I am an accountant.
Well…that’s what a framed piece of paper on our office floor says.
Over the past 5 years I’ve struggled and resisted doing typical accounting jobs – public accounting, financial reporting, accounting policy taxes, etc. So why did I become an accountant?
I’ll tell you why.
I became an accountant because I was a high school student that had no clue what her passions were, what her greatest strengths were, what her purpose in life was…and my loving Chinese parents guided me to choose from the acceptable esteemed professions – doctor, lawyer and accountant.
Preferably in that order.
(Actually, pharmacist would’ve been okay too).
Over the past few years I’ve reflected on the person I am, the person I want to be and what I think my true purpose is in life. I’ve struggled with thinking “I want to do ____, because it aligns with my life purpose and while I expect it won’t be easy I do think it will be fulfilling” because there’s a small voice (along with family members) saying, But you’re an accountant – why would you earn less than your potential?
That seems kinda absurd.
So over the last 10+ years I’ve learned more about myself, what makes me happy and what I want to do in the few short years I have on this earth…and you’re saying Forget about that stuff – just do the job you’re trained for. The job you have no desire for. The job you fell into because you had decent grades in high school and the university accepted you into their esteemed program. Who cares if you don’t like it – nobody likes work. As long as it doesn’t make you want to kill yourself and you’re earning a good salary just put in your time and do stuff you like as hobbies.
Maybe I’m speaking from a place of privilege and naivety…but why the heck would I want to live the rest of my life hating my job and trying to numb my unhappiness by spending my “good salary” on stuff I don’t need?
Yes – there’s something to be said for not needing to worry about money and being able to pay for trips, extracurricular activities, and dinners out without thinking “can we actually afford this?”…but on the other hand, why is it such a bad thing to discipline ourselves to be thoughtful and intentional with how we spend our money?
Why is it so taboo to do something different than your field of study if you find fulfillment in the work?
This is where my hero Mr. Rogers, beloved children’s tv show host, comes in.
About a year ago I decided to randomly look up Mr. Rogers and how he came to be a successful children’s tv show host.
Here’s a short timeline I summarized from Wikipedia:
1946 – 1948 – Studied at Dartmouth College.
1948 – 1951 – Attended Rollins College, earned B.A. in Music Composition.
1951 – 1954 – Production staff at NBC. Ultimately decided that commercial television’s reliance on advertisement and merchandising undermined its ability to educate or enrich young audiences, so he quit NBC.
1954 – 1961 – Puppeteer at WQED, a Pittsburgh public television station. Studied theology in his spare time.
1963 – Graduated from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and was an ordained minister in the United Presbyterian Church (though not interested in preaching). Also completed work at the University of Pittsburgh’s Child Development & Child Care program.
1963 – Moved to Toronto and filmed Misterogers for 3 seasons and another children’s show from 1964-1967.
1968 – 2001 – Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood aired on WQED for 1 year, then moved to PBS for the next 32 years(!).
I love this timeline for a few reasons:
1. He based his decisions on what felt right – not based on a life plan or career map. Looking back, it makes sense how each step fits with his eventual legacy. Alright, I have no idea what he studied at Dartmouth – but it totally makes sense that he got a B.A. in music, studied theology & had a strong faith, and that he worked in a Child Development & Child Care program. However, if you transported yourself back to each year he changed his study or quit his job (on moral grounds) or moved cities (for work) then moved back – I’m sure he had no freaking clue what his life would hold.
Mr. Rogers’ life tells me success isn’t a recipe. Success can’t always be planned step-by-step. You don’t know all of the potential your life holds so you can’t possibly map your life plan out and dutifully move from one square to the next like a Monopoly game piece. You just need to keep making decisions that feel right.
2. When Mr. Rogers was my current age (31) he barely scratched the surface on his career/legacy. At this point in Mr. Rogers’ career he was a puppeteer at a public television station, was married with one son, and studied theology in his spare time.
I have no idea *exactly* what I’m supposed to be doing…and that’s okay. Each step I take is a chapter of my life story. I don’t need to know how it ends to enjoy and make the most of today. I just need to figure out what’s the right “next step” for me and go for it.
3. Mr. Rogers didn’t become a legend with his first crack in the business. From the time he first started working at NBC to when Mister Rogers’ Neighorhood started filming it was 17 years. Seventeen years. It takes time for someone like him to harness his awesomeness, find the right environment, production company, network, etc. to air his show and literally change millions of viewers’ lives.
I don’t need to be great at everything right now to be successful in the future (and success doesn’t equate lots of money). I just need to keep learning and as I continue on my life journey I’ll be able to look back and see how/why everything pieces together.
So there you have it. I’m an accountant who doesn’t know exactly what I want to do with my life (other than not waste it sitting in a cubicle-filled rat race) and Mr. Rogers is my hero for listening to his instincts and turning out totally awesome.
Plus he likes me just the way I am.
I’m happy that I’m feeling less pressure to conform and know how my life will turn out. I’m thankful that there are people like Mr. Rogers who see/saw the need to teach children to love themselves, just as they are. I’m hopeful that I don’t get sucked back into conformity and that I have the courage to make decisions based on what is best for myself and my family. I’m also hopeful that I remember nothing is forever and you can always change your mind as you learn more about yourself through self-discovery and experiences.