Educated for Life
When I was a kid, I was pretty sure that I was going
to be either a microbiologist—or a writer. That was my
stock answer to anyone who asked what I wanted to be
when I grew up.
And you can probably guess how that turned out.
I’ve always found it intriguing how an idea forms for
each of us as to what might be an interesting way to
spend the next four or five decades of our working life.
My dueling passions first caught fire when I was
a preteen, bolstered by a microscope I received one year as a Christmas
present. I spent months examining anything I could stick to a slide, transfixed by the tiny world that lives around us. The microscope was followed
soon after by a chemistry set that I clamored for—and which I still remember
as being a uniquely dangerous but fascinating gift. (The early 1970s were
apparently less encumbered by safety rules than times are today.)
I still am deeply interested in science. I’m drawn to learning how things
work and how the world around us does what it does when we aren’t paying
attention. The microscope and chemistry set encouraged those interests
and let me explore what I was engaged by, even if just on a tiny scale.
The writing part came in because I was deeply interested in people and
stories. As a kid, then as a teen, I scribbled notebooks full of words, over
and over again. I was irresistibly drawn to creating containers full of words,
each holding a story inside—and it’s an activity that still energizes me all
these years later.
Our career paths are different for each of us. We may be exposed to a
vocation because someone in our family does a certain job, and we think it
looks interesting. Or we might see a person on TV who’s doing something
that seems intriguing. Or we develop an attachment to butterflies or
waterways or something, and that eventually guides us into work that feeds
My path led to college and a double-major in journalism and English. I
learned from great writers who poured their words into books, and from great
professors who helped teach me not only how to write, but also how to think.
In this issue, we look at several U of M alumni who pursued their particular interests, building a career that feels just right to them. For some, their
education supplied the building blocks for a specific industry or area of
expertise. For others, their college experience helped them develop wider-ranging skills that let them strike off in tangential ways.
Whatever the case, they’re using their creativity and background in a
variety of “cool jobs” that we wanted to share.
Kelly O’Hara Dyer can be reached at email@example.com.