Life Is All About Choices


Heather Gaytan

Feeling stuck? It might be time for a change. Photo courtesy of Pexels.

It is widely reported that adults will change careers five to seven times in their adult life. Seven?! How does anyone come back from that? Well, my friends, you can and sometimes you have to through circumstances beyond your control. Here is my story.

When I graduated from high school, I decided that I wanted to become an Elementary Teacher. During my first semester at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, my high school sweetheart proposed! We were married right after I turned 19. I did not want to spend four years in school, so I decided to change my major and go into Practical Nursing. It was only a two-year program. After we were married, I started the Practical Nursing program as Southeast Community College. How hard could it be?

It was hard but, I prevailed and graduated with my nursing degree at 20 years old. I loved my job as a nurse. I worked in a rural hospital whereas an LPN-C, I was able to get an experience most new nurses could only dream of. I stayed at the hospital for a couple of years and the schedule was brutal. We would work three weeks of days, three weeks of nights. My husband and I decided we wanted to start a family. I was 22 when we found out that I was pregnant with our first son and we decided that I could not keep working these crazy hours.

My family had started their own restaurant and event center and offered me a position with the family business. It was supposed to be a perfect set up where I bring the baby to work. This was my first big career change. I became an Event Coordinator. This was great for a while until I was getting 50 phone calls a day with an infant on my back while working 60-70 hours a week planning weddings and parties. I could handle it until I found out I was pregnant with our second baby. Our first son was not even one year old. I panicked. Daycare was going to be over $1000 a month for two babies. So, I thought I will pivot.

This led to my second career change. I opened my own In-Home daycare. Why not, right? I became a state licensed In-Home Daycare so I could stay home with my babies. I quickly had six to eight kids under the age of 5 in my home five days a week. This was great! Then the unthinkable happened.

One night, my husband got up with our son in the middle of the night. He picked him up out of his crib and both of his legs went numb. This happened four days before the birth of our second son. We immediately went to the Neurologist. He needed a six hour back surgery, but the surgeon said he would not operate because the herniation on his spine was pressing on the central nerve and if he operated, he could paralyze him. So, we had to wait to see if it would eventually heal itself. He had to quit his job in construction, and everything was on my shoulders. At this point I was 24 years old. I did not understand why this was happening. I thought God was punishing us for something. I had an 18-month-old, a brand-new baby, and my husband couldn’t walk more than 20 feet without his legs going numb.

Less than five weeks after our second son was born, I went back to working nights as a nurse. My third career change. I remember being so exhausted. I cannot even count how many times I fell asleep driving. I have an amazing guardian angel. I stayed in nursing for a while but at this point, I was burnt out.

A couple of years later, I began working for a start-up tech company as an Administrative Assistant. I could work from home, so this was very appealing to avoid paying for daycare. This was my fourth career change. I learned so much about the corporate world. Then, after a couple of years, the company closed. I was out of a job. Thank goodness at this point my husband had found some relief with his back and was able to work again. This gave me the confidence to find something else even though I was completely devastated.

I thought I would take a chance and do something completely different. I took a job as a Sales Representative at a Ford Dealership. This was my fifth career change. Everybody thought I was crazy. I loved this job, and I did well. The only problem was it was 6-7 days a week 10-hour days. I had a husband and two kids at home and one with special needs. I did this for a few years and then I was offered the opportunity to work from home for the amazing nonprofit that I work for today as a Training and Volunteer Program Manager for volunteers and organizations across the country. I have been with my current employer almost two years. My sixth and hopefully final career change for a long time.

Now, I continue to torture myself by working full time, finishing my bachelors, all while being a wife and mother of two really busy boys. I wonder what it will be like to be settled, with my education complete, and only work and my family to worry about? Maybe I will actually finish the final episodes of American Idol…

My husband and I were married very young and never experienced college in the traditional way. We did not live in the dorms or go to college parties. We were remodeling a home, working full time, and going to school before we had our two boys. Some people would say we did things backwards. Going to school, working, being married, and raising children is not exactly the way you are supposed to do it. Has it been a difficult journey? Yes. There were moments where I was not sure I would survive it, but I am so grateful for my family and the support we had along the way in our darkest moments. My advice for anyone going through their own challenges in life, take one day at a time. You will get through it.