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  • Damaris Chanza

Choosing an Abstract Career Path

Updated: Apr 29, 2022

We've all heard the traditional way life is supposed to go. You finish high school, go to college, and start your career. Unfortunately, people never tell you the reality of what that means.

For a long time, I didn't think about being successful. I just wanted to be happy. I knew that writing would make me happy, so I never thought about being anything other than an author. Then, something unexpected happened.

When I was in about 6th or 7th grade, I had a Vice Principal who hosted a meeting for all the older grades. We were going to transition to middle school, and he wanted to remind us of our position in life. We were all colored students living in the ghetto. He told us the world expected us to be nothing. The guys were expected to be illiterate gangsters and drug dealers who ended up either behind bars or in a body bag. We girls were expected to be uneducated and do nothing other than lay on our backs and birth a bunch of kids we wouldn't be able to take care of. He emphasized the importance of finishing school and getting a job. He reminded us that we couldn't all be singers, artists, basketball players, or rappers.

Growing up, people always talked about getting out of the ghetto but never really formulated a plan on how to do so. He was the first person and the only person ever to lay everything out so plainly. As a woman of color, the world expects me to fit their stereotype and become another statistic. I'm not sure about everyone else sitting on those bleachers that day, but at that moment, I started to figure out how I was going to make myself into a successful woman.

I did what felt like the reasonable thing and went to college for something that would make me lots of money. Halfway through college, I realized I was no good at computer science, and taking any more math classes would make me want to drop out. I couldn't imagine forcing myself to continue on that path knowing it would make me miserable. A successful woman wouldn't hate the thing giving her success.

I quickly shifted gears and returned to my original dream of becoming an author. I said it out loud so many times, 'Damaris Chanza, the author.' I told myself that even if it's a textbook no one reads, I will write and publish a book someday. With this in mind, I changed majors and graduated with a degree in communication and media. I was eager to start my career, but the pandemic hit and halted all my dreams. I was unemployed, and my dream career didn't fit under the 'essential worker' umbrella. I didn't know what to do with myself.

After some trial and error, I found a job within my field and became a web administrator. It's not very artistic. I answer emails, schedule posts, program surveys, and compose newsletters. It didn't fit my dream, but I needed money, and it was the closest I could get at the time.

Still, it wasn't enough.

I needed creativity. I needed to create.

I started writing a book. I figured if I wanted to be a writer, there was nothing else to do but write. I designed and developed my website and made myself available for freelance media work. When I knew I wanted to get my name out there somehow, I decided to start a blog as well.

Now, I get to write and create every day while working toward my dream.

I did all this while keeping my web administrator job because I had to pay the bills somehow.

People don't understand my version of success. I work all the time and on something that is not getting immediate results. I could easily become more involved at work and gain more money. Now that the world isn't locked down, I could even search for higher-paying positions doing something similar or something providing a creative outlet. I could do plenty of things to make money and become successful the traditional way. However, I love having the creative freedom to write what I want and create what I want. It may not pay much, it's hard to describe, and it can feel arbitrary at times, but I put in a lot of work, and it makes me happy. More importantly, it gives me time to work on my dreams without becoming an unsatisfactory stereotype or a sad statistic.

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