Monday, July 6, 2015

The Paths We Take

I began work at One Life to Live just a week after my college graduation. I went from hours of research and intellectual pursuits to pouring coffee and running errands and answering phones. I was in heaven.

I sometimes wonder about my little journey--how I went from liberal arts college to television production, from psychology department senior thesis to soap opera script distribution. I had no family connection (though for my first few years, there were people convinced that I must). I had taken no college courses in TV production and done no summer internships at production companies. Quite simply, I met a head writer who gave me a name and address, and I happened to be in a few of the right places at a few of the right times. And the rest of my career, and in some ways, my life, followed from there.

I sometimes wonder what my life would have looked like without the liberal arts college or the head writer or the senior thesis. What it would have looked like with a class in television production or a summer internship or a career services office that knew something about the things I wanted to do. Perhaps I never would have poured the coffee or delivered the scripts, or learned about camera angles and show time and back story. And I would never have been where I am today.

The bottom line is, we don't always know where the steps we take are going to take us. When we start on a path, we can't be sure whether it will take us straight to our destination or lead us to someplace different altogether. A production course or a summer internship might have situated me better, but might have sent me running in another direction. A personal connection might have started me out higher, beyond the pouring coffee stage, but then might have left me without the "working my way up" view that has informed my entire career.

We can't always know how our paths will end, so the best we can do is make what feel like the right decisions along the way. We can choose to learn--not just because specific skills will matter in specific places, but because being able to learn quickly will matter everywhere. We can choose to take a few risks, because sometimes landing where you belong requires a little wondering where you belong. We can meet people who are interesting, because you never know where interesting people can take you.

Would my life now be different, had I not bought into liberal arts, had I not met a writer, had I not poured coffee, had I not looked outside of the career services office? Absolutely. I might be somewhere completely different now--farther along, perhaps, with different sets of skills, maybe, working more, or less. You never really know where your choices will lead you. All you can really do is try to make the most of your path, every step of the way.

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