Most people have experienced it at one point or another: that little voice deep down that encourages you to continue your education so you can turn one of your hobbies into a career.
It’s exciting to think about at first; then it inevitably becomes more daunting when you start to think about logistics. The reasons not to do it add up quickly. Continuing education requires money and time, and maybe even a conversation with your boss in order to modify your workload or schedule. Intimidating, right?
But there are those people who end up going for it, and I wanted to find out how they manage to overcome the hurdles in order to pursue their passions. I spoke with Ellery Fink, who recently started a program at the San Francisco Cooking School, while continuing to work at the same job she’s held for eleven years. How on earth did she pull this off? It took passion, commitment, and a lot of courage.
Fink developed a love for food growing up in a Jewish family in Michigan. She describes her family’s traditions as “about the food more than religion,” and remembers plenty of happy hours in the kitchen. After college, she moved to the San Francisco Bay Area—a move that only increased her culinary interests given the area’s strong local foodie culture. One day at a community meeting she learned of a new culinary school, and it was then her little voice started to speak louder. “I had a feeling it was time to take the leap,” she said. She sent in an application, just to see, not knowing her chances of getting in.
When Fink got her acceptance letter, her heart started beating fast. She felt both elated and scared. She could finally pursue her true passion, but the steps necessary to make it happen were overwhelming. For starters, she’d have to talk to her boss about modifying her to work schedule. Would he be open to this? And then there was the financial commitment. She’d have to dig into her savings and be frugal with her money for a while. She talked it over with her partner and asked herself again and again, “Am I sure I want to do this?”
Deep in her heart the answer was yes, so she took a deep breath and sent her deposit to the school, securing her spot. “That made it seem very real,” said Fink, laughing. Then it was time to talk with her boss. On the morning she’d made up her mind to approach him, she walked into work, her stomach doing somersaults. “Okay, I can do this,” she told herself. And then she just did. She walked into his office and shut the door, realizing she accidentally slammed it too hard, and just blurted it out. “I got accepted to culinary school.”
There was a silence that felt eternal. And then her boss said, “Wonderful!”
Fink exhaled for the first time in what felt like several minutes. The conversation flowed easily from there. She was floored that it went so well, but looking back, she realizes it probably had partly to do with the fact that her boss also enjoys cooking.
Fink’s courage and successful conversation with her boss makes me wonder several things. For example, why do we assume employers won’t be open to such life changes as continuing education? They’re human, too. They like to write and paint and cook. Sure, it takes courage to ask, but if it’s something you really want to do (and you know that voice isn’t going to shut up), isn’t it worth taking the chance?
I think it’s useful to ponder this idea without letting fear take over. If you could do anything, what would it be?
Learn more about how you can pursue your true calling in this article by a Colorado State University psychology professor and leading “career calling” researcher.