Thanks to the readers who sent me their stories about how they found their professions. As I noted in an earlier blog, I’ve been fascinated all my life by all the different ways people make their livings, and by how they made their choices. Here are several of those stories, some of which I took the liberty of editing for length.
In high school, I got a job working at a gas station out on the interstate highway. With this money, I started taking pilot lessons in a Cessna 150. I loved the experience so much, I thought I would one day become an aircraft mechanic!
Nonetheless, I was on my own if I wanted to be an aircraft mechanic. My father always had dreams of me becoming a pharmacist.
College was a culture shock compared to high school. I enrolled in pharmacy school and was taken aback immediately by almost daily 3 hour labs, and complex math problems, which were never my forte. I succeeded in getting straight As in most all my classes, but I hated chemistry. I withdrew from the class after several weeks.
I suppose I fell into accounting, as I did fairly well in the subject in high school. Big 8 firms at the time were hiring, and it just seemed the logical place to be at the time. While in my final semester of college I got my first accounting job with a small community CPA firm. Working every Saturday during tax season was a rude awaking; it was almost like taking chemistry in college. It was not the CPA practice I envisioned.
Eventually, I went to work for a savings and loan. This was my first experience witnessing a real life Wall Street trading firm and how these fast paced, type “A” personalities lived and worked. These brokers would drive their jags to the airport to head to the Caribbean for the weekend.
After my firm made a few bad trades, I found work at another savings and loan, which went bankrupt during the S&L crisis. Then another S&L where the President went to jail, then another S&L, until finally, I got a job regulating S&Ls. Now, 35 years after college and 22 years into my profession, I’m a financial analyst, and have over 400 banks and thrifts in my caseload
In many ways, my job is much more rewarding than when I did tax work.
I have a very positive relationship, that I wouldn’t trade for the world, with the small community banks . Community banks generally understand their risk and their customers, add value to their community, and are a pleasure to talk too. Working with them makes my unique job highly rewarding.
It’s a passion.
When I was growing up, my mother told me I could be a teacher or a secretary. Of course, I would quit when I got married and had a family.
Teachers could boss everyone around and they had summer vacations ~ so I became a teacher. Luckily, I loved it and had a terrific career.
I got into computers quite by chance. I was in graduate school at the University of Texas in Theoretical Math in 1964. I discovered that the TA jobs in the math department were atrocious — lousy pay and miserable office spaces. So, I applied to the Business Department where the pay and office space was much better. They hired me to teach undergrad COBOL (a business-oriented programming language) and staff their computer center. I’d never heard of COBOL, so I learned enough of it each week to cover the next class!
Working in the computer center interested me in the operations side of computers as well. Bottom line is that I got hooked on computers by that experience and applied for positions in that field when I got my Masters degree.
My professor was livid that I wasn’t going to continue my studies for a PhD in Theoretical Math and stopped speaking to me! I landed a job at Bell Laboratories and that launched me into computer science well before there was a name for it, let alone a degree program. Sometimes we just fall by some lucky grace into our life’s work.
As an aside, my brother Ron loved airplanes from an extremely early age, built and flew model planes as a kid, joined the Civil Air Patrol, and followed that interest into an aeronautical engineering degree and a life-long job at Boeing.
For me it was the long-awaited first trip to Europe that shaped my future. I worked summers and holidays—-and my dad matched my contribution to make it possible. I traveled over the summer after sophomore year and spent 15 weeks over there (the dollar was strong, and I traveled on the 5-10 dollars a day budget), the last 3 in London and the first 10 days in Paris.Seeing all of the history and religion and politics of Europe through its architecture and art fixed me onto art history as a course of study, and I have never looked back. Studying the Reformation also helped me make better sense of the Waco religious world, which had always mystified me in its Protestant diversity–now most people think that I studied theology because of all the religious art I have taught.If I had not taken that trip, I would probably have studied something more conventional, such as literature or history, my favorites in high school, but my travels would be considerably reduced (I have taught on the floating university, Semester at Sea, and sailed around the world twice as well as around the Atlantic and the Mediterranean on several occasions), and I owe that wanderlust to the lure of art history around the world.
I grew up in the food service business. My dad owned a small café that I worked in from the time I was old enough to push a broom or stand on an empty coke case to load the soda refrigerator.
Dad had been a medic in WWII and had gotten a number of medals for bravery, as well as the Purple Heart for taking shrapnel while tending to injured soldiers. Part of his duties included giving out needed medications in the field. He intended to get his pharmacy license but he had to make a living upon his return, and bought the cafe.
He had 4 brothers in the drugstore business, so I grew up hearing that I should become a pharmacist. I attended Hill County Jr. College on a baseball scholarship, making As and Bs while taking the pre-pharmacy classes. After two years at Hill and three at the University Of Houston College of Pharmacy I went to work as a hospital pharmacist in Pasadena, Texas. I have been a hospital pharmacist or a hospital administrator ever since.
While the profession has been good to me, I cannot say that I followed my passion. I followed the desires of my family. If I had it to do over, I would probably be a teacher, coach and entrepreneur. I have coached my son and now my grandson in summer ball programs, which has helped to fill the void I missed by not following my own passion so many years ago.
For those of you who did follow your passion, who did make a living doing what you love, who find a great joy in going to work everyday doing exactly what you do, CONGRATULATIONS! You are the lucky few–and I am a little (maybe a lot) envious.
I was born into the family business. My Granddaddy sold commercial Kitchen and Hotel Equipment and Supplies in Houston as early as the 1920s. He and his partners opened a store here in town in 1947, the year I was born. I started in the “family” business at about 14 cleaning the warehouse and doing deliveries with our warehouse man. He was my friend till the day he died and told wonderful stories about growing up in Waco in the 20s and 30s.
After graduation from Baylor, as I didn’t want an all expense paid trip to Southeast Asia, I joined the National Guard. In their infinite wisdom I was sent to “Cook’s Training.” I guess it was ordained somewhere that I wind up where I did.
But, I don’t know that if offered a “do-over” I’d still follow the same path. With age comes wisdom, and I’ve begun to recognize other talents that are more rewarding today than self- employment in my field. However, it has been good to me, allowed our family to prosper to an extent. We’ve raised two children who have no interest in business. One’s a professional photographer, currently traveling the U.S., and the other is an Attorney in Houston. They’re both great kids (if a bit liberal for my taste} and I’m proud to be their parent. That’s where I really find my success in life.
And I have to say that I agree with Chet. The joy I take in my cartooning pales in comparison to the pleasure I get from being the father of my two children. In fact, it was at their urging that I decided to take on the task of drawing and writing Sleeper Ave. At some point our children become our mentors.