Today is my birthday. Like a lot of people, this is a time of year when I tend to reflect – whether I want to or not – on where my life is going. And where it hasn’t gone.
Plenty of things haven’t happened on schedule. My 10-year-old self thought that by 28 I’d surely have a Mustang convertible, a house with a pool and a boyfriend who looked like Joey McIntire (What can I say? When I was 10, Mustangs and New Kids on the Block were cool).
The fact that I’m still cruising around in my grandfather’s hand-me-down Taurus, renting a student apartment and decidedly sans Joey McIntire doesn’t bother me much. I never measured my success that way.
But there is one dream deferred that galls me.
Most of you know by now that I am a journalist. I started writing newspaper stories at age 14, which means that as of today I have officially been writing for half my life.
I thought that by age 28 I would be entering the next stage of my journalism career. I’d be telling bigger and better stories at a bigger and better newspaper – perhaps at the Dallas Morning News, the Baltimore Sun or the Boston Globe.
Reading that list now feels like a joke. All those papers have been gutted and, in some cases, teetered on the brink of insolvency. It’s not a future I would dream for myself now, but I still pine for an alternate reality in which I could live that life. My skills, my personality, my belief system – all of it jived with the journalism culture. And when that world fell apart, I feared I would never find another place I fit so well.
Improbably, I have ended up at business school – a place of button-down shirts, Excel spreadsheets and value-adds. Once in awhile the strangeness of this will hit me and I have to catch my breath. It happens at the oddest times – sitting in class, talking to another student, pinning on my b-school nametag – when I suddenly realize that this is my life now. It’s never what I planned and before I left for b-school, I worried I’d made a horrible mistake.
So I’m grateful for how well this adventure has turned out. I love where I am, what I’m learning and how I’m growing. My parents saw me this weekend and were stunned. “We haven’t seen you this happy in years,” they said.
It’s not at all what I planned — it’s better.