When I was young, one of my favorite movies to watch over and over was “Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead”. It was about a teenage girl whose mom went on vacation in Europe, and while she was still abroad, the babysitter dies. Instead of letting the mom know, the main character decides to get a job and support the siblings for the rest of the summer. The job she chooses is in the fashion industry. I was enamored. I was convinced this was my calling. The movie showed the young woman blossoming into exactly who she was supposed to be by allowing her creativity to take the wheel. That was the kind of career I wanted – something that allowed me to have fun, use my imagination, and make other people feel great. Even at 12, I knew that whatever work I chose to do, I wanted it to have a positive effect.
And so began the path of my first career choice. I began drawing like crazy – mimicking outfits I would see on TV shows and movies. I would create my own accessories and draw them in to add my own creative flair. Eventually, I started creating my own looks from scratch. I had a sketch book and more colored pencils than you can imagine. (I needed to have every color at my disposal!) My mom used to get me a cookie cake for my birthday every year. I had saved the heart shaped box one year, and it became my “lookbook”. Sooner than later, it was filled to the top with creations, and I would sift through them, daydreaming about how they would become a reality one day.
Time passed, and I remained fixated on this career idea. As soon as I was old enough, I wanted a job. So I went to the mall and filled out every application I could get my hands on. I ended up being hired at a clothing store I loved, and the moment the woman told me my employment meant a 40% discount, I think I squealed out loud. My responsibilities were normal: cash register, letting customers into fitting rooms, and straightening clothing racks. But my favorite part of the week was dressing the mannequins. Once a week we would redesign the window in the front of the store, and I demanded to be there for it. I loved pulling clothing from the racks and mashing items together that would be displayed. My face would go pink hot with embarrassment and flattery when someone would compliment an outfit I had put together. I wanted to feel this way all the time.
I was very lucky, and everyone who worked with me was so encouraging. Most of them were much older than me, but one of my assistant managers was a sophomore in college and a fashion design major! We bonded immediately, and she began to share insight and advice on the steps I would need to take if this was going to be my career. One day she came to work and told me she had cleared it with her professors that I could come to her classes with her for a day. I was beside myself with excitement. I remember feeling mature and grown up. I bragged to my friends that I was going to college for a day. I felt accomplished and ahead of the game. No one else my age was this sure of their future.
I went to college that day. I sat through classes. I took notes. I drew. It was exhilarating and challenging, and I soaked up every second of it. At 15, it was one of the best days of my life.
However, time can be a truth teller, and I realized later that while I loved fashion, it wasn’t necessarily my “calling”. After my first year in college as a Fashion Major, I finally took a moment and truly accepted it was no longer what I wanted to do with my life. Especially when the “rest of my life” was such a long way in front of me. So, I changed my mind. And it was okay. In fact, it was better than okay. It was a blessing and a reckoning. Allowing myself to change my mind about something that I had held onto fiercely taught me that it is absolutely okay to decide you don’t want to do something. Even if it has always been “the plan”. I learned so much about what I did want from a career by being dedicated to a fashion design path for so long. I wanted my creativity to flourish and be harnessed. I wanted to make people feel good about themselves. And I wanted my work to be more than a job. When I sat down with myself over the next few years, the one constant in my life was always writing. It felt more like writing had chosen me rather than how I had chosen fashion. Knowing the difference helped guide me in figuring out what it was I had really been meant to do all along: tell my stories.