Are we defined by our professions?

I recently left my job as a newspaper reporter. I have been a reporter, through internships and then a staff writer position, since I graduated college a little more than two years ago. I was ready for a change and now have some exciting things coming up that I'll likely address in my next blog post. Before I jump into explaining what's next for me, I feel compelled to describe the initial fear of  change, even though it was a good one, I experienced several months ago before making my decision. My sister Sumer once warned me about defining who I am by success. I was in college and valued myself based on earning good grades, being accepted in top-quality internship programs, excelling in leadership and volunteer organizations and the like. Sumer told me there is more to a person than those things. I didn't listen.

I have wanted to be a handful of things "when I grow up." First, as a five-year-old, I imagined myself becoming a famous singer, and I wrote songs and sang them to my dogs in the backyard when my family wasn't around to hear me. As I got older, I realized I wanted to be a lawyer, and I saw myself winning trials and changing lives. The desire to be a lawyer stayed with me for years, until in college when I worked in a couple of law offices. I realized I didn't want to defend people who had committed crimes, deal with the loads of seemingly never-ending paperwork and not have as much time as I'd like to be a wife and mother when the time came. Next, I wanted to be a therapist, but then figured I might want more (or a different kind of) interaction with people, at least while I'm young. Finally, I set my sights on public relations and enrolled in the journalism program at my college, because it included PR classes. During this time, I started writing about my life, and then began writing a novel about something else entirely.

Still I planned a career in PR, hoping to work for a nonprofit. While interning on Capitol Hill for a Nevada congressman, I went to an event and encountered a few recruiters for another Washington D.C internship program, the National Journalism Center. I went, decided I could be a pretty good journalist and that maybe it would help me become an author. That internship in D.C., writing for a national news site, The Daily Caller, was fun, but I didn't think writing about politics full time was the right thing for me. So, I came to Santa Barbara, interned at the newspaper here, and was hired a few months later as a feature writer.

When I met people at dinners or parties, they loved hearing about my life as a reporter. Interviewing chefs, fashion designers and celebrities, what could be more fun than that? My grandmother wanted every article I wrote that she could get her hands on. She was so proud. A lot of people were. I didn't tell many people about my dream of being an author until I started making more progress, through showing my work to agents and working on it with my mentor. If becoming an author didn't work out, I thought, at least I could be some kind of writer at a newspaper.

Several months ago, I started getting antsy and anxious, for several reasons that I won't get into at the moment. While wanting to try something different, not to mention having a difficult time working on my novel after a full day of writing at work, I began to think of other options for employment. But I was scared. If I wasn't a reporter, what would I be? Would people not find me or my work impressive anymore? Would I miss my byline accompanying stories that thousands of people read?

I'm glad I finally conquered that fear and made some welcome changes in my life. So, I'm not a reporter at a newspaper anymore, but I'm still a writer. And even if I don't ever make it as an author (which, I still hope I will and am eagerly waiting on hearing from an agent about some edits I made to my manuscript, as well as attending a writers conference and spending time with my mentor this summer), I will still be Nikki. I am not defined by my profession, but by who I am.

I like being around people. I want to make others smile. I strive to inspire and motivate people, whenever I can, to make the most of their situations and believe in themselves.

I want to have a family of my own someday. I want to keep going to church. I want to make the world a better place, however I can.

I'm young, so I don't think I know entirely who I am yet, but I know the people and values that matter to me, and — no matter what I do or become "when I grow up" — that's good enough for me.