How I Chose My Career

I graduated from high school in 1971. By that date alone, some of you may think that I danced with the dinosaurs as a youth. Well, I'm still dancing, but I've never danced with a dinosaur. I make these statements to help you understand that I entered the job market in a different era. As a 17-year-old girl graduating from high school, my options were more limited than they would be today.

Most of my friends were engaged to be married by the time high school graduation occurred. Some of my friends were already married and had at least one child. Most of the daily buzz at school were girls showing off their engagement rings or talking about when a wedding date would be set. I was steadily dating in high school but still wanted to have some sort of career.

I loved mathematics. Up until tenth grade, my math grades were very high and I loved Algebra. Unfortunately, when I signed up for Geometry in the tenth grade, I had a male teacher who did not believe that girls should be involved in math. He sent me and the other three girls who had signed up for the class to the study area. The teacher explained that he and the boys in the class wanted to talk about things that they did not want to share with women. Since I had no instruction and could not understand the geometry book, I nearly failed the class. I tried to take Algebra II in the eleventh grade but could not pass the class due to missed instruction the year before. I never realized how important math was and did not know how many doors would be closed to me on the college level because of this.

In the eleventh grade, the school gave students an aptitude test to measure strengths and weaknesses for assistance in choosing a career. I was off the charts in drafting and engineering. The school counselor insisted that I should take beginning drafting in my senior year. I thought that maybe I would enjoy this since I liked drawing and art classes. I was timid in high school and the first day in the drafting class was so uncomfortable that it was all I could do to not dart out the door after class started. It was filled with ninth grade boys. They were yelling, throwing things, and hitting each other. The teacher could not get the class under control. After class I went to the counseling office and insisted they transfer me out of that class. The counselor refused to transfer me. For the first time during my school experience, I stood up to a person in authority. I threatened to quit school if I could not get out of that class.

The school had dealt with my mother in the past and did not want to have another confrontation with her, so the counselor finally backed down and transferred me into the only class that had an opening, home economics. I had beginning sewing and cooking for the first semester with a slot open for another class in the second semester. I was a terrible cook (burned everything) but I took to sewing as if I were a Taylor. By the second semester, I was enrolled in advanced sewing and designing my own prom dress with full length coat. My teacher was so impressed with my progress, that she entered my work in a local fashion show. I took honorable mention and won multiple bolts of fabric and supplies.

The home economics teacher helped me look into colleges where I could train to be a dress designer. I thought about clothing day and night. I taught my two sisters to sew and design their own clothes. I made all of my clothes and was not afraid to try difficult sewing projects. I went to the library and looked up the statistics on dress designers. I checked out all of the colleges. I read about anything related to dress designing that I could find.

I remember the day I went home and asked my parents if I could attend Pratt Institute in New York to study fashion design. My mother's reply was that I was not allowed to go to any four-year college and especially not out-of-state. I wasn't surprised by her reply. I knew I was asking a lot of my parents and knew if my mother did not approve, my father would not agree to it either. My mother usually talked my father into new ideas.

At this point in my life, I stopped having any aspirations for a career. I grew up on a farm and life basically consisted of school and working on the farm from March to October. My sisters and I bought our own clothing and shoes from the time we were twelve years old with the money we made from working on the farm. My average pay per year was between $300 and $400. The work was long and hard. In the summer we worked an average of ten to twelve hours per day with time off on Sunday to attend church.

After graduation from high school, my parents gave me a choice. They would be willing to give me a used car if I worked on the farm full time or they would pay for two years of community college and I would buy my own car after college graduation. I hated farm work so much that this did not seem like a choice at all. I would be attending community college. The only two careers offered that my parents would consider was executive secretary or nursing. Nursing did not appeal to me. I really didn't feel like I had much of a choice. I chose the Executive Secretarial program.

It was difficult to complete the secretarial classes and be in a career that involved reading everyday because I learned much later that I was dyslexic. I earned very good grades in college and always excelled at my job. I had to work much harder at my job than the average secretary. Dyslexia is no longer a problem for me as it has been corrected through vision therapy. As an executive secretary I have spent many years working with grammar, punctuation, composition, etc.

Finally, I spend time at, writing. I love it and I would have never known how much I love writing if I had gone down a different path. I still love to sew and I love math and still work on sharpening my skills in both of those areas. I don't know that I ever really chose my career path. I took the career path that pleased others more than myself. Today, though, through I choose to be a writer.

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