What career to pursue? It was an obsession of mine for the eight years I spent in high school and college.
I knew that I wanted a 9-to-5, a regular paycheck, and benefits…but I also wanted a career that would get me out of bed every morning excited. I was seeking a path that was equal parts practicality and passion.
I was most passionate about writing, but I didn’t view it as a direct route to my practical goals.
I was also obsessed with fragrances. I liked everything about perfume, from the scents to the marketing campaigns to the bottle designs. I wondered, who was creating perfumes and scented body washes? It dawned on me that creating these products I loved was somebody’s job. Could it eventually be mine?
I mentioned pursuing a fragrance career to those around me, but was stuck with a range of unenthusiastic responses, like, “Huh?” “Don’t you want to do something less frivolous with your life?” and the best, “Perfume? I thought you were too smart for that.”
Had I been less than real with myself, these comments would’ve shot me straight down the path to law school.
[Side note: I did apply to law school, but I don’t recommend this for anybody less than passionate about being an attorney. Lawyerdom is not a fall-back career for the otherwise undecided.]
How could pursuing what I loved be “frivolous”? Why did being smart mean I should put aside joy and passion? As if only certain people were expected to pursue what really fascinated them. I worried that if I pursued perfume, I might appear less intelligent.
Self-conscious that my interest in fragrance was deemed shallow, I was terrified that my thinking was all wrong. But a nagging feeling told me that pursuing a different career for appearance’s sake was ridiculous. One day I would be dead; in the meantime, I wanted my life to be interesting, and my own judgment was all that mattered.
Besides, I was already casting writing aside for something I hoped would lead me into a corporate setting, instead of a freelancing one. That was my choice, and I couldn’t let others who had no interest in perfume decide for me that it wasn’t worth pursuing.
I stuck to my guns and eventually learned that fragrance is a billion-dollar industry. Now “perfume” had potential. No matter where your passion lies, a billion-dollar business makes the question of frivolity a moot point.
Bingo: a fragrance career; a professional community; a regular paycheck. It was practical, and it was my passion.
[Image: Vetiver Aromatics]