Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Getting Back On

One of my favorite quotes from my favorite author, Madeleine L’Engle, reads:

I have more hope that someone who has shouted, 'Stop the world, I want to get off!' can get back on and enjoy the ride, than someone who wants more cushions.

Last week was rough for me. I so wanted the world to stop so that I could catch my breath, or sit back and watch for a little bit. I would be content with waiting at the stop and getting back on when the world came back around for me again. But you can’t do that.

The week was characterized by an unexpectedly heavy workload in an unusually unsupportive work environment, and I had to ask myself if this was really the job I wanted to pursue. I knew coming into this job that I would need to figure out what my plan was for The Future, in terms of graduate school or progression up the corporate ladder, but I was fine with camping out in a fortunate entry-level job that has afforded me with unique opportunities and usable skills, but… I didn’t know if I wanted to stay here. It took all I had to simply operate and get my work done, and even that wasn’t accomplished without bursting into tears periodically. I was so tired.

It felt like when I had inklings that maybe I didn’t want to be a chemistry lab rat for the rest of my life, as alluring as a Ph.D. may have been. I took two full semesters of only science and math, and I ached without reading and writing. I tried to fit in leisure reading, but my giant chemistry texts beckoned. So, in my sophomore year, I changed my major to English, amid noises of cautious support from my parents (who were sure that I’d end up living at home trying to be “artistic”) and looks of betrayal from my lab partners (who were sure that I was ditching them for a mere B.A.). I tried to laugh off my nervousness by calling it my “major identity crisis”, and I waded into the world of literature students, the majority of whom, to my surprise, did not enjoy either reading or writing. I loved most of my new professors and I felt myself growing in a way that chemistry did not allow, although I maintained a minor so that I could exercise that part of my brain.

So, that worked out okay.

But this is different; job decisions affect your income and commute and overall happiness scale. It’s half of your waking hours and, at least for me, a significant component of how you measure your life’s progress. I can’t think about leaving my current job without understanding what’s ahead of me, but there’s no way to do that without actually leaving my job and taking another one. Then there’s always the possibility that I wouldn’t like it more – what do I do then? Should I just figure out what I want my grad degree in and take a loss to be a student? Doesn’t it make more sense to have a company pay for at least some of that tuition?

Stop the world, I want to get off!

What do I know for sure?

  • I have no idea what I want to do for graduate school. It’s not smart to start a program when I am uncertain.
  • I don’t need to find a new job, like when I graduated. I still have this position to fall back on if necessary. This is not a search borne of desperation.
  • It doesn’t hurt to apply for jobs, and I owe it to myself to try. If I am offered a position, I have the option to take it, but I don't have to.
  • If I start this process, then I know that I am taking action, and not just spinning in what might feel like a hopeless situation.

I took a deep breath, revised my resume, and did preliminary job searches in my area. It’s amazing what some experience will do to your prospects. I asked people to be references, and last night, I applied to three positions at companies that I know to have good reputations.

I feel different this morning. Weariness and resignation have been replaced by tentative excitement, and I don’t know what’s going to happen. The things I know are still the same. I don’t need a new job, and I am not desperate. I got back on the world over the weekend, and it’s nice to be here.

1 comment:

janet said...

I totally could have written this post, at least the part about grad school, job searching, etc..I haven't quite gotten to the point of searching for something new yet but plan to after the wedding. Sometimes I just wish someone would say to me, "You will be become a XXXXX!" and then I can just do whatever XXXXX is. As is, I have to go FIND that thing...which is...daunting to say the least