Ever since I was a little girl, I always knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. Every morning, I’d take out my 10-key calculator, sharpen my pencils, and start filling in ledger entries. I’d spend hours reading books about revenue standards and the best method of inventory valuations, and then I’d review the tax code for possible loopholes. And just when I reached a new discovery –
I’d wake up from my nightmare because I had to get ready for work.
OF COURSE I never thought I’d become an accountant. Who does? Are there seriously kids out there who fantasize about debits and credits?
After numerous discussions with others in my profession, I’ve come to the conclusion that we all sort of fell into it by accident. There’s no shortage of business schools or bankers, so I can only guess that at some point in our early adulthood, something led us over to the Dark Side. We ventured into a world where everything must be sorted and matched to its proper time frame, and we discovered we were really, really good at playing ‘one of these things is not like the other’.
Since the Dark Side has snacks in the break room, most of us stayed.
Non-accountants usually say they could never do our job because they aren’t good at math, which shows how little outsiders know about the profession. Accountants don’t do math; we organize piles of numbers and tell the CEO whether or not she can afford that new Lexus. In fact, a lot of us can’t do simple addition without a calculator.
CEO: “What’s 1 and 1?”
Accounting Dept: “11”
IT Dept: “3”
Proposals Dept: “What do you want it to be?”
I personally wound up in the accounting profession because I wanted to be an engineer. Allow me to connect the dots:
- Enters college eight years after graduating high school.
- Decides it would be fun to be an engineer.
- Secretly wants to be a writer, but doesn’t think it’s possible.
- Learns most engineering degrees take five years to complete.
- Decides to work as an accounts-payable clerk to help put food on the table while pursuing engineering degree.
- Decides to pick up a two-year degree in accounting in order to get promoted at company while pursuing engineering degree.
- After a fifteen-year absence, rediscovers joy in writing fiction.
- Fails chemistry class three times.
- Wonders why engineering seemed like a good idea.
- Really wants to be a writer.
- Keeps getting promoted in accounting.
- Stops and starts college multiple times over the next two decades, because several other degrees seem way more interesting than accounting.
- Sucks it up and finishes four-year degree in accounting in order to find a new job.
- Gets promoted into management.
- Still dreams of being a writer.
As a child, you are asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” As an adult, you discover the question really should have been, “How do you plan on paying your bills?” You find that your dreams are replaced with practicalities, and you trade youth and passion for responsibility and security. Your dreams fall into a dark corner, and after a few years, you start to believe you should just give up on them because it’s frustrating to want something that seems so far out of reach.
After a while you decide to give up your dream and it seems like the right decision; especially when you come home after a 10-hour work day and you can’t sit down to write because you’re exhausted and your vision is blurry and you need to go to the grocery store or you’ll be eating cold cereal for the third night in a row. But while you’re grabbing a frozen pizza, you notice everyone around you is in swimsuits and shorts and you’re standing there in a skirt and heels, so you wonder what all these tourists do when they go back home. By the time you get to the check-out, you decide that the couple behind you came down here from Ohio in order to murder his rich great-uncle, and you load your groceries into the car while contemplating ways to kill someone at the beach. “Death By Sand Spurs” seems like a good working title, and the first chapter is written in your head by the time you fall asleep that night.
Then in the morning, you get back up, dust off your dreams, and throw your personal laptop in your work bag. You’re going to write during your lunch hour, because you can no more quit dreaming than you can quit accounting. And maybe by the time you finish the first page, the break room will have more snacks.