Know Thyself

Years ago, I worked for a program that supported young adults in obtaining the skills they needed to move on to higher education and/or a career. One of my tasks was to track alumni students and make sure they were following through on their long-term goals. When I couldn’t get them to return my calls, I assumed they’d made some unfortunate choices and didn’t wish to discuss them with me. (Case in point: I once received a voice mail from a student, left at 3 a.m., that said: “Hey, Kelly. Just wanted to let you know I’m not ignoring you. The problem is that I’m ignoring myself.”)

It took six months to get in touch with one alumni student, and by the time she finally found her way into my office, she wore an expression much like the human face’s version of a dog with its tail tucked between its legs. She sat down, blew out a big, fat sigh, and told me her story.

Years back, when she started the program, she conducted research on viable careers and decided that dental hygiene would be a wise field to move into. She got her GED, enrolled in the local community college, and completed 18 months of course work. Soon after passing all of her exams and receiving a dental hygienist certificate, she applied for a position at a dentist’s office and was granted an interview. However, the moment she walked into the office, she remembered something critical.

“I hate dentists’ offices,” she told me. “I’ve hated them my whole life. The smell. The lighting. The music. The sound of the drill. All of it. I just sat in the waiting room wanting to die. It was like I’d walked straight into a horror movie, but it was my life.” I can’t remember if she bothered to stay for the interview, but soon after that ordeal, she joined a cosmetology program. “I thought about places I actually like to be, and the nail salon was number one.”

Smart kid.

I recently went through a similar experience, in that I applied for and accepted a job to teach CPR classes without really thinking about the reality of the work. On my first day, when I received several bags of dummies to take home, I was reminded of a clear, yet unfortunate truth: CPR training mannikins are creepy and gross and I hate them.


Of course, if I’d bothered to give the matter any thought whatsoever before that moment, I would have remembered (from the half dozen or so CPR trainings I’ve taken over the years) that those mannikins are the stuff of nightmares. Now, they were going home with me. I couldn’t bear to have them in my house, though, so for the past six months I’ve driven around with a trunk full of torsos and faceless babies.

I’ve since resigned from that job, and I now have a new career goal, besides continuing to write and publish books. My new goal is to join a league of wonder dragons.

DSC_0001Seems legit, right? And as an added bonus: no scary dummies.

I suppose my point is this: look before you leap. If the chasm into which you’re about to hurl your body is full of something terrifying, like dental drills or plastic torsos or angry bull sharks wearing clown masks, turn around and walk away. There are plenty of other chasms around, so do some exploring. You never know – one might be full of wonder dragons.

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