Growing Up

I remember back in high school I thought for sure I knew what I wanted to be when I “grew up”. I was going to go to school and become an amazing teacher, get married (before 24 was my goal) and start popping out kids around age 25.

Then I got to college. And I hated being in a classroom. I didn’t like being surrounded by little kids that had snot and dirt and tugged at your expensive clothes. Nothing about that was fun. And it didn’t matter the age level – hated it all. So I changed my major to Business Communications. Which would have been awesome except I transferred and the college I went to only had Business or Communication. I went the Business route at first until I ended up wanting to crawl into fetal position at the mention of Accounting. Along came another major change (with this one also came the threat from my parents to get my stuff together). So Communication it was. I always enjoyed writing so it seemed like a natural fit.

Somewhere along the way I decided I was meant to work in nonprofit work. I think it was a conversation with the BFF when I realized I wanted to help him (note: the BFF has MS). The BFF and I have had more conversations than I ever wanted to about what he was going to miss out on due to this disease and I listened to him cry (or cried with him) more times than I can count. I knew I was never going to be a doctor and find the cure for MS so raising money to fund the cure seemed like the next option.

(The BFF and I at the Annual Thanksgiving Kegger Party in 2005 – he inspires me)

Here’s the thing they don’t tell you when you decide you are going to have a concentration in nonprofit administration – it sucks. It’s long hours, awful pay and a lot of rejection. People say no to giving money. They hate when you call to ask for more money numerous times. It doesn’t matter how different the “packaging” is (event, letter or phone call), people know what you want. The dolla dolla bills. Also, you probably aren’t just fundraising…you are also the PR person, the Marketing person and fill in for a variety of other roles.

Post-college though I was ready and willing. I had an amazing internship with the Cleveland Domestic Violence Center and one with the American Cancer Society. While both were difficult, I learned a lot. Both were more hands on than most internships that my friends had. While they were making copies, I was handling committee meetings, writing grants and visiting community leaders.

But after 6 years of fundraising, marketing and public relations for nonprofits, I was completely burned out. So much so that I stopped fundraising for the organization that pushed me down this career path (National MS Society). After fundraising all day, I had no energy to go home and fundraise some more. I was exhausted.

So I changed careers and went down the advertising and PR route. And to date its one of the best decisions I’ve made. Yes, it’s hard work too and can be long hours but it’s very different. The pace is different. The people are different.

And the best part – I can fundraise for the MS Society again. Like I’ve always wanted to do. It’s an organization that I truly put my support in. They take a dollar and stretch it to the max which I admire because I know how hard that can be. They’re on the cutting edge of research and provide so much care and support for those living with MS. But beyond that, they offer support to those who’s loved ones are living with the disease.

And no this isn’t a “give me money for the MS Society post” (though if you feel so led, let me know!). This is about finding what you are passionate about. And making mistakes. And feeling so exhausted that you don’t know what you want to do, nor do you really care. But you pull yourself together and figure it out. And along the way, I really do think that you learn more about yourself and what really makes you tick – in both the positive and negative ways.

Have you had an experience similar? Did it make you stronger/help you figure “things” out?

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About Charlene Ann

30Something, Type A, City Dweller. Lover of bad pop music, coffee, reading, bourbon, to-do lists, wine, trashy TV and Cleveland.
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