You may remember that about a month ago I spoke at a friends' school for their "World of Work," which is essentially career day. She works in a middle school and every year they find volunteers to speak on their careers- what they do, how they got there, what type of background/education is required, that type of thing. This year, my friend- Danielle- asked me to participate and of course I obliged. I was a bit nervous. You may remember from my frantic post. If you don't, you can review it here.
In the end, the kids were great- very attentive with excellent questions. I spoke to them mostly about my career path, as opposed to my current job. I explained how I started as a music teacher, then worked in an office that eventually fired me (yup, I've been fired). After that I worked in theatre mostly as a musician, but also as a costume designer. I told them how that led to my position in Pennsylvania at AMT and then how that job prepared me for my current position as the Alterations Manager for Madeleine's Daughter. It seems like a strange progression, but to me it makes perfect sense. My goal was to explain to the students that careers can be ever-changing and that just because you decide you want to do something one day, you may find your interest in something else growing down the road. And it's okay to make that change. If I hadn't been open to the opportunities presented to me, if instead I had said, "I have a degree in music education, so I must stay in that field," I would never be where I am today. And where I am today is a great place- I am the happiest I have ever been and I have great balance in my life. As content as I am right now, I also know that things could change, and that if and when they do I'll hopefully remember the lessons I've learned about being open to new and different possibilities and opportunities.
While the story of my career is one that can help young students understand their futures a bit more, it is also relevant to grown adults. Just because you went to school for a specific career; just because you have been working in a single industry for the last few years; just because it is what you've always done- none of these are reasons to stay in a position where you are unhappy or discontented. It may take a bit of courage to step out and do something new. It may mean revisiting your short-comings and figuring out how you need to grow in order to move up. It may mean the scary process of quitting your job to go back to school. It may mean all sorts of uncertainties and what-ifs. But if the end result is better for you and your family, don't you think you owe it to yourself to try?
I felt great when I left the school that day, but I felt even better when I came home to an envelope full of "Thank You" notes from the students today. I realized that my imperfect career path will have an impact on the lives of these students and I felt so honored to have been a part of it. It reminded me of a friend whose daughter will be going to college next year. Her daughter was in middle school when I met her and I helped her through some of her first experiences performing in professional theatre. Now she'll be attending NYU in the fall and studying musical theatre. Her father said to me, "You helped make that happen. You had a hand in raising her to be the person she is now." Is there anything more special than that?
The "Thank You" notes I received today gave me a similar feeling. I want to share some of what the students wrote with all of you:
I thought your story was really cool and interesting how you went from a music teacher to a fashion designer... made me realize you can do anything you put your mind to. -- Brianna"
" Dear Renee Bouchard,
Thank you so much for taking your time to talk to s. I found your job very interesting and fun to do. I like how you told us about your experiences with different jobs. I really do appreciate what you did for all of us. Thank you so much again!
"Dear Ms. Bouchard,
Thank you for your time coming to our school. I was really excited of what you had said. I feel people should create their emotions in making clothes that come from their self. I'm looking forward to becoming a designer. Thank you. -- Chelsea M."
And this one is my favorite:
Thank you very much for telling us about your job experiences! Not that long ago I wanted to make my own clothes, but I didn't know how I would like it. But you made it so easy. :) And your dress was beautiful! But now I am hooked on being a nurse. Maybe I will make something of my own! Thank you for coming to spend your day with us!
Overall, I have to say it was a very rewarding experience and I'm proud to know that I may have influenced these young students, even just a little. If you ever have the opportunity to volunteer for a local school system, please do it. The experience will be more rewarding than you can imagine.