Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Career Assessment

A memory of career assessment.  I was twelve years old. My desk was a flat, wooden arm, winging off my hard-backed seat.  Lead pencil smudged across the bump of my wrist.  I filled in each bubble because I knew, I knew, I'm going to be a writer.  And with every question, my heart would whisper its own.  Is this the answer a writer would give?  I circled. I nodded. I knew.

Days later, a typed description in a printed booklet crossed my desk. Lines dipped and mountain-peaked and soared on a chart.  I scanned the fuzz of wordy descriptions, so certain, so sure.

When I flipped to the final assessment, however, my heart slipped. Writer was low on the list, practically last.  Healer, it read.  Number one.

I didn't understand.  Healer?  I thought I'd be barefoot. I thought I'd hold a flute, charm a snake, rub leaves across others cheeks, touch my hand to a bowed head.

What does this mean? I asked my teacher.

She turned a page, pointed to the description, to the suggested careers.  Doctor. Nurse. Member of the clergy.

I panicked. My grades in science class were abysmal. Doctor and nurse were not in my future.  I'd have to be a nun like Sister Regina at my church, who had made fun of my sign of the cross because it was backwards. Up-down-right-left.  But everyone else went left-right.  Left-right, she had smirked and grabbed my wrist, thunked my hand against my shoulders, over and over, left-right.  

I imagined my future self in a Climb Every Mountain-esque Mother Superior habit, shouting and stomping, left-right, left-right!

Writer was its own separate category with its own suggested careers. Journalist. Novelist.  Poet.  It sat at the bottom of my list.  It sat at the bottom of me.


  1. Sometimes we don't go with our guts instincts as to what to do as a career at first. It's great that you're on your way to fulfilling what you seem to be destined to do. Sorry I haven't been commenting on your blog, I fell off the blogosphere for a while, but I'm trying to get back on it!

  2. LOL what a visual, picturing you stomping "left-right!" in a Mother Superior habit. :)

    Your experience reminds me of how much I loathe this type of testing (my daughter is going through the same thing with her career assessment tests in h.s.). I mean really, what can a bubble or graph on a page tell you about an intuitive yearning in your heart? But it's beautiful, how you've come full circle now. A writer IS a healer. Books are my favorite medicine and therapy. :)

  3. Don't you think writers are healers in many ways? I think those of us with the urge to help others, who feel compassionately, who want to make the world better, often find our words the most effective way to heal.
    By the way, you made the sign of the cross in a perfectly acceptable way--that's how those in Eastern Rite or Eastern Orthodox churches make it. :)

  4. I agree with both Barb and Faith -- writers are healers in their own ways. Whether it's a blog where you're sharing your thoughts and your journey or a novel that entertains, a memoir that helps you identify with your life trajectory -- it's all there in written form.

    PS -- Great imagery, I can imagine your 12 year-old self, bubbling in the scantron and hoping for confirmation of your heart's desire.

  5. Who cares about an assessment ... we who read your posts know that a writer is lurking there .... so go for it!!

    Your post brought back memories of shamings at school, as if one was not quite good enough. Don't you want to shout, "Oh, but we are, only it was hidden form you all at the time - a tiny seed not ready to germinate .... then."

  6. I'm glad you're ignoring that assessment.