Practicality vs. Passion

Author: Danny Abriano, Real Life Stories

As someone who is overly analytical — sometimes to a fault — the choice to abandon a job I actually felt rewarded doing for one that left me feeling trapped and miserable is one I wish every day I could take back.

The backstory…

I began interning at a nonprofit in the South Bronx when I was a senior in college. It was called Bronx Community Solutions, a startup whose purpose was to work hand-in-hand with the court system while crafting alternative to incarceration recommendations that got to the root cause of misdemeanor criminal behavior and ended the cycle of many who were in and out of jail.

While it was a job where you could burn out quickly, the benefits were tremendous, the work actually meant something, and the ability to make a difference was there.

The issue — as is the case with most non-profits (especially for younger workers who aren’t at the management level) was the salary. Beyond that, I was promised promotions a few times without them coming through.

Instead of sticking it out, I decided to abandon something that mattered a great deal to me — having a job that made a difference for others. It wasn’t just a job, it had meaning.

I left Bronx Community Solutions for a job in credit analysis — a job where the ability to make a ton of money was there, but everything else was missing.

Gone was the camaraderie I felt at my previous job, gone was the ability to build something, gone was the potential to make a difference and gone was my sense of purpose.

I stuck it out at the credit analysis job for about a year. And as is often the case in the private sector, I was then laid off due to “lack of work” — leading to a long chunk of time where I was unemployed.

After years of working multiple jobs in order to pay the bills, often working 60 or so hours a week, I finally landed a job I had always wanted — as an Editorial Producer.

But there isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t regret the decision I made.

My advice? If you have an analytical mind, you’re not alone. But…remember to stay true to yourself, even when your overly analytical nature threatens to get the best of you. It’s a lesson that can be applied even beyond your work life.

From Accounting to Animal Care

Author: Claire Greene, Real Life Stories

This is the story of the most difficult decision I have made in my entire life. Every person throughout his or her life has lots of choices they have to make. What career they go into, whether or not to have children, where to live…even small, insignificant decisions such as what to get for dinner take up a big portion of our day.

I have always been an extremely indecisive person. In fact, “I don’t care, what do you want to do?” has never been a rare sentence to come out of my mouth. However, while I believe that logic can be useful in making certain decisions, the most important decisions that will truly affect your life need to be made with your gut and your heart.

If you decide to try dinner at a new place that you haven’t been to before, the worst that can happen is you don’t like it and you don’t order from it again, absolute worst being food poisoning. However, if you decide to go into the wrong major, that decision can completely turn your life upside down.

I have always been good at math. Yes, I know, it sounds sacrilegious, but believe it or not, I actually looked forward to my algebra homework. I always looked at it like a fun puzzle or riddle that I had to figure out. When it came time to apply to colleges, as an always indecisive person, I went in with an undecided major. During my sophomore year, I realized that I eventually would have to pick one.

I had spoken with some of the accounting majors, and they all said that it was a great program with some amazing professors, and being as I was always good at math, I figured I would do well. I was right.

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I aced every test and impressed all of the professors with my natural ability to figure out financial reporting. I was even inducted into the international business honor society. It all came very naturally. I didn’t find the homework to be a big pain, and I thought I had finally figured out what I was supposed to do with my life. I was thinking logically. Accounting is something that I am good at, and I could probably make a lot of money doing. This is it.

Ladies and gentlemen, the following is why I believe that internships are a good idea. After I graduated with my Master’s degree in Business Administration, I ended up working as an accounting specialist at a banking headquarters. It was the most miserable period of my entire life. I was typing in the same thing over and over again, all day, every day. I felt so useless in my existence.

Also, one of the most depressing things about the job to me was that I was behind a desk all day, and never went outside. I was on the phone with my mother in Connecticut on the way home from work one day, and she said “It’s been rainy here all day, how about there?” and I reluctantly had to say “I don’t know, I haven’t been outside since seven this morning.” That one sentence made me realize that I was not meant for this type of life. I ended up sinking back into my depression, and I ended up moving back home to Connecticut.

While I was home in Connecticut recovering from my mental illness and trying to figure out what the next step for me would be, I decided to find a fun, relaxed place to volunteer. I had loved Mystic Aquarium since I was a kid. I had great memories of going to see the beautiful animals there, and I had a lot of respect for the care and devotion they gave to the marine life. I decided that would be the place.

I started volunteering in the guest services department, giving speeches and educating the public about the great things the aquarium does. I instantly fell in love with the animals, and I was truly happy for the first time in a long time. I looked forward to every day there, and most importantly felt I had a purpose. My being there and creating a good experience for each guest that came through our doors increased the chance of them coming back, and that meant more money that would go to our animals. I felt that I was meant to be there.

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After about a year of volunteering, I was hired in the guest services department. I then realized that what I was meant to do all along was take care of animals. This was a decision I made with my heart and my gut. I was always an animal person since the day I was born. Being around animals gave me a serene feeling that I never had anywhere else. It filled my heart and put a smile on my face.

After being at the aquarium for a total of one and a half years, I ended up getting an internship in the reptile and amphibian department, and then I ended up getting hired as an animal care specialist for Living Exhibits, which is the company that brings in the Bird of the Outback Exhibit at the aquarium. That summer working with Living Exhibits was the best summer of my life.

You never know where life is going to take you. But my point is, life is too short to not do what makes you happy. When it comes down to those really important, life-changing decisions, you can try to use logic all you want, but your heart will tell you where you truly need to be.