My Future’s Not In Hamburgers

Cape Breton

Cape Breton

A fortune teller in Las Vegas once told me “Your future’s not in hamburgers. “  Six months later I quit my job and went back to university full-time. Twenty years later these words echo in my head as I compose this essay, hoping to return to school again.

The fortune teller’s words had significance for good reason. At the time I was working for a Vancouver advertising agency on the McDonald’s account. Yes, the restaurant giant. I was in Vegas running the booth at an annual conference, where owners and operators from all over the world had convened to discuss business and learn about the new products the Corporation was going to roll out for the upcoming year. At the end of the conference they threw a huge party just for McDonald’s people and others like me. It was a country fair, with carousel rides, Ferris wheels, BBQ food, free beer, and fortune tellers.

The fortune teller knew we were all connected to McDonald’s. They knew nothing about any of us, and in particular they knew nothing about how unhappy and frustrated I felt about my job at the agency. My face was pressed against that glass ceiling; I could see the future and I could imagine what it felt like, but I was trapped below with no chance for advancement unless I furthered my education.

At one time having an undergraduate degree was enough to provide almost unlimited access to opportunities. That is still true for some industries and career choices, but not for me. For the last couple of years I have felt my face pressed up against that glass again. There are holes in the glass now that allow me to breathe and taste some of the future. In fact, half my body is on the other side of this glass already. But I am not all the way through.

When I went back to university in Canada, I wanted to become a forensic scientist. It was just before CSI was a smash TV hit, before a million others decided to follow that same dream in a country that really does not have enough crime to sustain that many people. Up to a point I achieved my dream — I worked in policing for five years and was part of Canada’s biggest crime scene in history (I did not cause the crime scene, I just helped analyze it).

During my employment at the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police), I naturally fell into jobs that blended my logical and creative talents. One aspect of my job was to run the chemical tests on evidence that would then be analyzed for fingerprints by our police experts.  My boss also asked me to write some standard operating procedures about how to use the digital cameras in a policing environment. In time, this led to a contract job as the Media Relations Coordinator, where my degree and my work experience culminated in the perfect job for me. I won an award for this work, as well as experienced a job that I loved and where I know I made a difference to the world.

And then I had to reinvent myself as a technical writer. Long story.  Perhaps worthy to write it down one day, but I won’t for this essay.

Technical writing suits my personality and my skills as a scientist and as a creative person. It enabled me to find work quickly when I moved to Sweden four years ago (another long story!) but I am stuck in a company that does not have any opportunity for advancement. My skills and spirit are withering, and although I keep trying, I have not been able to secure a new job.

If I won a millions dollars (pounds, Euros, kroner) I would go back to school full-time. Since that is not possible (I don’t play the lottery), I focused on finding a part-time program. I hoped to find something in Stockholm but the programs I am interested in do not meet my criteria or are not offered in English. I did find a non-credit creative writing class, which I have just completed, reaffirming that I need to stop resisting my nature and pursue that which I love, not that which I think I should do.

I am a writer, always have been. I write poetry, short stories, blogs, scientific research papers, and every day I work with words. I have a regular blog about my life in Sweden (you are reading it) and I have won NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) two years in a row.

I am already a professional writer but I do not have the piece of paper to prove it. All I know is that I need to keep moving forward and I thrive best when I am in a learning environment.  I also need to work until I am at least 80 years old, so it would be great to have lots of options in the future for freelance work.

It is true. My future is not in hamburgers or 3D modeling. My future is still being written, and this time it will be written by me.

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12 thoughts on “My Future’s Not In Hamburgers

  1. What a fascinating life! I love reading about other people’s career journeys, probably because mine has been a bit circuitous as well. Just a couple weeks ago, I told someone I’d just met what I did for a living, and they were like, “hm, there are lots of things you could do with that….” As if what I was currently “doing with it” wasn’t enough. And maybe for some people it wouldn’t be, but I’m finally exactly where I want to be. I hope you will be soon as well! I look forward to future stories about Sweden. I visited a few years ago and would love to go back. Alas, my career choices do not currently make that financially feasible….

    • As soon as I read your life synopsis…I followed you for the same reason. It is amazing the paths we take and how each decision leads to the next phase of life. I do not know what is in store, and like you, I have made choices that make it a challenge financially, but I often say that I took out a mortgage on my life instead of on a house…

      Looking forward to reading more from you, too.

  2. A very intresting and fascinating story of a life. I am myself in some point of chosing what to do next, have my dreams of course but can not realy see that I can live on it. I have made a choice to will leave my work next summer and go back to study. While I will try to develop my photography along with my leadarshipexperience. Thank you for sharing, look forvard to read more.

    • Most people have an interesting life, but usually we don’t write it down! It is great you are planning to go back to school. I love learning and think it is one of the most important things in life, to never stop learning.

      • Yes every life is interesting, I agree. But indeed it is interesting to read about choises being made and also things tha “came across”. Gives hope, perspective and reflections. I always wanted to finish my education and now in an age of 40 it will be possible, so yes it feels great.

  3. The easy path, the path you think you should take will allow you to function. The hard path, the path you desire and intend but don’t know how to walk on will sustain your soul.

  4. Knowledge is required for the first; Faith for the second , but Faith cannot be learned but experienced. When you take a leap of faith you imagine and re-imagine new possibilities for yourself. Leap with Faith and you will float not fall!

  5. “Destiny is not a matter of chance; it is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.”
    ― William Jennings Bryan

  6. You’re an interesting, decisive person, have made a really eventful life and you’re only half way through, kudos! It’s exciting that you are decided on writing (doesn’t excitement and feeling good make exciting and good things happen?) Even a current set-up becomes exciting when you know it is a means to an end and you are deliberately creating your future. It’s like a feeling of ‘I made this happen, so I can make that happen next’. Sometimes we are the Reluctant Hero, sometimes the Vengeful Hero, sometimes the Downright Bloodyminded Hero … it doesn’t matter as long as we get traction and save our own life from outside interference. Can’t wait to see What Amanda Did Next. Onwards, upwards and outwards! Interesting to look in the rear view mirror but the good stuff is what’s ahead, never stop learning – you are so right.

  7. Go Amanda Go!!! I’d knock on ‘Wood’ that you’ll love your new path but there’s no luck required there 😊

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