Dad switched gears three times in 50 years.

January 10, 2009

What will I be when I grow up?  Well, it’s almost time for me to make a choice.  When I think about where I am and where I’ll be in a year, 5 years, even 10, my mind does one of two things: shuts down or starts spinning with ideas.

My dad always told me I could be whatever I wanted to be, if I stuck my mind to it.  And I’m starting to think he’s right.  Why?  Because he has done three major career changes in his life, one of which included a cross-country move.

The difficulty with career change and measuring it is it’s hard to define.  Is it simply switching occupations, a promotion or changing career fields all together?  In my dad’s case, it was the latter.

Dad started off as a caterer, then he opened his own restaurant with his mom in the 70’s.  When Welcome Home (their restaurant) didn’t work out as some restaurants don’t (90% failure is a myth, fyi), he eventually wound up as a GM for Olive Garden and Bennigan’s.

I was born during his tour with Olive Garden, which moved us from Overland Park, KS to Tulsa, OK, where my sister was born.  With two girls under four and my mom not yet back to work, his job was our families only source of income.  When he got tired of 18-hour days and never seeing his family, he took a job as a newspaper carrier, working nights to spend the days with my sister and I, and so my mom could go back to work.  He was, in essence, a stay-at-home dad (the definition of which, btw, is ever-changing).  I think his presence in my life growing up is why we’re so close today, and I think it had a great influence on my confidence as I was growing up.

He did the newspaper thing for 15 years – and made a really good living at it.  Then, when online newspapers started to take effect in 2002-2003, the distribution rates started to drop, and it became less prosperous. My sister and I helped on the weekends when we were growing up, and during the summers in high school, I would work 5 nights a week and got a great paycheck for it.

In 2005, my mom had the opportunity to transfer to a hospital outside of Orlando.  We wouldn’t have the income from the paper route anymore, and we didn’t know what living in Florida would be like.  But we did it.  We all moved down here together, and dad started his company, Dream Cruise Vacations.

He is the only employee of Dream Cruise Vacations, but he has a couple other agents in different parts of the country that he works with.  Since booking travel is a commission based business, the strength of the industry directly affects his income.  Fortunately, even in times of great economic stress, people are still traveling – as he has been “in the weeds” (a restaurant term for really, really, really busy) since last year.

His days are long, and he works around the clock to keep up with the demand for cruise vacations, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.  He lives for this.  He spent 50 years in Kansas, where the summers are like being in a convection oven and the winters are similar to that in the Arctic Circle.  He looks outside every day at his sparkling pool and the swaying palm trees and is thankful to be here.

I drove up to Orlando to stay with my parents for a bit during winter break and Dad said to my mom: “you know, I wondered today if this is what it was like when I was working 18-hour days at the restaurant and never saw you, and you were raising the girls on your own.  And I just want to say I’m sorry, I had no idea how hard that could be.”

Have you changed careers?  Is your degree relevant to your field?  Did you go a completely different direction than you had planned to while you were in school?


One comment

  1. what a life your dad had!
    my major is in computer science, but i wish to write, in press and script writing, and to be a mom.. this is all away from my major=)

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