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Leave Room for Flexibility and Change

Viviana Vallin
Continuous Light Barbie I (après Angar) .....DSCF1646a

Photo Credit: Gilberto Santa Rosa

When we are young, adults always ask we what we want to be when we grow up.  For some reason, there is pressure to have a concrete answer: a doctor, a singer, an athlete, etc.  Wouldn’t it be interesting to have a child respond: “I have no idea?” There are many young adults that still feel this way. When we share with our loved ones early on what we want our career to be, it is easier for them encourage and guide our path.  If you want to be a doctor, your family can encourage your interest in science, anatomy, and or even give you a doctor Barbie when you are little!  I remember when my parents gave me a “Veterinarian Barbie” when I was in elementary school.

There are a plethora of benefits to making a career decision early. We can start to prepare ourselves well in advance to achieve our goal.  When I decided I wanted to be a veterinarian as a child, I participated in activities that aligned with that goal.  In high school, I focused on my science courses, volunteering with animal organizations, and majored in biology in college. In college, I also worked at a veterinary clinic and volunteered with an animal rescue group in addition to other extracurricular activities.

Now that I am 25, and giving myself the time and space to think about what I want my career to be, the answer is different.  It’s different because I am different.  My path through the education system, from high school to an Ivy League university has changed me.  Throughout the past decade, I have observed how the education system prepares students for the future, how underserved minority youth are often short-handed in higher education, how there are many challenges for first-generation students, and how there are many more visible and invisible barriers for underrepresented students.

I did not originally believe I wanted to go into a career in education.  I don’t think I would have known what that would have even looked like when I was young.  There was no one in my family who was familiar with the idea of studying education as a profession. I didn’t have all of the information to make a decision until very recently. Even today, the path is not as a clear as choosing a career with a linear tract.  However, my experience going through the educational pipeline has allowed me to see both the amazing opportunities and very real barriers Latino students still face.

It is true that we all have unique talents and inclinations that present themselves early on.  But we should always leave ourselves room for flexibility and the ability to change course.  We should strive to be in tune with how we feel about what we are experiencing in the present moment.  Perhaps a volunteer position you take as a side commitment will change your heart and soul.  The experiences I have had working with minority middle and high school students who still dare to dream big against these barriers has fueled my passion to help bring change.

Changing paths can be a scary thing. Especially when you have been striving toward a goal for years, making sacrifices and investing your time and energy.  We can make things less scary by changing our mindset. Allow yourself to stop and listen to how you are feeling and responding to your surroundings and actions.  We need to remove the self-imposed pressure to be on a defined path.  Give yourself the gift of flexibility.

One of my favorite quotes from The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho says, “People are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of.”  This reminds me that if you experience a change of heart or feel a strong pull in a certain direction, don’t hold yourself back just because it takes you off your current path.  In the end you will use all of your life experiences to inform who you are as an individual and a professional.  Setting goals and timelines is part of achieving success.  Incorporating flexibility and following your heart is part of achieving happiness.


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