This weekend I visited with my Dad and he said something that was just confirmed while on my flight from SLC back to SFO as I watched Steven Colbert’s 2011 Commencement speech to Northwestern University. It is humorous and full nuggets of wisdom, but the most influential piece of wisdom he gave was that dreams can change and just because they do does not make you a loser of life, after-all “if everyone’s first wish came true there would be a lot princesses and cowboys running around”
Throughout my life I have seen countless changes to my dreams. In kindergarten I wanted to be an archeologist digging for dinosaurs. In 7th grade we were supposed to take a test that shows what careers we had an aptitude for with the understanding that we didn’t have to know what we wanted to be when we grew up because it is likely to change. I distinctly remember sitting in wood shop thinking “Not me!, I know what I want to do.” I wanted to be an Air Force Intelligence Officer (which really was just an extension of wanting to be a spy). When that dream didn’t come true I was devastated but eventually I picked myself up and looked at several other dreams. Dentistry, computer science, teaching, and bio-chemistry my freshman year.
It was then, while working at a restaurant that I was given the single the greatest piece of advice I have ever received. “It doesn’t matter what you major, a diploma is just a piece of paper certifying that you have a basic set of skills and know how to set and make goals.” Free of the pressure of picking my “dream” job I was able to do something that I enjoyed, namely political science. 2 years ago I was a new graduate in a hopeless job market who was applying to the CIA, RNC, DNC, Capitol Hill, and the White House not knowing if I would be able to get anywhere. I was set that if I didn’t have a job by September I would pack up my things, find a restaurant job in DC, and try to rustle up a job during the day.
It was then that I caught a break, finding a job that was in DC close to what I wanted to do and an overall enjoyable experience. I knew that this gave me the leg up that I needed to grow but didn’t really have a solid dream. As my readers know during the same time that I was released from my need to find a “dream” job, I also had my dream life shattered. My dream of the perfect Mormon life with a dog, a wife, 5 kids, and a good calling in the ward was obliterated by the realization of my sexuality.
So I entered DC without a dream but with a timeline of two years to find my dream. I started with a list of possibles that included the CIA, an LDS Mission, Broadway, a job on Capitol Hill, moving back to Utah, and a Master’s degree. Slowly over the past 2 years I have had my role at my work expanded and my list of possibles narrowed until I realized that my dream job is in politics. Working with candidates, shaping policy, and working towards a better future. And then I got this offer from Google and my “dream” has shifted.
Throughout my life my dreams have been obliterated, expanded, or changed and it has taught me distinctly what Stephen Colbert was saying that losing your dream doesn’t mean you are a loser and that “winning” your dream means nothing because you can’t “win” at life. You win by helping others succeed, not by focusing on yourself. So while the Northwestern class of 2011 might not listen to what he says (I have forgotten all that David Muchollah told my class) I know that I will take his words and use them to demonstrate the ups and downs of my life and how this role at Google, while fantastic, does not make me better or worse than anyone else I have grown up with.