The further away from my last day of work I get, the easier it is to romanticize the role in it’s high-paid, occasional feeling of mass victory glory. But then I remember just how miserable the job – the career – made me, and I’m desperate not to go back to it, despite the lure of a substantial amount of recruiters knocking on my doorstep, basically asking me to let history repeat itself yet again.
As I take this pause in my career to dissect what I like and dislike about my prior roles, I know that I find it very difficult to put 100% daily into a job where the majority of my waking hours are dedicated to trying to get people to buy software for their businesses that helps those businesses run more efficiently. I enjoy this in spurts — I do believe in efficiency and find it rewarding to help people stuck in old ways break free of traditional processes and technologies and move to better ways of doing things, especially if these better ways impact lots of people. It’s just at the end of the day (or even about 2 minutes after I wake up) I feel this heaviness of dread — knowing that there is so much more to be done to make the world better than improving business processes.
That said, I’m no trust fund kid, and I need to pay the bills. I want desperately to be able to do my job and not BE my job, but that isn’t who I am. I really don’t know what to do, and as I apply for jobs and am proven yet again that I’m only able to obtain interviews and serious interest for very specific opportunities that I do not want, I feel so incredibly stuck. I’m trying not to get depressed over it, but I’m scared. I’m scared because every button that isn’t “repeat” is one that isn’t a clear path to anywhere. I can’t figure out how to star when I don’t even know where to go.
In visiting my parents, I’ve again been reminded why my insecurity is such a huge issue in my life and my career. While I’m in my mid 30s, my parents still treat me like a child, both criticizing everything I do – from my weight to my hair to my clothing choice to my career (I had to lie to them and say my “choice” to do consulting is going extremely well – or else I’d never hear the end of it), and it’s pretty easy to understand why my habit of second guessing myself is more like clinical illness. The anxiety caused by this is so overwhelming I can’t quiet my mind, make decisions, and make progress. This is a serious impediment to any job, even if I find out that I actually love.
My 34th birthday is looming over my head and I can’t believe I’m about to enter my mid 30s. I’m no longer in my extended adolescence where lack of clarity is expected. Here I am, about to turn a very serious age of adulthood and I haven’t the foggiest who I am or what I want to do. I have plenty of ideas, but nothing is sticking. I’m not scared to go back to school, but I am terrified of the process to get there — the applications, asking for references (from who?), the GREs, the portfolio and letters, the many hours and coursework of classes prior to entering any program in order to be eligable, the putting myself out there after all of this – however many months it takes – and not getting into any programs, or, perhaps worse, getting in, and having to decide whether or not to go.
I’ve thought a lot about getting back into writing, but I’ll never be consistent enough to be a writer for a career. As you can see on this blog, I write when I’m so inspired – which is off and on and off for quite a while then on again. I’d love to write a novel but my anxiety has caused my memory to be poor (I’ve been tested and actually have severe information intake issues) and I don’t have the ability to recall how other people talk for dialogue or remember moments in life that would make for great stories. I wish I could write comedy or be a showrunner for a television show, but that’s a pipe dream that doesn’t make any sense. Plus, I live in the wrong part of CA for that to happen, even if I had the talent, drive and ability.
It’s so easy to just throw in the towel and go back to what I was doing before. (Well, it’s not THAT easy – I still have to get a job, but it’s much easier than any other option.) I used to want to be super successful somehow and at this point I’ve given up on that and just want to be able to create everyday and make enough money to afford a basic middle class lifestyle with some extended travel thrown in along the way.
This is when the depression kicks in — because I am in this box with one side open where I can see exactly what it looks like and even though it’s not pretty I know what I’m getting myself into, and then all the other sides are blocked off and it’s quite possible if I manage to punch through any other wall and go through the hole I’ll end up falling a million miles and crashing far below, never to recover. That’s a bit dramatic of a metaphor but it’s how I feel, and this is why I’m scared. I’ve never been allowed to fail, even though I’ve done it so many times. I mean, my parents are not comforting when I fail, they just pull this massive guilt trip on me and make me feel like I’m 10 again, and not in a good way.
So everyone would say don’t listen to your parents, you’re an adult now. If only it were that easy. I’m no longer listening to them but I am listening to their voice inside my head that is now my inner monologue and my voice. And I can’t escape it. I wonder if my parents were laid back hippie types if I’d be any more able to take risks and fail and get up again… if I’d be any more able to go with the flow and embrace the world for all its splendor and not want more than whatever it has in store at the given moment. Wouldn’t that be a beautiful feeling?
But the drive I have that has gotten me this far – at least financially – is largely due to their making me feel like I’ll never be good enough. I knew that I couldn’t become famous or hugely successful like they’d want, but for me, I could become secretly successful financially – I could control SOMETHING and put money away and feel like even though everything in my mind and life is a total train wreck I have something tangible that is meaningful in a smart and adult sense of the term. Having to dip significantly into my savings to go back to school is hard because it means giving up that measure of success to take a big risk that may not work out. And, now that I’m married and trying to have children, this decision impacts my husband and my future family, not just myself. With my husband looking at a salary of $50k when he graduates his teaching program next year, I know need to make more money to afford any sort of decent life. Can we survive on less? Sure. I’d be ok with that if we don’t have children. But I do want children and it’s too late to keep putting that off…
Then I look at the state of the world and all the horrors occurring domestically and internationally and I wonder if there is anyway I can find a job where I can actually make a tiny dent in the universe. Can I write something to inspire people to think about things differently? Can I help people via any way other than fundraising for a non-profit? Is it possible to have a job where I wake up and am excited because I know the day is going to be hard but that it will be rewarding in making progress that is meaningful beyond optimizing business processes? How big of an impact can I have?
Those are the questions I’d like to answer before I accept any future job or start on a path towards graduate school. I don’t know how to answer them in a way that will make sense permanatly or at least for the foreseeable future. Until there is some sort of sign or opportunity that falls in my face, I’ll be here, hanging out by the drawing board, which I’m back to yet again.