Eve Young is a civil celebrant, interfaith minister, artist, and actor. Throughout a diverse and rewarding career she has sought out new challenges and opportunities, making a number of transitions along the way. Every step of her journey has been a learning experience that allied to her inner resources has allowed her to adapt, acclimatize, and successfully turn her hand to many things.
Here she talks about her early dreams and ambitions and how she has been able to successfully transition from one career to the next.
The first 14-15 years being raised as a female of color in America your horizons were very limited. They were back in ‘50s and ‘60s and what you knew were your family and neighborhood.
I knew when I was a kid that my relatives had decided things for me. They’d say things like, ‘she’s smart so she’s going to be a teacher, she’s creative she’s going to be a hairdresser’. That was as far as they could see because of their own experiences.
My father even made all the girls in my family take typing so we had something to fall back on. I knew I didn’t want that, although I didn’t really know what I wanted. I thought maybe my path would come to clear to me but it didn’t.
Did you have any inkling of what you wanted to be?
The things I wanted to do as a young child I realized I wouldn’t be able to do for whatever reason. My first passion was to be an archaeologist but my family had no notion of how I would support myself doing that, and so it went out the window.
I wanted to be a writer and that was the same thing. I wanted to be a dancer, but was told I had the wrong body. By the time I got into the world the childhood dreams I had were gone, and it took me a while to realize what was possible for me. So I didn’t go into adulthood wanting to be this, that or the other. I just wanted to see what my options were.
What did you do?
I was coming of age in the 1970s when people were thinking outside of the box, although that wasn’t a phrase in use then. But you didn’t want to get tied down to two point whatever kids and a split-level in suburbia. So I guess I took advantages of opportunities and sort of aligned myself with close friends, that kind of thing.
If an opportunity presents itself, such as learning bookkeeping then you’ve got to eat so go and do it. And even though you commit to it, bookkeeping is not your life’s work, not your passion and not where your bliss is. But it’s something you can still learn from and it’s still a good experience. So I did it and that lead me to the next thing and the next thing and it went on like that.
I was always committed to things I did while I was doing them. I knew I had to be in order to get as much as possible out of them.
Did you have any set goals or plans?
No. It was definitely freer. One thing feeds another and I had a faith that I would be alright in the end, and would always be where I was supposed to be.
Learning how to keep books taught me how to think in a logical progression and it gave me a sense of organization. After my kids were born this lead to me being involved in organizations such as PTAs. And that made me learn how to stand up and speak in front of people and get people to come along to my way of thinking.
Public speaking made me comfortable enough to be a wedding officiant, and after doing that the acting was no big deal.
Because I didn’t have a set plan that I was going to end up as say a ballroom dancer, I was never attached to something I felt so committed to that I couldn’t leave it. And perhaps that’s part of what people go through during transitions. They have invested so much time, money, hope, effort, and desire into fitting inside a particular label that after ten or twenty years of doing that it’s really hard to walk away from it. For me I never really thought like that.
As you weren’t so attached to anything, were the transitions easy to make?
No. Those transitions are tough. To change the course of where you’re heading is tough because you wonder am I going to be able to do this, am I making the right choice? Is there going to be any support along the way? Am I totally on my own? Making those decisions is very hard.
Did subsequent transitions become easier to make?
It did sort of get easier, but it’s not easy at first. I would say the first three transitions were not easy. Then I skated along from one thing to another and I think my kids had a lot to do with that just because they really motivate you.
You want what’s good for them, and a model behavior that’s good for them. You don’t want to be moping around complaining all the time if you’re not happy with where you are. It was while I was advocating for them that I really learned what my strengths are. And I don’t care if I say it myself; I did a darn fine job raising my kids. They’re both great people.
For some women making a transition this might be a good place to start, thinking back to what you were doing while you were raising your kids. Then you can see whether you consider yourself successful or not as opposed to ‘I don’t know how to do anything’.
How do you approach transitions?
I find time to be quiet, to really look at myself and examine what is important to me, what sustains me, and what I’m good at.
That’s the other thing. Identify what you’re good at, because a lot of times coming at what you’re good at from an oblique angle really sets you on a path that is solid underfoot and that you really enjoy.
Another part of my process is to ask what do other people think I’m good at. What am I doing/saying/being when people respond the most positively to me? It’s an angle that gives me a different perspective on my options.
And once I get over the fear, making a transition is exciting.
Having a willingness to learn, a positive mental attitude, and believing in herself were key factors in helping Eve to make her transitions.