Choosing what you want to be "when you grow up" can be a daunting task. Schlepping through all the core English and history classes can make it difficult to identify a focus. But sometimes your future can sneak up and bite you when you least expect it. Thanks to ... life.
After obtaining one degree, working in that chosen field, marrying an Army pilot and starting a family, I'm back in school, sitting in a classroom, 13 years after my first college graduation. My original chosen field led me to my current one. Years of media sales led me to medical marketing. There, I was exposed to patient care and discovered how much I enjoyed taking care of people rather than accounts. So began my quest to become a nurse.
For Juanita Klemm, a 33-year-old Army wife and mother of two, her proverbial light bulb didn't click on immediately either as she tried to choose a career field. Instead, it began as a soft glow once she began working in the "real world."
Klemm began her first two years of college as a traditional student and thought she might want to become a lawyer. She was still unsure until she took psychology.
"I liked it, and I knew I needed to declare a major," Klemm said. "So that's how I decided."
Soon after she declared herself a psychology major, though, she married and began working full time. Education took a backseat to life. Soon, 10 years had passed. In that time, Klemm worked in retail and found she enjoyed working with people as well as managing the business. She quickly advanced from cashier to manager.
"I'm so glad for those years I spent working," Klemm said. "They really gave me a different perspective."
Soon, Klemm's family was settled at a duty station. Her daughters were preschool age. And Klemm was ready to finish her education.
"This was it," she said. "My mindset was, 'I've got to do it.'"
She began online classes and did what many nontraditional students do: She balanced academics with family life. Schoolwork was squeezed in between naps and her daughters' dance classes.
Klemm continued to finalize her major and looked to her retail experience for inspiration. She chose business administration with an emphasis on human resources. She also began taking free Spanish classes at her church to broaden her options in the job market.
"I love people, and adding translation into my job would not only be enjoyable, but would help me with my career in this portable Army lifestyle," Klemm said.
Army wife Marissa Geopfert also balances schoolwork with diaper changes, feedings and naptimes. And, when she finishes her current program, she plans to continue with more schooling.
Upon graduating from high school, Geopfert wanted to teach kids in middle school and high school - maybe even at the collegiate level.
She was accepted to a program in San Francisco, but her plans stalled soon after she married.
The young couple moved with the Army to Korea. When they finally returned to the United States, Geopfert and her husband started a family. Still, Geopfert wanted to earn her degree.
Her mother, a nurse, suggested she earn a degree in medical reimbursement and coding as a "stepping stone" to earning her degree.
She enrolled in Bryant & Stratton College Online and began earning an associate's degree in applied science .
"Taking the courses online with Bryant & Stratton College is the easiest thing for me right now," Geopfert said. "And, I would like to work in a physician's office once I finish and then continue my degree aspirations to later become a teacher."
Sometimes we know exactly what we want to do with our careers. I knew, I did it and I later stumbled upon something I'm even more passionate about.
Klemm wasn't sure what she wanted to do initially, but in time, her life helped her to discover her passion. Geopfert knows what she wants to do, and her chosen path may be taking a twist or turn, but it's what works best for her in her quest to reach her goal and may ultimately lead her to something even more fulfilling.
There are many paths we may take to arrive at our career destinations. We lay out the plans for some paths, and other paths find us. With the support of our spouses, friends, parents and schools, we can all discover the best future we can imagine.