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Posted on Feb 6, 2012 in change | 0 comments

Misspent Youth

by Jill MacGregor

giving the paparazzi the stink eye in my younger years

I have found myself running into the girl I used to be lately. You may think that must mean some carefree version of myself, untethered by serious adult themes but that would not be the case.

I’ve definitely gotten younger as I’ve gotten older.

But I am rediscovering an old theme—an old ghost—that used to keep me up at night. It’s that first hurdle we all are faced with, I think: What am I supposed to do with my life? Who am I supposed to be? What am I meant to influence? Am I smart enough to recognize the signs that will point me in the right direction?

Honestly, I’m not sure I’ve ever stopped asking myself these questions.

These questions definitely got stirred up recently when I found an artifact in my closet.

I keep thinking about it.

It’s my Strong-Campbell Interest Inventory Assessment. I can’t believe I still have it. I remember when I got the results –some 25+ years ago—I thought it was full of shit. Because at 23, I already knew everything.


Except what to pursue as a career.

At 23, I was using my double major of French and International Studies to manage a trendy, little bakery. At this point, I think it’s important to remind you that “croissant” is French and I pronounced it better than anyone at the bakery.

Yep. That’s what 6 years of French and living abroad for a semester will get you.

So I baked. And I loved it. I loved researching new recipes. I loved the science of baking and its demand for precision. I found that the toque I wore at work was tremendous camouflage for my increasingly unusual hairstyles/hair colors. No customer knew what was going on under there until I *released the Kraken* at the end of my shift and the long pink curls fell over one eye in direct contrast to the buzz cut on the rest of my head and the –gift with purchase–long purple and blond tail.

My hair was a strange cross between Burt Lancaster in Elmer Gantry and the female singer in the Thompson Twins.

It was the ‘80’s…

But here was the rub. You see, the 2 years after college I’d watched many of my friends put on suits and go to traditional jobs that somehow corresponded with their college major while I put on my apron and baked.

And as time passed, I began to feel the difference in the choice I’d made–to the point that I began having very quiet conversations with myself about doing something that might involve working for the MAN and following a path I proudly fought for no real reason…other than being young.

So, I searched a bit of counsel.

And, as I sat across from the career counselor, my erupting fuchsia curls assaulting her very senses –and at the very college that encouraged the pursuit of my French major even though the reasoning for my choice was “I like French”– I realized she was just a few years older than me.

But she wasn’t wearing Birkenstocks or smelling oddly of chocolate and vanilla or thinking, as I was, that I needed to go to the co-op and get some falafel before that new client stopped by to have me read their Tarot cards.

She was probably thinking how nice she looked in plaid and that her brunette bob was never going to go out of style.

I imagine her thoughts were peppered with ideas about career trajectory and maximizing her potential.

I was a little jealous of her at this moment for her ongoing clarity that led her from one sensible decision to the next. It made me feel a bit…cartoonish.

I approached the test results the same way I would have approached a horoscope: slightly skeptical but still hoping to find some definitive answers for my life.

She said my results showed that I would probably never be a farmer or in the military, as if a single glance wouldn’t have allowed us to come to that conclusion. I rated lower than low when it can to teaching, especially as a foreign language teacher, or any career that ended in -ist or -ian.

I scored very highly with the Artistic themes, though, especially with art and writing. There was a high score in Adventure, however that is translated. The job that popped highest on my results was advertising executive.

That would so be working for the man.

I shifted nervously in my Birks and rolled my eyes.

I also scored highly with the Enterprising themes especially in the Sales related field.

I was horrified. Selling? That is so what the MAN would want me to do. Sell a thing to make money. It sounded horrible.

These results seemed to fly in the face of the life I was currently leading. Because, people, at this point, I was volunteering at the co-op to get my 15% off of my organic kefir. I took my own jars…And lets all remember this was 25+ years ago which officially made me…a granola.

Alright. Get the picture? I was a pink haired, Birkenstock wearing granola who ran a bakery and read Tarot cards professionally on the side. My friends and I discussed our auras and the use of cranial sacral massage to rid us of baggage from our past lives.

When I left I felt quite certain that the test only had the ability to discern my dislikes and absolutely lacked the power to tell me what I should do with my life.

I discarded the (NOT)Strong-Campbell Interest Inventory Assessment that day.

So imagine my surprise when I found these test results—which are such an ancient artifact that they are printed on paper.

Because when I short list my career and interests now…well, I ended up pursuing everything that damn test said I would.

When I eventually left the bakery several months after taking that test, full of fear and the absolute knowledge that I was doing the right thing, I started a 20+ year career in advertising sales, working at TV stations around the country. Much to the horror of my woo-woo friends…

I’m an artist and have been showing my paintings for the last 5 years.

And I’m a writer.

Show off-y test.

It makes me feel a bit like a word problem—that somehow I can be solved mathematically. And I’m sure you can understand how frustrating that is to the girl with the pink hair and too many piercings– that she can be so easily deciphered. After all the work she had put into being unsolvable.

I couldn’t help but notice how things have changed—and how they have stayed the same–when I ran into this girl I used to be. We both live by our intuition but I notice, now, how much more informs my intuition than when I was younger—fortunately.

And, we both love the smell of the unbeaten path and slightly uncharted forward motion. It has always led somewhere interesting.

If you like this, you may want to read:
  • The Stop Doing List—Part I
  • Demarcation
  • Daring Acts—How To Work Without A Net
  • Not Quite Ice But No Longer Water

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