For 24 years, I have worked in customer service, in one capacity or another. With that many years under my belt, I can say that I have become pretty damn good at it. I am excellent at smiling through the bullshit of unreasonable requests. I am a master of making the people on the other side of the counter or telephone feel at ease. Sometimes I genuinely feel happy after assisting a customer with an issue, but most of the time I feel like my soul is draining from my body. This is what the customer service industry will do to you. Especially when customer service is not where you were meant to be, but you ended up.
That last thought makes me think of other things I am damn good at.
1. Singing: I am a mezzo soprano and I have a beautiful voice. Normally I wouldn’t be blunt or egotistical about it, but I am really very good at it. I can sing circles around other mezzos, but I do not enjoy competition or rejection. I mean, nobody truly loves those parts of performance, but if they are committed to being stars, or at the very least working singers, they will push through the crappy stuff. I didn’t want to push through the crap. I just wanted to sing and get paid for it. Instead, I gave it up to do other things that were less heart wrenching.
2. Writing: This one is a bit more difficult for me to admit. I have been told, by many people, even those not in my immediate circle, that I am an excellent writer. I suppose that is for you, the reader, to judge. However, I enjoy writing and even though it is also a very cut-throat profession, it does not require putting your entire body and soul on the line the way that performance does. It requires you putting yourself out there, through words, but there is a bit of shield involved that makes it more appealing.
3. Computers: This is most likely due to the generation I was brought up in. Most people my age have an affinity for all things tech. My interest began at an early age (6 or so) when my aunt took me to a computer class for beginners, to help her figure out her new computer, and it was all over. I was hooked. Learning to write programs, in basic, at age 8 and ingesting every computer language I could, after that. I continue to learn to this day and try to be on the edge of the new.
4. Debating: I was never on a team. In fact, I don’t believe my high school even had a debate team, although I was too busy with drama club, band, and chorus to notice. It didn’t matter though, because my mother’s family gave me an education in debate. Every holiday was a championship and I honed my skills with some of the best opponents I will ever face. This skill was very helpful my second time around in college and has also done me well on Facebook, as most of you reading this probably already know. I love being informed on as many topics as I can and using that knowledge to prove my point.
5. Research: My second bachelors degree not only helped me become a better writer, but it gave me a chance to flex my research muscles. Having done very little research in my first bachelors program (that consisted of singing, drinking massive amounts of coffee, working part time jobs, and singing some more) the Sociology program was an eye opener. It made me feel like I had not been to college the first time around, but more of a conservatory atmosphere within a SUNY school. Not as competitive as an actual conservatory, but with very little academic reading and writing. In Sociology I found that my love of the library grew and learning about new populations through participant observation gave me great insight into the world of research and the potential within. It made me rethink my future and make new decisions based on this new knowledge. And that is what college is for, right? To broaden your horizons and help you grow as a human and an intellectual.
So what do all these things add up to? At 38, they still add up to customer service. Tech support. But I am finding my calling. You have to live through a lot of crap to find your true goals. Now I have set those goals toward becoming a research librarian. This will encompass my love of research, academia, social science, and customer service. In the end, I will still be serving a population of patrons, but those patrons will be (fingers crossed) interested in learning. They will have a fire for whatever subject they are requesting documentation on. And the best part, they will not be ordering food and complaining about their order. They will not be calling me on the phone to help them fix a computer issue. They will not be asking to speak to my manager because they didn’t get their way. They will be genuinely interested in working with me to find the answers, and if they are not, I will make them interested. A good research librarian can do that and still be providing good customer service.
The most important thing that you learn, at some point in your life, is this: find what you love and do it. Don’t worry about those around you that might not believe in you. Or those that might be concerned about you taking a different path than others have. Although they most likely have your best interests at heart, they cannot always see beyond the known to the unknown. You cannot let anyone hold you back. You must move towards your dreams, not towards others dreams for you (or themselves.) This is the only way to exist in a space where you can be happy and content. If you are living for others, you will never find the peace you deserve.
Have you found your calling? How long did it take for you to figure it out? Are you still searching? Let me know in the comments!