Are you happy in your career? If you could go back in time, would you choose to do something different?

I reflected on these questions after recently participating in a career panel for Pequot Lakes eighth-graders. More than a dozen of us were on the panel, representing career fields that included mental health services, the arts, construction, law enforcement, forestry, small business, land surveying, agriculture, veterinary science, medicine, teaching, hospitality, truck driving, information technology and, of course, journalism.

We each explained a little bit about our jobs to the entire group, then split up with two panelists per classroom hosting three breakout sessions with small groups of students. At each session we shared our post-secondary education experiences, how we chose our careers, what a typical day is like at our jobs, what we like most about our jobs, and lots of other information spurred by students' questions.

I shared my story, emphasizing that goals are great, but be ready to tweak those goals as life happens and your path veers along the way.

After meeting all my general study requirements after two years of college, I decided that I was a decent writer so journalism would be my career. After graduating with my degree in print journalism, I applied to be a reporter at most of the daily newspapers in Minnesota.

My goal was to work at a small daily newspaper for a few years before making a big move to live in downtown Chicago and work at the Chicago Tribune or Chicago Sun Times.

Then life happened, prompting me to change that goal as my career path changed. I met my husband, and he was a small-town, outdoors type guy.

When I set my original goals, I didn't factor in marriage and family. My life and career path definitely veered from the plan I had, but I stayed in journalism.

I shared with students that what I enjoy most about my job is that every day is different, the hours I work are flexible, and I meet so many people and learn so much when they share their stories with me.

As with any job - and life - it hasn't always been perfect. There are always ups and downs, and that's unavoidable and to be expected. I'll never be rich, but I'm not poor either.

So as I reflect and ask myself if I'm happy in my career, I would have to answer yes. And if I could go back 31 years and change my career path, would I? I don't think so. If I could do it all over again, I might change some of my work habits while my kids were young. But all in all, it's been a good career.

Those eighth-graders have so many career options available to them. I wish them all luck and hope the information we career panelists shared was helpful.