woman alone by lake

“So, what do you want to be when you grow up?”

When you’re a kid you get asked that all the time, don’t you?

For the record, currently Flea wants to be a marine biologist or an actor. When I was her age, I wanted to be a journalist. I loved to read, and I loved to write, and I wanted to tell stories – and a job that combined those things seemed like the best thing I could imagine.

By the time I was in my teens, I dreamed of working for the Forestry Commission. I was (am) pretty passionate about the environment and having a job that let me work outdoors, creating a better environment, seemed like a good option. My school careers advisor agreed – just not necessarily for the same reasons.

“I think you’ll do well in a job where you can work independently,” she told me.

My family, meanwhile,  tried to guide me towards academia and research. “Research would be perfect. You won’t have to work with other people,” said my Mum.

The advice was pretty clear – whatever you do, don’t work with people.

And it was very sensible advice. Because, honestly? I am SO not a people person.

I don’t like large groups. I have no innate sense of diplomacy. If someone’s being idiotic, I find it ridiculously hard not to tell them so. I’m competitive. Pathologically so. I can’t stand to walk away from an argument if I think someone is wrong. I dwell unduly on criticism.

And yet, here I am, voluntarily doing a job that involves working with dozens of different people, day in, day out. People who have different points of view and different values and very different views on how things should be done. It’s a job where people do feel free to criticise you – sometimes demonstrating their own lack of people skills in the process. Some days, my job takes quite a lot of diplomacy, when I’d really rather just tell some obnoxious twonk on Twitter to go suck it.

Maybe that sounds like a complaint, but it really isn’t. My job is ridiculously brilliant, like, 75% of the time. There are very few people who can honestly say that, I think. I’m just amazed that I’ve taken on – and love – a career that seems so completely at odds with my natural strengths, and has required me to develop so many skills I wasn’t born with. It’s interesting to do that, of course, but it’s also very challenging, sometimes.

Social media marketing was never a planned career – not least because it didn’t exist when I was at university. But life happened. I got divorced, I moved, I met a local company, I started looking at blogs as part of a gig doing their PR, I started my own blog, then I had an idea, and I went with it, and it grew and it grew from there. And here I am. It’s brilliantly random and ridiculously fortunate.

Still, I find myself wondering, what would my life be like if I’d followed the advice of those teachers, and my parents? What would I be doing? How would I be different? Would I be happier, or would I be sad because I wouldn’t have a job that allows me to satisfy my love of creating new things, and going to new places?

I like to think I ended up just where I was meant to be. But who knows? Unless I fall into the true-life version of Sliding Doors, I’ll never know what happened to that other Sally who listened to good advice.

How about you – are you doing the job you always wanted to do? Is it what you expected? Or did life throw you a curveball, too?


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