai Lama.

This is a super important path for me, because I’m pursuing my spirituality on my own terms without worrying about anyone else’s dogma or approval. I’m finding my own path, and I’d say that’s important for any twenty-something.

So there it is, ten things I’ve accomplished in my twenties (so far). I’m four and half years into this decade, and I truly hope more good things are to come. I may not have everything I want, but I’m on my own journey and moving forward at my own pace. Your accomplishments are treasures. I hope you collect many on your own travels.

-Ashley

Thoughts on 24

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I’ll be 25 in six months. I read somewhere that when you turn 25, that’s when your brain transitions more into adulthood, or something along those lines. And I can kind of see that. I feel like I’m at a point where I’m still wanting to experiment, while also looking for constants. The truth is though, being in your twenties is hard. I see this as a decade of my life that’s one big experiment. It’s filled to the brim with failure, and it’s filled with the illusions of what you think your life should look like.

By 24, lots of people in the boomer generation were married, buying their first house, and having babies. At least, that’s how it seems. If my math is correct, my parents were 25 and 27 when they got married, and less than a year later I was born. So, by that standard, I still “have time” to figure things out. Right?

Honestly, by thirty I’ll probably be single. If I’m lucky, I’ll live in a shoe box apartment in Brooklyn, and if I’m really lucky I’ll have a cat.

The thing I hate about being in my twenties is that this is the youngest I’m ever going to be, while also being independent and old enough to do anything I want. But I can’t even enjoy it because I’m too stressed about having a career, AND a relationship, AND a car, AND exercising/ eating healthy, AND earning degrees, AND having an apartment, traveling, etc. Not to mention wanting to be happy 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

I’ll be the first to admit I get stressed because I try to do everything at once. But maybe the truth is, we can’t expect ourselves to do and have all of those things at the same time, can we? In high school and college, the only thing I really truly had to worry about was school. There may have been jobs and skills to build on the side, but school was the one thing that was really important. It was the top priority for my time.

After graduating, it’s like everything becomes the top priority. At least that’s how I feel. Suddenly, work, relationships, and everything else needs to be number one. It’s like everything you want in life is part of a Jenga tower, and if you don’t get one thing quite right, the whole tower (i.e- your whole life), will come crumbling down.

Of course, that’s not really how life works. People I know in their 50s, 40s, and even 30s are either married or not, they have kids or they don’t, they live in their own house, or they don’t. I’m not saying people don’t stress when they’re older, or that they don’t get bummed out about not having things they want, but I do feel like there’s less pressure.

In your 20s, people want to know how you’re using that degree you just got. They want to know if you’re dating if you’re single, or if you’re gonna marry the person you’re dating, or if you and your spouse are gonna have kids, or if you’re gonna breast feed the kids you already have, etc, etc, etc. It’s endless. If you don’t have a job, people want to know if you are looking. If you’re earning a degree, they want to know what you’ll do with it. It’s like being a young adult gives everyone permission to watch you under a microscope, and to make sure your decisions and answers align with whatever can make them the most comfortable.

I always thought my twenties would have a sense of adventure, but instead, it just feels like a long climb toward stability. Now that I’m halfway to twenty-five, it just makes me think. I don’t want to spend the rest of this decade feeling stressed and sad and inadequate. I don’t want it to pass me by while I’m drowning in job applications or worried about being “forever alone.”

But unfortunately, as much as I want to live my life to the fullest, I don’t really know how. I want to do what makes me happy, but it doesn’t always feel that simple. I’ve learned the hard way that no one but you cares if you’re in a lane that makes you unhappy. You have to fight for that on your own. And sometimes that fight is exhausting, or it has to wait.

The past five years have been transformative. I’ve been through a lot, accomplished a lot, and learned so much. It hasn’t all been failure and sadness, but it can feel that way at times. I remember the anxious times more than I remember the good times.

