Hi Ellie, here’s the first serious thing I’ve ever written to you, so I hope you will take it without the usual grain (or packet) of salt:

The reality is, there are far more than two paths for you and you will probably jump off one and go to another one many times in your life.

You choose to either live fully in the here and now, or your don’t, regardless of your circumstances. When I’m totally focused in the present, whether it’s working, writing, walking the dog, scrapping seven years of encrusted pigeon sh*t off a tenant’s balcony (okay, that one wasn’t so pleasant), or sharing some laughs with the family, I not aware of being happy or unhappy. I’m just in my little homegrown patch of nirvana. Happy is how a child lives, unencumbered by doubts, worries and expectations. They just are. Their example of pure joy and wonderment is one we all follow to unlearn all the crap that we think makes us happy or unhappy. Trying to “maximize happiness” is like some bullish*t MBA consulting project that usually causes other people misery.

In every great job you will ever have, you will start out doing something you love to do. As you become more and more successful in your career, you will be asked to do more: supervise others; interface with clients or corporate big wigs; and even take on a leadership role. In every case, the more successful you become in a business, the less you will do the thing you love do. So you may want to think about how the paths of success don’t necessarily run parallel with the path that involves doing what you love to do.

I have spent a lifetime figuring out ways to do what I like to do and get paid for it. My wife would complain that I never had a “real job” (the definition of which must be constant suffering) because I have fun (most of the time; see #3 for the times when it starts becoming a pain in the ass). But the thing I don’t have at work is meaning. For the last twenty-some years, I have been in the business of helping other people sell more stuff. While it’s nice to help small business owners support their families, the reality is that I don’t think I’m really making people’s live better. On the other hand, my wife, a labor & delivery RN, has brought lives into the world, and occasionally saved a baby’s life. That’s what I call meaningful.

You could do an AA at SMCC. They have an excellent nursing program. With your BA already in hand, you might be able to become an R.N. in two years. I’m not sure about the current requirements, but when my wife wanted to get her BSN, I saw all the classes she took online, and edited all her papers. I can tell you that the two years of classes and clinical work you would do to get a nursing AA is all you really need to be a good nurse. The rest of it is just bullish*t administrative stuff, like learning how to lead people, develop programs to improve patient care, or doing case studies.

The reason I mention nursing is because you would be able to do real work in an ER, make really good money as a 25-year-old, AND get enough real world work experience to know if you want to go the extra step to be a PA. And I can tell you from personal experience, RNs are the real heroes for most patients, because the doctors and PAs are almost never around and certainly not there to comfort people the way RNs do. IMO, spending seven years at your age to do anything doesn’t take into account the changes you will undergo in that time.

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Ad agency creative director, writer & designer at https://guttmanshapiro.com. Former pro tennis player and peak performance coach for professional athletes.

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