Career advice please?

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Teaching math was my previous career. I graduated from college and joined a 2 year inner city teaching program thinking I was going to save the world by helping give underprivileged kids a quality education, the great American equalizer, and after 2 years I’d head to law school and then work in public interest for the rest of my happy and noble little life. Well 5 years of teaching, reality, a bit of cynicism and a bit of maturing has made me realize that I do not want to teach (btw go and give some appreciation to a {smart, engaged, and focused} teacher you know). I also do not want to be a lawyer. I do miss being able to say that I’m a math teacher though (try it, it sounds so smart and noble, especially fun if you don’t dress like a math teacher). What do I want to do then? It’s difficult to get around my Indian mentality, that I am nothing if I’m not a doctor, engineer, or an investment banker. At least I’ve put the brakes on teaching.

Here’s a list, in no particular order, of jobs I would love to have. It’s not lost on me that reality and what goes on my crazy little mind often do not overlap. I just know that it is possible to get out of bed and love what you do like P does (asshole). Also if one of these is your career I’m not trying to insult you in assuming that I could do it too. I just want to publicly state that I would like to be a:

-Jewelry store owner, curator of badass jewelry made by people like Satomi Kawakita, Belle Costes, Marisa A. Lomanco, and Caitlin Mociun. I would like to make it as good as catbird. Badass women with style would shop there. Like eastsidebride and Patti Smith.

-Interior Designer. I despise that label, is there something else we could call them? I would like to create modern interiors. Eventually I would like to buy a loft apartment with P with grey concrete walls, huge industrial fittings and put subtle pops of color all over the place. I don’t want to go back to school though. I’ve discussed with a friend and I think I instead of school I would need to build a portfolio. Does anyone want to let me design a room in their house? For free? Come on, don’t let my paper-mache rhinoceros scare you.

-Photographer. HA. I JUST got a camera and my pics aren’t good yet. But the interest is there and I’m taking classes. And I’m fairly certain I should be in a creative field. It’s difficult to make money though. Unless you are a badass. Like Chris Saunders. I could be a badass ?.

-Is there a place where I can be creative and work for a non profit or NGO? Like empowering girls to become fashion designers. Does somebody know of that non-profit?

-An education non profit. I know a lot about education and am more interested in policy than in teaching. In this scenario I could do creative stuff on the side.

My time to center and find myself  is coming to a close people as I am starting to get a little bored and want to buy myself every Alexander Wang bag I see and also leather leggings and also CAMERA LENSES feel that I should start pulling my weight financially around these parts (that is my own opinion, as P is being an angel and wants me to do what I want to do and make the right decision because as I mentioned he is a god damned saint).

Do you have any ideas? Job openings? Know of any investors that want to sink their money into my amazing jewelry store? Seriously, what should I be when I grow up? I don’t know how to be in a career that’s not a 9-5. HELP ME.

24 thoughts on “Career advice please?

  1. try doing the job that your heart wants to do, not your head. For once, you are in the fortunate position where financially you don’t have to work right now, and that means that you can go back and start something from scratch without having to worry about money. Go for it girl, and don’t worry about stupid things like what your parents think of you ;-) You are a grown ass woman!

  2. you can design a room in my house! i might not be getting it for a little while though . . . want to help me design a “sexy hip working woman” wardrobe? (i have a bit of time to germinate before i need true help in the wardrobe area, so maybe you can help me sometime when you’re back in mn)

    also, have you thought of (after soliciting internet advice) seeing a career counselor? i saw somebody like that and they did some personality tests as well as helped me see what direction would make the most sense. i think you will do great in whatever you do!

  3. If it’s a non-profit you’re considering, you may find that the best one is “self”.

    SA is teeming with need-service opportunities. Many are unearthed and too many NGO’s are duplicating what is already being done.

    Yesterday I met the folks from Three2Six, an educational project for refugees. Maybe they could benefit from your interest in a policy role and you could, for example, initiate through them, a push to get our government more sensitive to the plight of the educational needs of child refugees in SA?

    Today I met a retired pensioner in an old-age-home in Pretoria. He has spent the last 4 years building a home for the domestic worker that served him and his family for many years. He has used his savings and built the home using his own hands. Now who is going to tell his story, and the basket of one’s like it, and use that as a catalyst for others to do the same?

    Think differently, think widely, think big and above all else, think of others for in that you will surely find what you are searching for.

    Maybe you’re the acorn of a rather tall oak – and who’s to say just what you may well shelter under your spread.

      • You may not find a great deal on the website [] but you could also get in touch with Sarah Patzelt [] who is a volunteer there as Assistant Coordinator. She gave me a book of “refugee” stories and pictures prepared by their children and what it showed me is how unkind we are in SA to their educational needs. I’d also be happy to make an introduction if you’d like me to.

        We have a set of portraits for the children that are to be delivered. Perhaps you could present them on our behalf on Saturday at their graduation…..and even take more? ;-)

  4. Skip the Wang bag, buy a lens, find an education nonprofit in Johannesburg, and start taking pictures against the day when nonprofit work also lets you down.

    • i’m starting to see that all career paths shall let me down except for joining the circus. but i think having a ‘normal’ job and developing my interests on the side is the way to go.

      • I thought I was going to do that as a teacher, and honestly it’s hard to find the time. RIght? Unless your “normal” job was something you didn’t put that much energy into. Which is totally fine. I like opening up a jewelery shop, but it’s hard to find ones like that reasonably priced. With that photograph spot though you could photograph your wares in great light and have a decent website in conjunction with your store. It’s hard though because they are not things people need, but they do make life better. I’m not sure anyone can (or should) tell you what to do with your life, but I do think “stuff on the side” really builds up/sometimes doesn’t happen. But, maybe you can just make it happen.

      • yea, you’re right that you’d need an extraordinary amount of motivation to work full time and do things on the side. there just isn’t enough time, especially with teaching! and not sure i’d want to spend my time at a 9-5 that i wasn’t really into.

  5. The best recommendation that I have for you when making a career/life decision is to first make sure that you are spiritually centered. Once you have spent some time searching into your soul and spirit and actually sitting down and asking your creator “GOD” to guide you… you will find that doors will open that you didn’t know were there… opportunities will pop up from no where… I know to some this might sound cheesy, but its the best advice i’ve got. and it actually works…
    GOD knows how to provide… you just need to ask…
    Good luck :-)

  6. Oh Nams, I am in your same boat. Maybe it’s part of a quarter life crisis. The best thing is we’re both blessed to have husbands who are supportive and encouraging. Maybe we should have a G Chat brainstorm one of these days! :)

    • rach, yes let’s definitely g chat brainstorm. i agree we are both lucky since life is a lot better with a good partner who supports you emotionally (and financially in this case…haha).

  7. Namma , you are such a great cook. How about a catering , besides in Joberg you can afford help for this to do it on a large scale.
    The Indian in me tells me that I should tell you to join school and become a doctor , engineer , lawyer etc etc!!!

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