Sunday, May 01, 2005

My Directionless Non-Existent Career

Today I have been thinking a little more about how academia as a career is almost certainly not for me, and also thinking about alternatives.

DH said today, "I just want you to be happy."

I said, "I don't think I'm very good at being happy." He said that I did seem to have to work harder at it than other folks, like that family of 8 we heard about yesterday on This American Life. This family of 8 (2 parents, 6 kids) lived pretty independently (grew most of their own food, had a natural gas well on their property that powered everything) on about 140 acres of land in West Virginia. They dropped everything and fled at a second's notice because the FBI was about to bust them for growing their own marijuana (honestly, are you that surprised?). They were on the lam for SEVEN YEARS, living in places like tiny leaky boats and treehouses, before the federal agents finally caught up to them. Anyway, the kids seemed strangly happy and content with this cramped existence, always on the run. DH admitted that they seemed above average in their ability to be happy.

He then reflected wistfully back onto our first year out of college. I was living in a city that I adored, working a job that I liked okay, making decent money, paying off debt, living independently for the first time. I think I have never been so happy in my life. I worried about money far, far too much (as I realize now), but other than that, life was terrific. We had a long distance relationship, since he was overseas on a scholarship, getting a masters. Even that was fine with me- I had my space. We were both so happy. I remember driving to Target, which was about a 20-30 minute drive, and coming back on this wooded road by the river, thinking how happy I was to have all this freedom, independence, complete with a little money to blow on things at Target occasionally. Our relationship at that time was blissfully uncomplicated by outside matters.

Then my friend died, just a month shy of my first anniversary living in that city, and everything changed. I still loved the city, but as detailed in my earlier post, I kind of went crazy.

I reflected to my therapist a session or two ago that I feel I used to be a lot more resilient. I had an easier time bouncing back from things. I now feel like an old basketball that is just a little flat. I think college was the start of it all- I was determined that I had the power to make my life good, and that if I reached a setback, well, no problem. I could try something else. After about 2.5 years of this, I had had enough.

More about that later. But the beginning of the process that led me up to where I am now didn't start with my friend dying. I think, though, that if he hadn't died, I might have had some time to build myself back up to where I was before.

Anyway, I'm starting to explore alternatives and do some research on how not to be an academic, but still do something that is interesting to me. I have some ideas...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I _encourage_ you to keep finding that thing you need to find.

As an odd coincidence, I will be going to a career counselor today. The place is called Renaissance Group International, and it's a high level career placement firm. They only take 4/100 clients, and this second interview will determine whether I will be a part of that. Of interest, AT is going as well so they can talk to her about all this.

Anyway, it has got me thinking about the path (their word) I have chosen. I've been at a number of gigs I entered to put out fires (their phrase), and which had little idea of what to do with me after a couple of years. Thus, I pick up and leave for another opportunity.

I realize now that I want one of two things: a career that makes me happy or a career that pays well and does not make unhappy.

At this point, I don't care which happens.

About J' death, yeah, I can see what you mean. Everything we do is just something to do until we die. Realizing that, there's a tremendous freedom in how to live a life. Screw other people's expectations, we have to find what we need.

Good for you.