I want the next five years to be better. I hope they are. I hope happiness can be less elusive.

Gender Equality and Inclusion

Feminism has always been a complex movement. When women first fought for the right to vote in the UK and the U.S., it was noble, but it wasn’t all inclusive. This right to vote was intended for a specific demographic, namely white women. It didn’t include women of color, or any person of color for that matter. That’s not to say that what these women did wasn’t admirable, because even as a woman of color, I look up to the suffragettes. I don’t think people necessarily mean to forget about marginalized populations, but it happens none the less, even in the 21rst century.

Even in our culture that is probably more accepting than it has ever been, our feminism tends to lack inclusion. We can’t have a feminism that only pays attention to the needs of white, cisgender women. Women of color, trans women, gender nonconforming individuals, people who are differently abled, people with learning differences, and LGBTQ women face challenges that are unique to them. But when marginalized groups are not actively represented in feminist movements, their challenges and needs are not being addressed. They are not being given a voice for the discrimination they face.

I think that we have the potential to undergo an amazing cultural shift. Inclusion and acceptance of people of all genders, giving everyone the opportunities they need to be safe and productive in society, this can only lead to a more open-minded and compassionate world. Compassion seems like a simple concept, but our society makes it complicated. This virtue needs to be at the heart of what we do. Words matter. Ideas matter. The way we treat each other matters. Striving for a gender equality that is inclusive, while acknowledging the needs of specific demographics, can be one of the most important things our society does as a whole.

Lonely Suburbs

The suburbs are painstakingly lonely when you’re not in school anymore. There’s not much to do and finding a sense of community is nearly impossible. Most things you’d do to meet people aren’t very accessible, whether it’s trying to find a place a volunteer (that’s mostly been a dead end for me), going to events (there’s only so many you can go to), or the most laughable of all, trying to find a local job. It seems all I can really do is count down the days until I can afford to leave. I’m fine with the fact that building a career takes time. But if I’d known I would feel this stuck, I would have gotten more work experience when I was still in college. I’d certainly be further along by now. The only benefit to having alone time is that I can get plenty of writing done.

A few of my favorite creative writing and art blogs

A couple of days ago, I wrote a post about online literary magazines. Today I’m gonna talk about creative writing and art blogs! Blogs are a great way to find poems, stories and artwork you’ll love. Here are twelve of my favorites:

StarsRainSunMoon – Also titled “Arrows & Metaphors.” This is one of my favorite blogs that I’ve stumbled upon on WordPress. The author posts lovely poems and photographs.

Very Short Fiction – I didn’t discover this blog until recently, but the title says it all. This blog is stories, stories, and more stories! The author has maintained this site since 2008. Check out his “The Author” page to learn a bit more about him.

‘V’ as in Vixen – Another WordPress blog, this author’s writings are relatable and emotional. You can’t read her work without feeling connected to her experiences.

Beautiful Hello – You guessed it, this blog is from WordPress too 🙂 The author shares her paintings, enjoyable insights, and thoughts on living a creative life.

The Mischief Memoirs  – The author of this site posts thought-provoking poetry and artwork. They also sell their artwork online.

Cameron D Hamilton – This author posts poetry, stories, thoughts, and more. His posts are relatable, honest, and often give insights into his everyday life.

Button Poetry – Button Poetry is a Tumblr blog that posts videos of performance poets.

Mindful Poems – Another Tumblr blog, this site posts beautiful poems that are also aesthetically pleasing.

Queer Poets – A blog with work by and for queer poets.

Erin Anastasia – Blog, vlog, same difference right? This vlogger makes poetry videos that are totally worth checking out.

Little Short Stories – Little stories, cute images, and adorable rhymes. Also powered by Tumblr.

Black Poets – A blog that features Black poets each week.

It’s impossible for me to list all the blogs I’ve liked. I follow so many talented people on WordPress alone. These are just a few that have inspired me. I hope you enjoy them too ❤