Monday, November 24, 2008

I Wonder What I Want To Do With My Life?

INSTRUCTIONS: Take one decade-changing birthday. Stir in two unexpected deaths in the family, one unfulfilling job, and enclosed spice sachet of a half-dozen passions that could never lead to paying full time work. Simmer in a medium saucepan on a stovetop for several months. In a separate bowl, whip together one slightly unfocused academic career, a penchant for short-lived bursts of enthusiasm followed by extreme boredom, and a husband with a grad school journey nearing completion. Combine and pour into a baking dish, top with a seven month old baby with plans for more on the way, and then bake until the admissions deadlines for law and graduate schools expire. Remove from heat, garnish with a staggering student loan debt which requires you to make some kind of money, and serve so hot that it burns your mouth, hands, and leaves a big scorch mark on your antique dining room tabletop.

This is how to bake up a fine Not-Quite-Mid-Life crisis. I’m enjoying one at the moment, and no, it does not taste like chicken. It tastes like desperation, actually, and a little bit of fear, and a lot of exhilaration. And brown sugar. Mmmmm, sugar.

Am considering law school. I’ve read all of the “Don’t Go to Law School, Even if Your Life Depends On It and I’m Serious, Yo” articles, and the “The LSAT is a Stupid, Scary, Horrid Test That Will Make You Break Out in Shingles” warnings, and the “I Went To Law School and Now I Have $160,000 in Loans” declamations. It hasn’t scared me away, but it has sent me skittering off to research just what exactly I could end up doing if I got a J.D. in three years. And the thought of choosing law, to the exclusion of all else, and possibly adding to our debt burden in order to do it, makes it a very sobering choice indeed.

Am also considering chilling a bit while the remaining 2-3 (HA!) babies are birthed, and then achieving my dreams, as it were, when the last kidlet is attending First Grade. It’s not so long from now, and I’m not so ambitious that I would be ticked off at hitting the game that late, whatever “game” I decided to “hit.” The problemo with this scenario, however, is the aforementioned ridiculous student loans. In order not to default on our existing ones, I have to work at something. The amount of money I make will either allow us to live the (frugal, stressful, not-even-breaking-even) lifestyle we now enjoy, or a little better, or a lot better. So that would be, like, part-time reception work, up to administrative work, and the up to full scale professional work. Would I rather just do the work I want to do long term right now? Or continue to add years of non-relevant experience to my life, simply in the name of deniro?

I could go to more grad school, but with a career in mind this time (weak smile.)

I could teach at the community college level.

I could continue in the career path I have now.

I could wait until we know where Darlin’s job prospects take us, and see what opportunities the new region of the country has to offer.

This latter seems like a recipe (do you dig my recipe theme in this post?) for accidental career trajectory, which I want to avoid. Making a preliminary decision, though, and turning my energies in that direction, could lead to supreme disappointment if I end up moving to a region of the country with no opportunities in my chosen life path.

Sometimes I feel hindered by my biology. Can you imagine if my law school finals week coincided with the due date of my next kid? I swore that I would take at least 3 months off when my next baby is born, but what if I don’t time it just right with the summer break? And if I decide to work, but don’t get a job immediately and haven’t worked in it at least a year before my next pregnancy, my leave (both for prenatal visits and after the birth) won’t be protected. So I could lose my job, and thus my healthcare coverage, right when we need the money and insurance the most.

Blargh. Blargh, I say.

I have been trying to think this way – when I’m 80 and looking back, will I think this was a good choice? Will this lead me to a happy life? Even in the name of art, being supremely poor is a stressor, but being miserable in your well-paid job would be, too. I wish I could just be an actress. Or a musician. A writer. A baby bootie knitter. A scrapbooker. A gardener. I wish I was independently wealthy. I wish I could make a difference AND make babies at the same time.

I have wished and wished for this grad school experience of my husband’s to just be over, already, and now that it may be ending soon . . . I wish I had a little more time to decide what it means.

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