My job as a museum curator is a big part of who I am.
I know people say you should not let your job define you, but for me, I am doing for pay what I would be doing for fun anyway. I know it may not sound like fun to many, but for me, it’s exactly what I wanted for my life, though I didn’t know it for many years that this was what was meant to be.
When I was a kid, I had dreams of being so many different things at various stages in life :cash register clerk at the local discount store, writer, pediatrician, lawyer, documentary film maker.
Growing up, my parents never put any exceptions on what my brother or I could do in school, extracurriculars, or work. They stressed education and I am very blessed and fortunate to say that because of their support in various forms, I was able to focus on my studies and interests because of that support.
In addition to the amazing family relationship we have, I am so thankful to them for who they raised me to be. They never pushed anything on me, though when I wanted to quit the French horn after a few lessons, they did make a fuss for me to continue ( they had paid in full and no way were they losing their money!)
For example, both my father and brother are artists and graphic designers; my brother from a very early age had an amazing drawing ability, as well as could make anything or fix anything ( he fixed my VCR once with parts from his remote control car). He has an awesome imagination, can think quick on his feet, and loves doing artistic things. The artistic ability was all used up on him it seems.
We used to have ‘arts and crafts’ nights as kids when my dad would give us a project for the weekend to work on; I remember a Thanksgiving themed project where David made a fantastic turkey out of tissue paper; I had a sticky glue mess on construction paper ( and I’m guessing I had more glue on my hands and clothes than on the paper).
But my lack of artistic ability was OK. In fact, my penchant for books, history, and school became my strong suit very early on. I loved going to school- I asked for extra assignments ( yea I’m THAT girl), did my own research projects, anything to absorb more information.
I used to think for awhile that because I was not as artistically inclined as my brother, that it meant I wasn’t creative. It took me awhile to learn that the short stories I would write or the way that I arranged my porcelain dolls on the shelf was an expression of creativity as well. And those were things I loved.
That combined with learning and researching- those were things that made me excited. I went into college thinking that museum work might be a good fit for me because it was a way for me to combine my passion for history and learning with a discipline that I found interesting. I always loved going to museums- in fact, when we went on vacations, everyone in the family got to choose something to do. For me, it was always museum or historic sites.
Sophomore year of college I went to the career center to have the director help me with my resume for internships in museums. When I went into her office, the first thing I saw was a sign above her desk that said in big bold pink letters: DO WHAT MAKES YOUR HEART SING. So simple, but it hit me over the head. No one, not even my parents, who had supported any endeavor I ever went on, had told me that.
And since then I’ve been on the path to finding the thing that makes my heart sing.
It’s always been about history, art, research, writing. It has changed and evolved as I have tried out different types of jobs within the museum field. Working on exhibits, researching and interpreting collections are my favorite thing; the current job I have now, where I have been for three years this month, is doing exactly that- and I couldn’t be happier. Yes, of course, there are frustrating days dealing with people or situations, but most of those fall under the “other duties as assigned.” But I believe so strongly in the work I do- preserving, interpreting, educating about history, art, and culture- that it allows me to overcome those moments with some ease.
The work fulfills me, captivates me- and it makes my heart sing because it is meaningful work. Contributing to society- even if in a small way by preserving artifacts and history for generations to come- is important. What I do in comparison to the rest of the world who are solving real problems and dealing with disease, famine and poverty- that is amazing work. What I do is small, but rewarding, and important too.
Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about next steps in my career and what I want to do next. I love the idea of working with smaller museums and local historical societies to help them connect better to their communities and history. I want to do more research and a lot more writing too. I think a lot about going back to grad school for my PhD, but after being in school for eighteen straight years (!!), I very much enjoy reading and writing what I want on my own schedule.
As I’m figuring out life on my own, I’m very lucky to have the stability of a great job so I won’t be making any big changes in the career area any time soon. But I’m always thinking about ways to further fulfill my insatiable quest for learning and curiosity, and always, always doing what makes my heart sing.