Though my life hasn’t turned out exactly the way I envisioned it, in a way, I believe I have fulfilled every memorable dream I had in childhood. I remember sitting in the hallway during church services when I was young and writing books during the sermons. I wanted to be an author. Next, I wanted to be an architect.
By late elementary school, my best friend and I were pretending that we were detectives and forensic chemists and making up “secret” mixtures. Fast forward to high school, when I absolutely loved chemistry. It was during those years that I became fascinated with explosives. In college, I majored in chemistry and decided I wanted to be a forensic scientist. This was before forensic science was on the general public’s radar—before CSI Las Vegas aired. I graduated and was offered a job at a private forensic lab and turned it down. Was this a mistake? Mostly, yes. But, a lot of good things came out of my choice.
I decided that I didn’t know anything about forensics or analytical chemistry and that I should go to grad school and learn before working in a crime lab. Knowing what I know now, nothing trumps experience. I was fortunate enough, however, to do my research for a professor who had worked at the FBI as an explosives researcher. It was a perfect fit for me. Another really good thing to come out of my decision to go to grad school was meeting my future husband the last year I was there!
I also got the itch to start writing a forensic crime novel, but only wrote about twenty pages. I never had a plot and thought that things would just come to me as I wrote. I didn’t spend much time writing, so I didn’t get anywhere. After a short post-doctoral stint, I hoped that I would be able to get a job in the explosives field. Nothing. In fact, I was unemployed for almost two years. While unemployed, I began to get the itch to write a book again.
I did profuse amounts of research and filled up several notebooks. I came up with ideas, talked them over with my husband, and we brainstormed together. I had a plot and an outline of the first fifteen chapters and an idea of how I wanted the ending to turn out. Just after I wrote the Prologue, I was offered a job as a science content editor at a major educational publishing company.
Over three years later, I have yet to work full-time in the forensic field, but is that stopping me from finding fulfillment? Does that mean that I can’t still enjoy forensics? Of course not! I’ll let you in on a few nuggets I’ve learned along the way.
First, don’t give up on your dreams! Second, sometimes you just have to get creative. You never know when an opportunity will present itself. Third, there are many avenues for achieving similar goals—this is where creativity comes into play. Professionally, editing never entered my mind, but after being unemployed for so long, I got creative in my job search. I realized that being a science content editor combined my interest in writing with science. A year and a half ago, I got the opportunity to be an explosives analyst contractor for a crime lab. This has greatly enhanced my writing—it comes straight from the source, not just what I imagine working in a crime lab to be like. Living what you are writing about goes a long way with agents.
I have found a way to incorporate the different things I wanted to be growing up with the reality of not always getting to do what I wanted or what I envisioned my life to be like as a grown up. I wanted to be an author, architect, detective, and a forensic explosives chemist. In reality, I am a full-time editor and an explosives contractor, who has found a way to combine my passions—I am the architect, or writer if you will, of forensic explosives suspense. I want to encourage you to find a way to incorporate your dreams into your life.
Are your dreams long forgotten? If so, find them! What are you passionate about? What do you enjoy doing? Take away your obligations and/or money limitations for a moment. If you could do anything, what would you do?
Now, is there a way to incorporate your dreams into reality? Are you unemployed? Make good use of your spare time. When you aren’t looking for employment, which admittedly can be a full-time job in and of itself, start working on things you’ve been meaning to do. Maybe you haven’t had the opportunity to live out or experience your dreams in the way you were hoping. Since you are a writer, maybe this can be through writing…or maybe there is another avenue that you haven’t yet thought of! I am here to tell you that you can use the gifts and talents you’ve been given despite your restrictions, you just may have to get creative.
Kristy Lahoda, Ph.D., is an explosives analyst contractor in a crime lab as well as a science content editor for a major educational publishing company. She writes Christian forensic suspense and discusses forensics on her blog called Explosive Faith. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
If you have a forensics question for Dr. Lahoda that you'd like to see answered on the QueryTracker Blog, send your question via Carolyn Kaufman using the email link under Contact Us in the right-hand column of the main QTB page.