Do what makes you happy, not rich

susan.page and susan.page

Almost six years ago, I stepped onto Northern’s campus as a wide-eyed freshman. I was young, optimistic and determined. I knew what I was going to do after I graduated. I was going to be a public school guidance counselor, because I wanted to help kids.

For five years I was a behavior analysis major. I took classes about sex, drugs, suicide and psychology with an English class here and there to counterbalance the often depressing major coursework. But depressing stuff was necessary if I wanted to be an effective counselor.

By the time my fifth and final year rolled around, I was an intern at Marquette Senior High School assisting a teacher with a classroom for troubled students. I liked interacting with the teenagers, but it wasn’t what I’d imagined. So, at the end of the semester, I elected to discontinue my internship. I felt burnt out and fed up with theory, school and everything.

The only bright spots were whenever I was able to get some time to read comic books or write a short story, but it wasn’t anything I could pursue as a career. It just didn’t seem practical to give up a future career as a guidance counselor for a pipe dream where I could make money by reading and writing comics. I didn’t want the past several years of my life go to waste.

Also, what would my parents say? They’d helped me pay for college and make ends meet. How could I tell them that I’d rather work in the comic book industry than getting a counseling job in a school?

With one semester left before graduation, I was lost. I hadn’t applied to any graduate psychology programs. I didn’t care. Then at 22, I was shocked into reevaluating my life. A close friend of mine died in an accident. He was 22-years-old just like me.

Now I was miserable as well as apathetic. I realized that if I had died in that moment, I would die unhappy. His death was a catalyst for me to focus on what I planned on doing. I didn’t want to have any regrets when I came to the end of my life. I needed to figure out what I could do to be happy.

Something had to change. I couldn’t be a counselor anymore. I wasn’t that same 18 year-old who dreamed of helping kids like herself. I was 23 and I had lost my optimism.

I still liked writing and I loved reading, especially comics. It hit me that I should go to graduate school for writing. I always intended to get a master’s degree, so it wasn’t a huge stretch for me to think of myself getting a master’s in another field. Having two bachelor’s degrees always seemed silly to me.

Maybe when I graduated again with a master’s in English, I could find a job editing comic books and graphic novels. It would be a career that would combine two things that I loved.

To prove to myself that I was serious with my new direction in life, I knew I had to tell my parents sooner rather than later. I was scared. I didn’t know how to tell them, but one day I just blurted it out over the phone. “Mom and Dad, I want to work in comic books, not counseling. Please don’t kill me.”

My parents surprised me by taking the news well. I don’t know if I would’ve been able to go through with it if I didn’t have their approval and encouragement. But they wanted me to be happy and they understood that this was something important to me.

I was lucky to have their support and the support of my friends. I love what I’m doing now. I’m studying to get a master’s in English writing and learning the ropes of editing. I don’t know if I’ll ever work for Marvel or DC Comics, but I’d rather keep trying to break into the industry than be stuck in a job and life that makes me miserable.

It hasn’t been easy to change my life around. I’ve had to make some sacrifices, but does it really matter? Even after all the extra work I’ve had to put forth, I feel better now than I have in the past six years. Sometimes you have to take a chance and pursue something you believe will make you happy.