Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Life is a journey, not a destination. So don’t be afraid to take the occasional side road to see where it leads.
I’ve thought about this sentiment lately as I look at how my career path has zigged and zagged. It rarely has been a straight line to anywhere. Every time I think I am “settled in” to the path I want to be on, another side road appears.
That has tended to happen with our RVs, too. When I discovered a small pop-up trailer I could tow with my Jeep Wrangler, I decided to try it. Because, “Why not?” Later, when determined we were buying a Class C, Jessi and I stumbled upon an amazing Class B. We are now living in that rig nearly 9 months out of the year. We did not plan it, but the opportunity was too good to pass up. And who knows what our next rig might be or when we might find it. That opportunity could be just around the corner or miles away. Not knowing is part of what keeps life interesting.
I started my professional career as a journalist — specifically a newspaper reporter. It’s something I wanted to be since I was about 10 years old. After years of moving around from paper to paper as a reporter, I landed a position as a managing editor. There, I figured, I would settle in for a good long time. I had capped off my reporting career by being promoted to editor.
That lasted a few years, until I ended up getting drawn into a public relations and media relations jobs working in the state legislature and then a state department. Due to the nature of politics, all of my positions in state government had expiration dates. I found myself seeking something more stable and landed a job doing media relations for a dental insurance company.
I fully intended to stay there a long time, settled in and keeping my eye on the VP’s corner office.
By the way, during about a 10-year stretch on this career path, I also taught journalism and public relations courses at night at Michigan State University. And I still keep up with some of my students as I have watched their careers take turns, both expected and unexpected.
As fate would have it, a friend and colleague reached out with an opportunity. It would take me back into the legislature and later the governor’s office. Talk about an unexpected side road!
After too many years of long days and ridiculous levels of stress, I was burned out and actually thankful for Michigan’s term limits for elected officials. I went the freelance route, taking on public relations and media relations clients and devoting some time to self care.
Then, I discovered a company that would place me as a virtual assistant for clients under contract. I never saw myself helping someone with their email and scheduling. But then they placed me and I found I could put my writing, editing and organizational skills to work all at once.
I have been doing that job part-time for just over three years now. I have loved it, because it also gave me some free time to volunteer at state parks. For about two and a half months now, Jessi and I have been staying at a Texas state park where I work part-time on the maintenance team to cover the cost of our campsite.
It has been a wonderful experience and I would seriously consider doing more workcamping assignments like this.
But, as seems to be par for the course in my career trajectory, another side road suddenly appeared. I have been working with an association to produce freelance magazine articles for them. They recently created a full-time position focused on member engagement and sought me out to fill the role.
There will be more news about this soon. In the meantime, I have started to shift gears to transition from part-time contract and freelance work for multiple clients — plus volunteer work — to a full-time, single-employer position.
Nearly every one of my career choices have happened when an unexpected opportunity came along and I had the courage to take it. I generally have a bittersweet time leaving my current positions. Admittedly, for some I was happy to finally put them in the “former position” column on my resume. This time, I know I will truly miss my clients and my opportunity to volunteer. But I’m still young enough to take on this new role and find time later in life to offer my services as a volunteer. Unless another side road appears and I just can’t resist taking it.
As I noted in the opening to this post though, life is about the journey, not the destination. So journey on I shall. And I would encourage you to do the same. All the side roads you pass in life might just lead you to an amazing adventure if you’re willing to take that turn just to see what’s there.