“Why would someone like you want to do a job like THAT?!”
I hear this a lot. As in, every single time I tell someone what my job is. I’m not exactly sure what makes people ask this with such confused vehemence but my suspicion is that it has something to do with the myriad of mortician stereotypes that exist and the fact that I don’t exactly fit into them.
I’m a 26-year-old woman. Tall and skinny; blonde. My roommate often refers to me as “the world’s happiest mortician” to which I reply with a laugh and a smile.
This is definitely the question I get asked the most so I always have to have a story ready, but the real answer is that it’s kind of a mysterious how this started. I literally have no idea what made me choose this field.
Haha! No, I’m not kidding!
It’s a long story that I’ll try (and fail) to make short:
After high school, I studied at a 4-year university with a concentration in anthropology. For a few years, I felt like I finally found my calling in forensic archaeology but after researching the field, realized that no one is ever going to pay me enough money that I would be able to make a living doing that job.
After exhausting my resources on a study-abroad venture in Scotland, I decided to take a break from school. And by break, I mean the most miserable 1.5 years of my entire life. At any given time, I was working at least 4 part-time jobs (with side-gigs) to pay rent and barely feed myself with whatever was left over. It sucked real bad. I didn’t want to live like that anymore but had no idea what I wanted to do with myself.
Hilariously, I have no idea why I Googled the phrase “mortician cincinnati”. Well, I lived in Cincinnati so that part did make sense, but there was never a time in my life when I thought that I wanted to work in the funeral business. Now, looking back, this does seem like a natural fit into the morbid curiosities I’ve had since I was young: I did always have a fascination with the human body and for a few crazy years in my teens there were some stirrings of going to med school. And I did always have a fascination with death in TV shows, movies, literature, music, etc. But I guess I’d always taken these things independently of each other.
Anyway, my searching led me to discover the Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science, which is a college dedicated completely to helping one achieve the theoretical knowledge needed to become a licensed mortician in the US.
The next two years were spent in diligent study at other colleges to acquire the necessary prerequisites to be accepted into the CCMS bachelor program. I had never and still haven’t ever worked so hard to gain something because I’d never wanted anything so bad. When I failed or got stuck, I just remembered my goal and it kept me going. That education and the career paths laid before it seems like the one, shining beacon of hope in a dizzy, confusing existence.
Excuse me for being melodramatic, but all of this is really, truly what I felt at that time. My life was kind of stuck. I didn’t know what to do for so long that when this opportunity came a long and seemed so real, it changed my perception of myself from a being without a definitive meaning to a person with the infinite potential and inner strength to help others through something really tragic. Oh, and also I have a very strong stomach (shout-out to 4chan).
The one thing I can say for sure is that I never really knew what to expect.
I kind of bumbled through school semi-blind, trying to figure out what I was doing there. I never really knew why I was there, I just knew it felt right that I was there. (But please, do not try to read some spiritual meaning into all of this because you’ll be at a loss, I promise.) The ‘why’ of my existence as a funeral professional came more as an incidental of working in the field rather than through my schooling.
So, really, when people ask me the burning question, they’re really asking me two things which I will now ask and answer:
1. Why did you decide to become a mortician?
ANSWER: I dunno.
2. Why are you a mortician?
ANSWER: Because I have never felt more daily personal fulfillment in any other thing that I’ve ever done with my life.
So now no one who reads my blog will ever ask me this question again.