Service of Seeds: What You Admired As a Kid May Be What You Do For a Living

August 4th, 2016

Categories: Careers, Jobs, Made in America, Transportation, Work

I envied students, when I was one myself, who knew they wanted to be a teacher, nurse, doctor, journalist, artist, dentist or dancer—to name a few careers. In college, I still had no clue, but with the benefit of hindsight, the seeds were there long before.

A casual conversation with strangers on a railroad platform underscored how this might work for people lucky enough to be choosy in how they make a living. In Dover Plains, NY the other evening a crew of electricians was upgrading the lights at the railroad station. David, the team leader, was enthusiastically describing to another passenger and me what to expect when the project was done. He said we’d be getting “circus lights.”

We looked puzzled and he explained, “You remember when you were a kid and went to the circus? Those lights.” I said I remember piles of clowns squeezing into a small car, the lions and trapeze artists and cotton candy but don’t remember the lights and he laughed and said, “I guess that’s why I became an electrician!” [Once I Googled “circus lights,” I knew what to expect, but the image didn’t immediately come to mind.]

David got me thinking about what caught my attention as a child: attractively decorated apartments and homes, well dressed women and fashion in magazines and stores, hair styles, the way my aunt and a friend’s mother set a table and entertained and how great some stores looked and what fun it was to visit them and finding treasures in less appealing stores, to name a few things. In lower school, with friends during rest period, I put together a “magazine” [currently misplaced or tossed]. With the exception of fashion and beauty industries, I’ve been professionally involved in some or another way with the others and worked for two magazines.

Thinking back, do you see seeds and clues from your youth that translated into the work you do–or did–or did you know all along what you wanted your future to be?



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3 Responses to “Service of Seeds: What You Admired As a Kid May Be What You Do For a Living”

  1. Lucrezia Said:

    No. Learned too late not to listen to the wrong people. No one to blame but myself.

  2. jmbyington Said:


    I didn’t have a clue at the time but looking back I see interests that have stayed with me my entire life some of which I was able to translate into work. The electrician had the same impression. This may be more then coincidence and of help to someone starting out.

  3. hb Said:

    I knew all along as I grew up that my parents hoped I would follow in my father’s, grandfather’s and great, great, grandfather’s footsteps and join the Foreign Service. I never really considered doing anything else, and since my education, experience and training all pointed me in that direction, not surprisingly, I passed the Service written exams while still an undergraduate.

    I did my first job as a vice consul well and enjoyed the work, but soon realized that I was temperamentally ill-suited to government work. My second job was as deputy executive secretary of the Peace Corps — supposedly a big promotion. Two months of working in the office next to Sargent Shriver’s and watching the “buzz” of the New Frontier close to its core, convinced me that I had better get out while I was still in one piece. I quit with no idea what I would do next or where I would do it.

    After a while, I ended up coming to New York and somehow getting a job at a bank, even though I had no idea what bankers really did, no training in economics, business, accounting, finance and had never before even seen Wall Street.

    Looking back, and after reading your post, I now realize that seeds of my almost forty years in international finance were sewn in me from early childhood on.

    At eight, somebody gave me a set of little books describing each country in Latin America. I was fascinated and absorbed effortlessly that Brazil spoke Portuguese, Argentina ate meat, Chile had Copper and Easter Island, Bolivia was high up in the Andes and so forth. In college, I took a course in Geography only to discover that I accidentally knew almost as much as my professor did on the subject. (He was most disappointed when I dropped the course to take something tougher and told me that he had thought he had found the makings of a future PhD in geography when I joined his class.)

    Since I could first read, I’ve loved books and exploring files to researching to solve obscure historical questions, and my favorite pastime in school and college was to sit on the floor in the library stacks, skimming through the books on the shelves around me. That was more fun for me than what most of the other boys were doing. I should have been a research librarian.

    No wonder my instincts made me a wiz at intuitively being able to judge the credworthyness of countries and decide whether it made sense to do business with them.

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