The Career Not Taken


When you are a parent, first birthdays always have a way of misting the eyes and evoking strong emotions. Just yesterday my little girl was afraid to take a step, and today she is sprinting. Twelve short months and all that remains are the final traces of a precious baby, our last.

I told myself I had it together. I told myself I could do this. But, the truth is, I have regrets.

I didn’t read enough stories.

I didn’t savor the middle-of-the-night embraces.

I didn’t slow down.

And – here on the other side of one – is where I begin to ponder other roads not taken.

Approximately six years ago, I set forth on my most exciting career pursuit: infectious disease epidemiology. HIV, HPV, RSV – you name the virus, and I wanted to learn it. I had just ended a year in AmeriCorps serving low-income renters and was eager to make a real impact on community health.

Returning to graduate school was no small feat. I had not taken a math or science course in eight years, and I still believed vaccines were harmful. Despite my nontraditional path, I found myself thriving on public health lessons and research projects. The world felt like one big sandbox, and, when graduation arrived, I wanted to continue the fun.

After a series of failed applications and an uncomfortable period of marital discord, I chose to move, with my husband, to California. And, amazingly, in the weeks following our epic cross-country road trip, I was contacted by the California Epidemiologic Investigation Service (Cal-EIS) with an interview request. Finally, my chance.

Only, I had already accepted a job teaching high school English…biology…and P.E. When all the doors felt closed, I committed to the “sure thing” (and, really, the first thing that said “yes”) out of fear. And, just like that, my dream slipped away.

Little did I know, I would resign just three months later.

But the thing I have learned about life is, it moves. The world keeps spinning. And usually things work out for the better.

By not pursuing epidemiology, I took an awful position that led to unemployment, which allowed for rest – for, truly, the first time in my adult life. Within just a few weeks, I became pregnant with our son. In this, incredible adversity paved the way for motherhood. And perhaps there is no other way it could have happened.

While I do consider my professional journey from time to time, I don’t long for the PhD I never earned or the dream I never reached. Because sometimes you have to trade one dream for another.

And, my daughter, she forgives pretty quickly. There is still time to give her more of me – for the only thing more powerful than regret is love.

May I never forget that I control the destiny of both.

::today’s daily inspiration::

6 thoughts on “The Career Not Taken

  1. I firmly believe everything happens for a reason, whether it’s because the choice you didn’t make wasn’t right for you anyway or the regret of not making it opens your eyes to what you really want out of life.

    Liked by 1 person

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