August 28, 2008 was a beautiful, sunny, hot day in southwestern Ohio. I had driven the 60 mile commute to my job as an interior designer and was busy working on one of my many active projects when I was called into the manager’s office for an impromptu meeting.
Sitting in the office along with the manager was one of the partners, and both had solemn faces.
“Sit down, Kim.”
“Today is your last day working here…”
The conversation lasted a few more minutes, however that first bit was all I needed to hear. I managed to pack up my workspace with my personal belongings and get out to the parking lot before I started crying. Make no mistake, however, in assuming that I loved my job or that I was concerned about money. While these would be a normal concern and response, my concern was a bit different…
How was I going to tell my husband?
I had been joking with co-workers for some time that “Maybe this is the day they’ll get rid of me.” While the glitz and glamour associated with interior design had been my high school dream, the reality had been quite different. I quickly realized that I was far less concerned with the industry-wide materialism of so many of my acquaintances, and I longed for the day when I could work without my personal wardrobe style being critiqued as much, if not more, than the interiors I designed.
While I had other career dreams, however, I had two major roadblocks… An abundance of student loans from my education at a top institution, and a husband who demanded I pay off those student loans by working a job in the industry I was educated in.
In the years that have passed since losing this job, I’ve had more than a few revelations:
Forget your degree… Follow your dreams!
1. Adolescent versions of ourselves were not necessarily equipped to know what our true dreams were. Personally, I grew up in relatively privileged, sheltered life. This is not to say I grew up wealthy or was handed everything I wanted. The truth was, I received my babysitting license at 11 and started delivering the morning newspaper at 12. What I mean is that I had no idea what career would make me happy, working 40 hours a week to pay the bills. I had no idea how old I was going to be when I got married and started a family, and I had no idea where I was going to be living or who I was going to be living with.
My adolescent self was only the shell that my adult self would fill, emotionally, physically and spiritually.
2. Dreams shift. To this day my dreams shift regularly. For example, for the better part of the past three years I had the dream of building a HUGE 5,000+ square foot house in the middle of a forest with an elaborate master suite, a huge kitchen and finished basement, and a privacy fence going around the lot so carpet cleaner sales guys and other unwanted visitors couldn’t get to my door. Just recently that dream has shifted to simply wanting to add an addition off the back of our house so I can have my own bathroom, an office that doesn’t also serve as a playroom, and a landscaped deck or patio.
I’ve learned that bigger dreams don’t necessarily serve as better dreams. Whatever dream my heart is seeing is a perfect dream for me. Forget your degree… Follow your dreams!
3. Material possessions don’t make any one person better than another. I drive a 1996 GMC conversion van. It’s big, clunky, rusting and takes me longer to park at the grocery than to get all the kids unloaded and into the store. However, this clunky beast does NOT make me feel inferior to people who pass me in their luxury vehicles which cost half the value of my house.
And I don’t buy my children new clothes at the mall. For the record, the mall is probably one of my least favorite places to go… Period. Rather, knowing the kids will outgrow the clothes within a matter of months, we shop at consignment or second-hand stores and save tons of money. For the cost of one new outfit at the mall, each of my school-agers was able to get 4-5 complete outfits for the most recent school year.
Were they disappointed? No! We showed them the cost difference, and also that they could get the same brands in the consignment shop. Some may think kids don’t need to be part of financial discussions, however I strongly disagree. Educating our children to make smart financial decisions equips them to handle their finances better.
4. Financial security isn’t a number. It took me way too long to figure this one out. I kept telling myself, “When we have $X in the bank account…” or “When I have a $X month…”… “everything will be great.”
Friends, everything can and will be great without reaching those numbers, and a sense of financial security CAN be obtained without those numbers as well. The first step is telling yourself you are financially secure right now — and actually believing it. Believing it IS the hard part. I know. But you can do it.
5. Multiple degrees don’t necessarily make a person smarter or more capable of “success.” I’ve met quite a few people with multiple degrees who – as horrible as this may sound – I wondered how much they paid for their diplomas. Their intelligence was… lacking… and I wondered if the degree they actually earned was how to not get caught drunk driving after partying.
Graduating from college also doesn’t mean the person actually wants to build and have a lifetime career in the field they concentrated in, however it may take years – if not decades – before the person realizes the money they’re earning isn’t worth the stress, hours lost with family, or general sense of numbness they are feeling toward life.
A diploma on our wall doesn’t chain us to the field we studied. Our hearts should be the primary guidance system, leading us down a path which drives our head, heart and soul.
Dear friend, I’ve been in the place where I’m feeling numb, working a job I can’t stand and dreaming of more. And dreaming of more didn’t involve using the degree I paid tens of thousands of dollars for. It took years to get here, but I’ve reached the point where my income exceeds what I ever made as an interior architect – and my heart is 100 times happier now than it ever was before.
Do I work harder? Heck, yes.
Is it worth it? Hell yea!
Forget your degree… Follow your dreams. You can thank me later.
Kim Sutton is a Digital Marketing and Launch Strategist and owner of The Sutton Companies, which includes Sutton Strategic Solutions and Kim Sutton. A graduate of The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, she is passionate about helping business coaches, life coaches and speakers spread their messages and products to those who need them.
An avid reader and passionate learner, Kim is constantly researching, studying and developing business improvement strategies. You are invited to schedule a complimentary 30-minute Strategy Session by clicking here.
In her free-time, Kim cherishes the time she spends with her husband, Dave, and five children. She also enjoys reading, knitting, writing and playing video games.
Join Kim’s Private Facebook Group, The Positive Productivity Mastermind here.