top hat question #4: how do i get where you are?

From the top hat:

What did you study in college – aka, how do I get to where you are?

I studied cognitive psychology, mostly. My degree is in Psychology with minors in cognitive science and philosophy, and my undergrad research was on spatial cognition in children with William’s syndrome.

I became a sex educator not because of my academics (I took exactly one class on Human Sexuality as an undergrad) but because of the volunteer work I was doing, as a Peer Health Educator. I was trained to do ALL kinds of health education – nutrition, alcohol, stress, massage, all kinds of things – but what really made me zing was the sexuality stuff. I had no trouble talking about sex in front of people, ever. And I absorbed every drop of information I could get. Teaching people about sexual health made me like WHO I AM as a person in a way that my academics, fascinating though they were, just didn’t.

Equally telling, one of the first things I did when I got to college was go to the sex section of the library, pick up the Hite report, and read the thing cover to cover.

How do you get where I am? Well, it depends which part of “where I am” is relevant. When you’re figuring out what you want to do with your life, there’s really two questions you need to answer:

(1) What kind of people do you like working with?

(2) What kind of problems do you like to solve?

Me, I like working with college students and, more generally, with people who enjoy learning things and knowing things and teaching things. I belong in higher education.

And I like solving problems related to sex, primarily, but also to overall individual health. My MS is in Counseling Psychology, which is basically a degree in listening to people, and my PhD is in Health Behavior, which is basically a degree in the nature of problems related to human health, at the individual, interpersonal, and cultural levels. I stayed in school because I enjoyed being in school, I was good at it, and also because having the degrees was necessary to do the kinds of work I wanted to do. Grad school is not for everyone.

But what really tells you what you should be when you grow up is what you can’t NOT do. I can’t not think about, talk about, write about sex. I can’t not do it. It’s the thing I come back to, over and over, the thing the universe keeps putting in my path.

Lots of people are interested in sex; lots of people get excited about it when they hear me teach about it, because *I* get so excited about it. I’m a moon-faced, starry-eyed goobah who cries when she talks about evolution. That kind of passion is infectious in the classroom, but that infection is often temporary. It’s not easy work and the people who are successful at it are the people who can’t not do it, not if they tried not to, not if you paid them not to.

So, you get where I am by not being satisfied doing anything else.

See? Career advice. We’re branching out.