It has long been professed that people entering the workforce for the first time should follow their dreams. However, only a select few take that advice to heart, while others may settle for a safer route.
It can be daunting to go against the stereotypical 9-to-5 grain and follow your heart down a career path that may be different. People often take a safe job for security and neglect what they may truly be passionate about. But, there are always those, who have learned that following their heart is the only option. For some, it is clear, right away. For others, it takes trial and error before learning where they thrive professionally.
Among the people who have taken a long and winding road to find where they’re destined to be is Sean Curtin, a French teacher and doctorate student from Chicago. While studying psychology as an undergrad at the University of Illinois, Curtin took a French class during his last semester to impress a girl. What he didn’t know, at the time, was that he was laying the groundwork for his future.
The first to admit that he never thought he would be fluent in French, Curtin reflects on his career decisions following graduation. “I felt the pressure of ‘it’s what you’re supposed to do’,’” says Curtin. “It took a couple of months, for sure. And, when all of your friends are getting jobs, it makes it harder, especially when you don’t know what the hell you want to do.” Curtin ultimately wound up taking a job at a filing company in Chicago. This job did not sit well with him, as it was not what he went to school for. The next few years were filled with dismal office jobs, frustrating commutes, and most notably, nothing he felt passionate about.
After testing the real world waters, Curtin could not shake the bug he caught taking French during college. He decided to return to U of I to obtain a master’s degree in French. While there were the struggles of finding the right time to find a way to support himself financially (besides the sacrifice of leaving friends and family), Curtin has no regrets for having followed his heart. “Once you find something you like, it’s hard to do anything else,” he explains. Because he had been studying French at the University of Illinois at Chicago in the interim time between his two U of I stints, Curtin was able to teach beginner level French courses, while acquiring his master’s. When asked if he has had any reservations on choosing this career path, Curtin responded with, “On the first day of teaching, I knew it was the right choice and that hasn’t changed since.” With this, he explains that he could imagine doing nothing else. All of this is attributed to Curtin’s decision to check in with himself to realize what he wanted to do with his life.
While it can be difficult to know what path is best to take, Curtin urges anyone with the slightest passion for anything to follow that tug of the heartstring. “Just for go it. That advice is lame and trite, I know. But, before you know it, you’ll be too busy with a job and family to start something new,” he states. However, with this being said, Curtin knows that following your dream is not without hardship. Having financial and job security is always of concern, and the location of a teaching job may not always be his first choice. Regardless, all of that is worth it just to do what he’s passionate about. Though, with a smile, he implores anyone taking the ‘follow your heart’ path to “try not to get into debt.”