In high school, I decided to major in fine arts upon entering college. I loved the theater and dancing jazz. My dad was a dance teacher when he first came to the U.S. and taught me to Tango at the age of 5. As a teenager, I loved choreographing for our high school dance troupe and thought of becoming a professional dance choreographer like Bob Fosse. My dad wanted me to be a lawyer but the corporate world did not appeal to me. My college counselor let me know that I could major in dance and still go to law school. Maybe I could be a dancing lawyer?
At sixteen I got a summer scholarship to study modern dance at UCLA. Jazz and ballet was my preference but modern dance was in vogue; this was the era of flower children and hippies. On the first day of class the instructor said to us “pretend you are a fried egg and dance.” Being somewhat conservative, practical and independent I thought to myself that learning to dance like a fried egg was never going to get me a good job, was not attractive and actually quite silly. This experience led me to Loyola Marymount, a small private university in Los Angeles and the decision to major in a very practical subject: accounting. An accounting degree seemed like a good back up career path. Such a degree could fund law school as well as dance lessons just in case I pursued my first passion. But eventually I came to the realization that my dancing and choreographing talents were limited and having perpetual sore muscles from dance classes was tiresome. Most importantly, being in the audience became more enjoyable than being onstage. This realization set me free and my back up career plan was now the real plan. I began to prepare for the infamous CPA exam so I could become a Certified Public Accountant.
In my final year at LMU, one of our accounting professors asked what we planned to do after graduation. We all responded that we were going to join a Big 8 Accounting Firm. But one young man said he was going to be an “entrepreneur.” This was crazy. Why would anyone throw away their education to start their own business, especially someone who was not an inventor, engineer or a scientist? The phrase innovative accountants was certainly an oxymoron. In my opinion, people went to college for security not to take risks with their future. I was fortunate to have already accepted a job offer at Arthur Young and was happily looking forward to my new secure job in the corporate world.
My name is Martha de la Torre. I wanted to become a dance choreographer, maybe a lawyer too but instead decided to become a professional bean counter.
For my recommendation of interesting career choices for the 21st Century, please see my Hot Careers Infographic.