BY BERYL HARRIS
As far I as I can remember, I’ve never had my heart set on becoming something specific. I knew that I wanted to be successful and independent. I knew I was going to finish high school, then finish college, and then maybe graduate school or just start working. I knew that I was not going to live in the same town I grew up in. However, I did not have a plan. If you know me well, you know that I am a planner. It brings me joy and allows me to sleep at night.
I made the honor roll pretty much all throughout high school. I was the kind of student that had to take notes and then go home and study those notes to understand the content.
The only subject that came naturally to me was math. I always excelled at math without trying hard, but I had no desire to become a mathematician. I was in a fair number of extracurricular activities because I truly enjoyed being a part of a group. I enjoyed being busy, and teachers always said it looked good to be involved in extracurricular activities on college applications.
When it came to my junior year and thinking about college, I didn’t have a plan. I knew I was going to go to college but wasn’t sure what I was going to major in or where I wanted to go. I played three sports in high school, so I for sure thought I wanted to stay in sports. It was natural for me and I enjoyed playing and watching sports. Therefore, I decided I was going to major in athletic training. It made sense in my head.
I mentioned going to college out of state and my dad said “No” so fast, so I cancelled that option. I only applied to a few schools that were all in-state. I decided on going to Northern Illinois University in Dekalb, Illinois because it was far away from my hometown, they had an athletic training program, and it was in-state. I finished high school. Check!
It was freshman orientation and it was my turn to talk to advisors about my class schedule. I remember the advisor asking me questions about how I decided on my major and I really couldn’t answer the questions confidently. So just like that, I changed my major to business with a specialization in sports marketing. Remember, I said I wanted to stay in sports.
My first year in college was decent. I didn’t really make many friends and only joined a few clubs because I was so out of my element. Unhappy with my college experience so far, I transferred to a community college back home. I connected with an old volleyball teammate and she told me to try out for the team. I was nervous because I wasn’t recruited in high school, so walking onto a college team was nerve wrecking, but I gave it a shot. I made the team! In fact, I became the team captain and earned a starting position. I was back baby! I was playing a sport I loved and excelling in school again. I played volleyball for two years and then transferred to a local university.
By this time, I was a junior and only had three semesters left of college. During my junior year, I also obtained a job working as a secondary analyst at a bank. I worked every weekend. Seriously—every weekend unless I took vacation time. This worked out for me because I was able to knock out my last couple of semesters and hold down a job. When graduation rolled around, all my peers were applying to internships and entry level positions, and I was cruising because I already had a job. In fact, I was recently promoted to full time during my last semester. I finished college and got a full-time job. Check and check!
I was still working for the bank. However, I was a dual analyst, supporting two teams, training new team members, and in charge of the office supplies. Basically, I could do my job and my teammate’s job with my eyes closed. I applied to other internal positions, but I was rejected. For my next move, I applied to graduate school.
I got into the kinesiology program. Why did I choose that program? I thought I wanted to be a coach or at least obtain a job in sports. The previous summer, I was an assistant volleyball coach for a club team and really enjoyed it. I thought a master’s degree would take me to the next level. I wasn’t mentally ready for graduate school. I quit the program only after one semester.
I was still working for the bank; however, this time I was miserable. The culture at work was bad. I was bored, and I knew I had talent. I actually applied to be a team lead role but got shot down. I think it was because I was “young,” but I knew I was ready. Since I couldn’t move up where I was at, I left the bank. I started graduate school, check?
I moved to another bank. But this time I was getting paid more and had more exciting work, so I thought. It didn’t take long for me to excel in that role. I was only in that role less than a year and I already surpassed teammates that had been in the same position as me for over a year. Work was okay, but I needed something else to occupy my time. So, I started volunteering as a tutor once a week for a nonprofit. I loved it. The students had A LOT of energy and sometimes it was draining after a full day of work plus an hour commute. But I always felt joy seeing the students and helping them with their homework.
Even though I loved volunteering, that wasn’t enough to keep me in Illinois. I was over my job and over living in the same place. So, I made the executive decision to move to California. I have always wanted to live there. The weather was nice, I had plenty of family there, and I was ready. I had enough money in my savings to move, but I didn’t have a plan. I moved in with my aunt and she gave me five months to get on my feet.
I applied to several bank jobs because that was my background. I landed a job in community development for a bank. I had never heard of that before but, I knew I could do it. I truly loved it. I worked with nonprofits in the community and organized community day for the bank. I joined this amazing nonprofit, The Right Kind of Black Girl. I got to go to great events and meet influential people in the community. However, I was a contract employee at my job so my goal was to become full-time. I became full-time but I transferred to different team.
The work was decent, but I quickly figured out the work was redundant and there wasn’t much room for growth or opportunity to get promoted. Therefore, I enrolled myself in classes to learn more about data analytics. I was a data analyst but knew I needed skills in various programs to take my career to the next level. After the completion of the program, I applied to over a hundred jobs and started networking like crazy. I was determined to get a new position. I got rejection after rejection. Then I considered going BACK to graduate school.
However, this time I did my research. I spoke to students that completed the program I was interested in and also spoke to professionals in the field. The pandemic hit, and I paused my job search. Throughout the pandemic, I got a therapist and a new job. I joined another nonprofit and started connecting with other young professionals in the community. I started attending online workshops, classes, and Zoom networking calls.
Clearly, I am still very young and finding my way. But one thing that stayed constant throughout my journey is that I kept trying new things.
In high school, I was involved in several extracurricular activities on top of playing three sports. In college, I changed my major before classes started but found a way to enjoy life again by transferring schools and playing volleyball.
In my twenties, I tried a lot of new things. I attempted graduate school (almost twice), coached a club volleyball team, became a tutor, got a new job three times, moved across the country, experienced unemployment, volunteered for two different nonprofits and began therapy! I am pretty resilient. Society tells us we need to know what we want to do with our lives. But the truth is, some of us haven’t lived enough life to know what to do with it. A majority of the “things” I tried have something in common. I am not sure what it is yet. But when I found out, I’ll know what my passion in life is and what I want to do with it.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hey Queens! This is Beryl. Yes, the name rhymes with girl; get into it. 😉 Beryl was born overseas but raised in a small town in southern Illinois. Beryl got outside of her comfort zone when she relocated to Los Angeles in 2017 because she needed a drastic change of vibe and scenery. Moving to Los Angeles has been one of the best things Beryl has ever done. Los Angeles has a lot to offer in terms of culture, food, entertainment, and activities. In her free time, Beryl is usually at home big chilling or eating out with friends. She is eager to share her thoughts and feelings about hair, music, and fitness.