When I was a kid, I never said I wanted to be an astronaut or a beauty queen or anything glamorous. I always wanted to be a "hair cutter lady" or a waitress or work at McDonald's (so I could make sure the orders were right). They were the jobs I saw in my day to day life and those people seemed nice, so I wanted to have one of those jobs. As I became a teenager, I wasn't really sure what I wanted to be. My parents always focused on getting an education that would gain me some marketable skill that would allow me to always have a job. Ever the pragmatics, they focused on jobs like accountants or engineers. Someone would always need their taxes done or a bridge built. People don't need to pay for poems to be written for them.
The year I graduated college was the same year Mom got breast cancer and Dad lost his job. It was a rough year for all of us. I only applied to two schools - Old Dominion University and Virginia Tech, with the idea that I could live at home if need be and both were less expensive state schools. I find it ironic that I do so much writing now when I never had to write a single college entrance essay.
I started out as an engineering major until I actually took engineering classes. Oh, how I loathed those classes. I loved math, even calculus, but suddenly vector geometry and linear algebra weren't really doing it for me anymore. After my first semester, I quickly changed over to Communication Studies, much to my father's dismay. I think he was convinced I would get that childhood dream of working at McDonald's after all. I remember him saying on the phone, "what does a communications major even do anyways?"
But fate smiled on me. I took incredibly easy classes that I was really good at. I finished my degree in three years versus four. I was able to work at least 20 hours a week in the library in addition to my coursework because it wasn't a strain. And that work in the library got me my first full time job, which led to my second full time job where I am today.
I'm not sure if people focus anymore on a particular occupation they want to be. I took those classes having no idea what I would do with them. I could have gone into journalism, but I'm not sure my heart would have been in it. I maybe could have become a speech writer but again, not sure if that would have really wowed me. And I'm not sure they have a college major for what I do now.
What I do now is about as close as I can get to my dream job and still make a living at it. I get to do technical things like help maintain web and database servers and write complicated queries for statistics. I get to talk to educated, genuine, kind-hearted librarians on a regular basis with a passion for learning and information sharing. I get to wear yoga pants to work. I have a pretty high level of control over my own work environment and policies so I'm not mired in bullshit. I have the flexibility to work from home if need be for random issues but a fine office to come into the majority of the time (I hate working from home). I can't remember the last time I wore panty hose for work.
But more important than all of those perks, I do a job where I feel like my talents are put to the best use. I do things in my job that I'm not sure any of the other employees could do but that come naturally to me. It's the best of all possible worlds, to feel appreciated for who I am. I use my powers of empathy and humor and troubleshooting and organization for Good and not Evil. And I've had a lot of practice in how to be a parent just from problem solving issues in my work environment. Everyone wants a pat on the head and to feel like they belong and their voice is heard.
I'm in the midst of the longest break from work I've ever had in my life, and we're barely at the beginning of week three of maternity leave. Work and I need this break to rekindle the romance of why we chose each other. I'd still like to be a writer one day, but that might have to wait until after we've won the lottery (which we don't even play). And really, I don't think I'd enjoy being a full-time writer since it involves a lot of alone time with a keyboard and that would slowly drive me insane.
So while I'm not sure that a true "dream job" exists, my gig is pretty good. My mother told me once years ago that Confucius says if you love your job, you'll never work another day in your life. I think about that all the time, particularly when faced with frustration. Really, I have just taken it to mean that no matter what I do, make sure it's something that I am passionate about or else it will never last.