Wednesday, November 30, 2005

an exercise for the writer

Today at dinner we all had a very involved discussion about growing up and figuring out what kind of work to do. We talked about college and grad school and all the different kinds of jobs that are out there, and how important it is to find some work to do that you really like, because you'll be doing it, most likely, for the better part of your life. So: it helps a lot if like it, and if you love it, and feel compelled to do it anyway, that's the best, right? Then it doesn't feel like "work" at all, then it's something that you do because you want to.

Of course the offspring, being only 4, 7, and 8, have many years to go before any of this makes much sense to them, and before they even have to really think about it. I, on the other hand, am standing poised on the edge of something, I just haven't figured out what, yet.

I'm allowing myself to believe that I'm done with cancer. If that's true (please please let it be true!) then I am going to have to figure out what I'm doing with myself in the next school year, when all the kids will be at the same school, all day, from 8AM until 3PM.

I still think about teaching... but I need to make sure the voice can hold up, as I'm having some breathing/coughing problems that the ENT will investigate further in a couple of weeks. We'll see how that goes. If I'm having trouble talking, teaching won't work out very well. Then again, if whatever-it-is is treatable, I may go for teaching because it will take a year or so at least to get my degree and certification.

Do I really want to go back to school? Yes... and no. I don't know! I want/need to be around for my kids, that's number 1. I can sacrifice them to aftercare perhaps one day a week, but that's the most I'd be willing to do. I don't even know if the program I was interested in at ASU still exists. (Yes, it does!) Well, we'll see.

Then there's the idea that I think I want to teach high school science, but do I, really? Working with teens could kill me. That's why I auditioned for the Princeton Review, to give the whole working-with-teens thing a trial run -- that, of course, got derailed by my cancer diagnosis. I could go back to Princeton Review, though; they left with me with an open invitation, more or less. I would have more flexibility, too; they sometimes do tutoring at schools during the school day, and with DS2 in school full-time, I could do that... hmmm.

But then all that starts to sound like too much work (I am sooo lazy). I think about writing, all the ideas that are stuffed into my notebooks, all the work I haven't been doing on my websites. I can be tremendously productive when I'm not constantly interrupted -- or at least I used to be, back in the day. Of course "the day" was about 7 years ago, now. (Insert obligatory comment about how time flies.)

Writing will always be here, of course, but the pay is, let's face it, lousy. Which brings me to my old stomping grounds: programming. I've sworn more than once that I'd rather wait tables than write code again, but since I'm older and wiser and know enough not to get involved with psycho office politics, I think I'd be OK. The potential is there, people always want grunts who can grind out code. I'm good at it (at least I used to be), but I'm old and out of touch. But the old brain is still quite nimble and I'm sure I can pick up new languages/systems easily -- I've done it I don't know how many times at home just because I've felt like it (HTML is one good example.) I think I'd need to take a refresher course or two somewhere, or buy some books or something. A course would be better because I'd have something to put on a resume, LOL.

A resume! Resumes are scary. They are not difficult to write, except for the very first section some people include, "objective." I tend to leave that out: if you're reading my resume, you know I'm looking for a job. Does it matter all that much if I say I want the job to be challenging and fulfilling, when all I really want is something I can do that will pay me a respectable wage and that doesn't give me migraine headaches?

Back in high school, I thought I would grow up to be a psychologist -- never a psychiatrist since I didn't want to deal with med school (that's a whole 'nother topic.) So I expected to get an undergraduate psych degree and then do whatever I needed to do to get into counselling. But then I got into MIT, and somehow convinced myself that going there would be a really good thing for me (as opposed to what it really was: fulfilling a dream my mother had had for herself.) I started out thinking "chemical engineering" because I had loved chemistry in high school (still do), but then relationships and finances conspired and I ended up choosing a major not so different from what I had thought back in high school: behavioral science, with the added filip in management, an undergraduate degree from the Sloan School.

Yet somehow, when I graduated, I found myself working for a data processing consulting firm, writing huge, ugly CICS COBOL reporting systems for banks and insurance companies. I was paid a pittance but I learned how to code, and from there I went to a tiny consulting firm with MIT contacts, and from there I went to a mid-size software and market research firm. Oracle bought out the software end of the business a couple of years later, and I was an Oracle employee until they laid me off. I had a pretty good run as a programmer ("application developer" usually, sometimes "software engineer") and I liked being a first-line manager, too. But is that what I want to go back to?

I come around again to what I'm doing now, besides driving my children around. I have a teeny, tiny job, my monthly online column. It combines my two great loves: food, and writing. Writing about food and cooking is something I really adore, and if I could do more with it, then I could always be there for the kids, and still take long summers on Cape Cod, and not be tied down to the school calendar. (The worst would be to work at a school with a different calendar than my kids. Talk about a logistical nightmare...) So maybe I'll stick with the column, try to develop it into something bigger, put all the columns together into a book with additional content... it could work.

There are a few other possibilities: working in the school as an aide or as office help -- low-pay, but excellent accessibility to the kids, and it would be enough to fund vacations and home improvements, etc. Plus we'd all be on the same calendar. Substitute teaching is another possibility, although I still vividly recall the tremendously hard time we gave our subs, back when I was in junior high and high school. I don't know how tough I am, in that kind of a situation. I'm not sure I want to find out -- of course it wouldn't be now, it would be next fall, almost a whole year from now. But I know that time will go by very quickly, so it pays to start thinking about this stuff now.

I didn't think I'd have to do this, ever again. I'm 42 years old, and I'm trying to figure out what I want to be when my kids grow up.

1 comment:

Mamasita said...

This is exactly what I've been going through over the past year. Both my husband and I have been wondering what we should do when the kids are out of the house. It's an interesting mental exercise to try to schedule or do one's own thing while still trying to keep the kids a priority. Time constraints alone are daunting. I could have written this post, without the MIT of course! LOL