• Elana Duffy

Change Happens: Embracing New Dreams



Each of us began our professional lives with certain goals in sight. We enter the working world, fresh from college or straight from high school. Oftentimes the common misconception is that we must now know what we want to spend the rest of our lives doing.

I began my professional life as a high school English teacher in a different country, filled with hope in a profession I had wanted to pursue for as long as I could remember, teaching a subject which I identified with. I enjoyed learning and teaching, so I was living a dream and doing what most people only dream of.

But as I got ready to move forward in my dreams, the reality of trying to get a sustainable job set in while my home country of Ireland saw rough economic times. The European Central Bank were coming to collect on the loans issued in the aftermath of the banking collapse of 2008 and the first sector to feel the pinch was the public one. New jobs were ruled out, pay rates slashed and the future for young teachers all but ruled out.

I was this close to my dream, even started it, but I wouldn’t get far at home. I moved to New York City. With different education requirements, I knew I couldn’t teach here so a new career beckoned. A new city, a new country, a new career; all in all an exciting new life lay ahead.

What do you do when you are about to begin your dream and suddenly just need a way to make ends meet? You take a moment to observe. I was young, and I saw friends working in bars and envied the freedom of their schedule, their never having to set an alarm in the morning, and other perks they enjoyed. I took a break; I picked up bartending.

But after four years of long and late nights, collecting various stories and interesting situations behind a New York City bar, I needed my outlet and my dream back. So now I’m getting back to my roots, albeit through a different medium. Back to my love of English, this time not educating young people on the literary greats but through writing. A transition, that, after four years of writing no more than a list here and there and signing the occasional check has presented some fantastic opportunities.

Now, I’m still learning new stories, because I am writing freelance and assigned client projects. To write in a voice that isn’t your own is something peculiar. It is to immerse yourself in an identity foreign to your comfort zone, it’s also a skill that not many can adapt to and one which fewer still can master. It’s one which I am now learning and becoming more and more comfortable adjusting to. As a former educator, I dealt with the voices of many different people. But I could again draw on my experience: children can offer a slew of different viewpoints. Now, as I write as part of my profession, sometimes in the voices of others, even more challenges present themselves. Challenges which I am really enjoying. Ones that are helping me to grow and develop who I am and what I do want to do. It is these challenges in life that mold us and make us into who we are, who we are to become.

Balancing this writing job with still working in a bar can also be rewarding, not only by affording me the opportunity to see a lot more daylight then I have seen in a few years. I never thought I would admit to this but I am also enjoying having deadlines. Who would have thought I would be saying that ever again? It also gives me something to look back on after I complete a project. Meanwhile, the experience of working long hours behind a bar has also taught me that working long hours without breaks isn’t that big a deal. The breaks will come; it’s up to you to enjoy them when they do and to work hard in between. It is applicable to so much, and taught me more than I expected.

My resume reads like a mix and match of different jobs in different sectors and that’s okay. I have worked on construction sites on high rise buildings in the Bronx. I have sat in office desks in Times Square. I have served drinks to celebrities in downtown bars. I didn’t envision doing any of those things while studying to become a high school teacher. And yet I don’t regret any of the jobs I have done, even the not-so-enjoyable ones. I’m learning what I want to do and who I want to be.

And so should all of us.


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