Most of my education and professional life has been about momentum. I always loved school, and excelled easily, and hopped happily from one step to the next. Out of high school to college. From college to grad school. Hop hop from one thing to the next because they made sense. They were in the right order. Other people were doing it.
Looking back I can see that I truly never did pause to reflect on whether a less logical or obvious step would make sense or to analyze why I felt so driven to keeping moving without pause for planning purposes. I suspect I was doing this intentionally, as I’m famous for avoiding difficult and confusing situations that might make me feel feelings. But at the end of it I found myself very educated and in some ways well prepared for a career as a social worker. That I didn’t actually want.
The years after I finished my MSW were spent working in that field off and on and making that discovery. A rather painful, quite expensive thing to conclude. At first I only admitted that I may have taken an unneeded detour through grad school quietly to my closest friends. I wasn’t embarrassed, exactly, just a little bit meek to speak the truth. But after a while it became undeniable. And now here I am, telling my mom and the 10 other people that read this.
The next step after admitting you are on the wrong path is figuring out where to go next. But I spent a great deal of time avoiding that step. The all-encompassing nature of motherhood worked as an excuse for a while. And the nomadic, sporadic nature of Dave’s job has let me have a standard reply when it comes to “why I don’t have a ‘normal’ job.” But these are both just procrastination, because as much as I love our gypsy life and my role as a mother, I also always knew I would feel the need to flex a different muscle. To hone other skills. To carve out a little part of our life that belonged only to me.
When I was job-searching back in 2008, eventually finding the job in social work that taught me so much about the world and showed me clearly that I wasn’t meant to be a social worker, I wrote a post about my lack of professional passion and my as of yet absent baby fever.
Considering that over 6 years have passed, we’ve added two children and countless life lessons, I am struck by how what I wrote about myself then still stands true about me now
About my professional goals I said:
The time and resources invested in my education are still serving me well, and I’m proud of my accomplishments. But I don’t feel the need for a career to supplement my identity. I want a job that I love. I’d like to find a field I can excel within. I want to take pride in my work, but I never want a job that takes over my life. I want to feel satisfied with my role as a person, but I don’t think my occupation has to be the only way to find that satisfaction.
And guessing at my parenting style I accurately predicted:
I don’t want cartoonish drawings of my family made into decals for the windows of my SUV. I will love my kids, I will change my ways, but I know myself (and the mother from whom I was born) to realize that motherhood for me will not mean a cracked-out, Kathy Lee-esque enthusiasm for all things widdle-baby or mommy-wommy.
And so here I am, as comfortable as one can ever be with the title ‘Mother’ and all the mysterious, powerful and very exhausting things that conveys. And the little voice in my head that suggests I have more to give and that I don’t have to give it in a cubicle at a social service agency. I found a job online, using my known and loved interwebbing skills to help clients with various projects. And I enjoyed it. It was an outlet of sorts, an experience to be sure, some education as most things tend to be. But it was also a little vapid. Fairly random. A bit meaningless. And while I know I may not cut it among the ranks of other MSWs, the heart for helping that drove me to that work in the first place can’t be ignored.
Luck and a savvy friend dropped another opportunity in my lap just as I was ready to leave my first post-child professional endeavor. And I got it and took it and went with it and I enjoy it. I continue to learn more, feel my confidence grow, make new connections with helping professionals, and enjoy a life outside my girls that helps contribute to our family’s financial security.
I found that I used our travels and then my kids as the excuse as to why I didn’t have a ‘regular’ job. But now I can cut through the noise and tell you honestly it’s because I don’t WANT one. I want something different, less stifling and more creative. Perhaps also less stable and less secure. But I want work that fits the life I want, not the other way around. I don’t have to look to the future to explain it, I can just ask 2008-me how she would say it.
And what I have decided is that I don’t have to meet the expectations of my friends, family, society, or Utopian feminist fantasies. I have hopes for the future, plans to execute, places to go…I want to be happy, safe, fulfilled. I want to be well-rounded, well-read, well-travelled. I want to spread myself thin enough that I can cover all kinds of interests, thin enough that light shines through, thin enough that I can still fit in my wedding dress someday in the distant future. And mostly, I want to be able to say all this without shame or fear of eye-rolling, without hesitation and concern for the disappointment of others. I want to say it and have my loved ones know that I am not judging them…and hope that this makes them feel free enough not to judge me. It’s hokey, it’s idealistic, and probably overly simplistic. Exactly the way I want it.