Occupation Confrontation

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Published on October 22, 2014

College is a very difficult time in anyone’s life, whether you are a recent high school graduate or an adult coming back to fulfill a new dream. One thing every student has in common is the fact that they are pursuing a career path that will change their life. Choosing a major is like choosing your destiny, and it is probably the hardest decision to make.

Say, for example, you have a passion that you want more than anything but it might not always pay the highest wage. Do you choose a career path that you love and will be enthusiastic about, or do you take the easy way out in a foolproof career that gains you easy money at the expense of your happiness? It is my whole hearted opinion that choosing a path that you have a passion for far exceeds monetary value. If you love your job, you have a higher chance of success and will lead a more fulfilling life.

Eight months ago, I sat studiously at the circulation desk of St. Vincent’s Behavioral Health Care Center. Being a Human Services major, I was intrigued to see the nurse’s and mental health workers interact with patients. Much to my disappointment, I noticed that many of the eager patients were quickly brushed off or sent to get medication that they did not necessarily need at the time in order to feel better. I must make it clear, though; not every worker was like this. There were a few that were truly engaged and helpful.

I began to wonder why these professionals had acted this way and began my little research project. Each day I would ask some of the mental health workers at the facility why they chose that job. I had hypothesized by the overall attitude that many individuals weren’t quite happy with their career. Sure enough, the responses began to add up. They would state answers like, “I wanted to be a nurse but I don’t like blood.” or, “I don’t know, psychology just seemed interesting I guess.” Only a handful of workers had said they specifically wanted their job at the facility because they actually wanted to help people. This shined through in their day to day work as well. The few that were passionate about their job spent more time interacting with patients and were more active in participating in activities when given the opportunity. The others spent more time behind the desk talking amongst themselves or doing homework.

At Housatonic, I have come to know many of the classmates in my field. I’ve listened to their stories. A vast majority of students in the human services classes appear to be individuals who have experienced some harsh realities who would like the opportunity to help others who are struggling through life. Many of the students are adults with families and job’s. They’ve put every ounce of effort they had to go back to school with hopes of  becoming a counselor. However, there are a few students who are in these classes because it sounded easy or they needed to fill a requirement. Those who are more passionate about the subject appear much more involved. Sure, these other students have passed, but the one’s who are doing it for the love of it are much more vibrant in class, active in conversations, in sharing stories, and creating a truly enriching experience for themselves, the class, and their professors.

Professor Laura Turiano, who teaches multiple psychology and human service classes at the school, one being Intro to Counseling, pulled up a famous quote from Confucius to start the conversation. “If you find something you love, you will never work a day in your life.”

Turiano went on to explain how she always knew that she wanted to be a teacher. “I always had a passion for teaching. When I was little I used to set up a pretend classroom and make my little brother sit down and do the work I gave him. But I also wanted to be a hairdresser so he would walk out after with funny looking hairdo’s,” she said.

Although she went to school for Psychology so she could teach the subject, Turiano explained, she worked as a banker for a while after college. She had learned about human services from a customer whose wife ran a “Welfare to Work” program. She became an employment counselor and taught employment skills. After years in the field, Turiano applied for teaching positions in both Sacred Heart University and Housatonic Community College.  “The job was a perfect combination of both my education and experience,” she said.

She got the job in both institutions and continues to be just as enthusiastic about teaching as she had been as the young girl fluffing up her brother’s “afro” and preparing her lesson plans.

Turiano stayed true to her passion throughout her life and has led a very fulfilling career. However, we still live in a time where money speaks louder than words.

For most people the  purpose of going to college is to get a “good” job and become successful. Many families pressure their children to get a degree in the best paying jobs possible.

For me, I was looked down on because I refused to become a nurse or X-ray technician. I wanted to become a zookeeper. Preposterous! An animal caretaker has an extremely demanding job. There’s very little time off, it’s labor intensive,  and there’s always the possibility of being mauled by a wild animal.  According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook they earn around $20,000 a year. A trainer, eventually could make as much as $25,000, whoah big spender! Yet, an X ray technician with just a two year degree could earn almost $60,000 a year. Now that X ray technician makes the most money, they might not necessarily be the happiest of people. As for  zookeepers, they wake up in the morning to do a job they love and put all the time and effort necessary into their job forming bonds with other living beings that you just can’t form with a picture on a computer screen. Asked about this comparison HCC student Martin Florestant, said, “I should be an X ray technician! I mean, that’s two years of school. I’m not saying your aunt is right, but I might look into it.” He went on to explain his conflict on the topic, “When you like your job and you’re good at something you might make more money in the end because you’ll be building up experience and a network in that field. But when taking care of a family later on you also need to be more than just a starving actor performing on the New York subway. I’m not saying they’re not dedicated, but it’s not practical.”

Many of us can remember our parents or guardians explaining that we need a high paying, stable job to raise a family and that to do so we need to graduate, and so on. Does that mean sacrificing our dreams to avoid the risk of letting them down because we might not make the six figure salary that would make them proud?

“As much as I want to be sentimental, I have this nagging dad voice in my ear telling me that I have bills to pay, a family to take care of.a legacy to pass down. When I’m gone I have to leave my family more than just a stack of unpaid bills.As an X ray tech, I’d have a steady job but, at the end of the day, I don’t want to wake up and hate going to work, I want to be excited about it. I’m just afraid of not being able to take care of myself or them,” Florestant said. He expressed his love for writing, but worried that it is an unsteady path. He’s excited about applying for an internship at the Connecicut Post, and is looking into journalism classes offered at HCC. The overall idea was to look into other branches of the field he loved that had the stability his family wanted but also continued to let him pursue his passion.

There are plenty of pressures that come with choosing your career. Whether it be opinions of friends and family or the pressure to get a job to help pay off student loans.

My suggestion is to choose a field you’re interested in,  then explore options in that field. Maybe if zookeepers are a little too poor, go to school to be a zoo director, you could pull in up to $100,000 or more. You might not be the winner of the next Pulitzer Prize, but you can bring in a steady income by writing for a magazine or newspaper. You can stay true to yourself and follow the dream you had back in kindergarten when you scribbled that “When I grow up” picture. It just might lead you to a career that you sincerely love. Just don’t let money decide what you will do with your life, because that big house won’t look as nice when you realize your everyday life makes you completely miserable.